Hell Bunker at St. Andrews rebuilt ahead of Open Championship

Hell Bunker at St. Andrews
St. Andrews Links Trust via YouTube
Course workers laid in new sod faces and dropped in 60 tons of new sand during the rebuilding of the Hell Bunker at St. Andrews.
By John Holmes
PGA.com

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, July 09, 2015 | 1:54 p.m.
 
The Open Championship returns to St. Andrews next week, and the grounds crew has been busy for months getting the Old Course into tip-top shape. Atop the to-do list was rebuilding as many as 50 of the course's 112 bunkers – including the famed "Hell Bunker" on the par-5 14th hole.
 
The Hell Bunker is the second most famous bunker on the Old Course, behind only the "Road Bunker" on the 17th hole. It is also one of the world's biggest – it is 6 ½ feet deep and covers more than 300 square yards – and has captured more than its share of golfers who dared to challenge it. 
 
Among them is Jack Nicklaus, who made a quintuple-bogey 10 on the hole back in the 2000 Open Championship after straying into its cavernous maw. Small consolation, but Nicklaus wasn't in contention at the time. Back in 1933, though, Gene Sarazen was trying to defend the Claret Jug when he entered Hell and came out with an 8 – and missed out on a playoff by a single shot.
 
"Rebuilding such a vast bunker differs from the others on the course," Greenkeeper Martin Turna explained in a post on the St. Andrews Trust website. The Hell Bunker's sod face is so tall, and the bunker itself so big, that refurbishing it is a multi-step process that began with removing all the sand, digging out the sod in the face and lifting the turf above the bunker.
 
 
The workers used a "spirit level" to make sure the layers of sod in the bunker's face were laid in evenly – "this was a hugely important consideration throughout the build," he wrote. The bunker was built up to about three quarters of its height and then left for couple of weeks to bed in before the reconstruction was completed.
 
If you've ever been in any of the big bunkers at St. Andrews, they feel like their faces are straight up and down. In fact, they're slanted at a 65-degree angle, which Turna said is the standard angle for rough and fairway bunkers on the Old Course.
 
And though the Old Course is, well, old, the Hell Bunker was rebuilt in a state-of-the-art fashion. Its new floor contains more sand – 60 tons of sand, in fact – and less clay to aid in drainage and help it dry up faster after it rains. 
 
Also, the bunker got its own TV camera. Until now, only the Road Bunker had a TV camera embedded in its face, but several of the bunkers remade over the past year – including the Hell Bunker – were outfitted with camera ducts as well.
 
Here's a very cool time-lapse video of the Hell Bunker rebuild: