Why the Better Billy Bunker is Better

Staying up to date with innovative and environmentally sound maintenance practices is one key to upholding Old Chatham as one of the finest maintained private golf clubs in the Southeast.

Each year we improve the playing conditions at Old Chatham, and have gained national reputation as a championship course, earning the honor of hosting the 2019 US Senior Amateur. After converting our greens to ultra championship bermuda as part of an enhancement project in 2012, we earned the ranking of top greens and green complexes.

Since 2012, we have improved drainage areas throughout the course, sand capped approaches to make them play firm and fast, reworked the 7th hole par three to make it more aesthetically pleasing and challenging to play and added additional bunkers on fairways to more deeply contour the holes.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-4-40-02-pmWe have replaced maintainable acreage with beautiful native grasses and otherwise continue to be mindful in protecting the environment by decreasing our water usage. In 2016 we updated our sand trap care method to the Better Billy Bunker system.

The Better Billy Bunker system is designed to uphold sand traps during heavy rainstorms, through a drainage system that minimizes sand erosion and contamination from native soils. This method reduces the need for our staff to fix each bunker following inclement weather conditions, and continues to bolster the retreat-like atmosphere that is Old Chatham.

Here’s the Better Billy Bunker process:

  1. 1. Excavators remove the old sand and gravel to assure the floor of each bunker is shaped and compacted properly
  2. 2. The remnants are discarded and the bunker’s edge is then shaped by hand, removing any turf that has encroached on the bunker’s edge.
  3. 3. The outflow is tested using a water hose to ensure water flow is achievable.
  4. 4. The drainage pattern of pipe is reinstalled using a laser level to ensure accuracy.
  5. 5. A two-inch layer of properly sized stone is placed on the bunker floor, mimicking the shape of the floor.
  6. 6. Once dry, polymer is applied to the bunkers. Each rock must drop to nine percent or less volumetric water content.
  7. 7. Small black rings of distinct thickness are placed in each bunker to install new bunker sand. The rings guide proper depth of the sand throughout the bunker. The depth is determined by a soil scientist, based on the type of sand and rock used throughout the bunker.
  8. 8. The sand is distributed with shovels to keep the polymer’s integrity.
  9. 9. Bermuda grass continues to grow, and Old Chatham staff compacts and redistributes sand to achieve specific compacted depths for the bunkers.


Be sure to check out our video showing the construction of the new bunkers!

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