Transformational Capillary Bunkers

Hyperion Field Club has been transformed with the installation of Capillary Bunkers.

Johnston, Iowa, United States: Installing Capillary Bunkers has transformed the golf course operations at Iowa’s Hyperion Field Club.

Jim Sedrel, Course Superintendent, said: “Any time we got a two-inch rain, we would be 40 to 60-man hours putting our bunkers back together. There would be silt and soil mixed in with the sand, and the bunkers would be crusty and horrible. It was awful for the members and totally demoralising for my crew.”

Hyperion was founded in 1900, and its course, north of Des Moines, was originally built by Tom Bendelow in 1908. It was extensively redesigned about 30 years ago by Chicago-based architect Bob Lohman, with high, sand-flashed bunkers.

The club has been working with architect Paul Miller since 2014 and converted its previously poa-dominated greens to T1 bentgrass in 2015.

Sedrel, who joined Hyperion in 2017, said: “Before I even joined, the discussion around the club was: ‘Our bunkers are horrid, we need to rebuild them’.

“In July 2018, we had a 10-inch rain one night and it totally destroyed the bunkers. I went out and hired a mini excavator to put them back together again. Many of the bunkers were designed to catch water sheeting off the greens, which meant it was impossible to keep them in good condition.

“We run full circle heads around our greens, so there was constant wetting and drying of the sand. We had to fix that. We looked at every option, including removing the sand, re-doing the bunkers’ drainage and then replacing the sand. But the useful life of that is very short.”

Sedrel realised that only a full rebuild of the course’s bunkers would solve the problems.

He said: “I’d been here two seasons before we got the project up and running properly. I convinced the club that we had to do the bunkers.

“I wanted a premium sand, devoid of silt and clay, and if you’re doing that you can’t have them ruined every time it rains. I don’t have a full crew at weekends, so if we got a big rain on a Friday, the bunkers were out of play when the course was at its busiest.

“The members wanted to quantify how much money we were going to save if we redid the bunkers. I said, the pay-off would be when we get a two-inch storm.”

Hyperion began discussions with various golf course contractors, trying to get an accurate price for the proposed bunker job, and part of that process involved deciding what liner to install.

“We ended up with Johnson Golf Course Construction out of Florida,” said Sedrel. “They said to us: ‘Look, if you want to save some money we can put a fabric liner in the bases, but we’ve used Capillary Bunkers a bunch of times and it’s the only thing to use on the faces’.

“In my mind, I had already thought that Capillary Bunkers, because it was homogenous out of the mixer, was a more consistent concept. And we realised that trying to save money by using a cheap liner on the bases was a fool’s errand.

“We were talking about a US$400,000 project, and we were discussing different liners that might vary in price by US$30,000. It was crazy!”

The project was carried out in three phases. “In the fall of 2018, we did the north half of the property, and in fall 2019 we did the existing bunkers on the south side – another 16 bunkers and a couple on the range.

“Finally in 2022, we installed three new fairway bunkers that were called for in the masterplan,” says Sedrel, who is more than happy with his new bunkers.

“From 40-60 man hours after rain, we’re now at a point where two guys spend three hours on the bunkers, and they’re pristine again,” he said. “We might still see a little bit of washout, but that only happens where, for architectural reasons, we can’t prevent the water coming off a green and into a bunker.

“We have 100-year-old push up greens, and water does sheet off them. The bunkers perform fantastically, and it’s the Capillary Bunkers liner that we have to thank.”

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