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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 03 2012

Fargo Country Club adds new bunkers

FARGO – The Fargo Country Club took another divot out of its master golf course plan. This project looks simple on the outside but was quite complex on the inside.

There’s more to installing new bunkers than taking out the old sand and putting new stuff in. Like a sculpture, there’s an art to it.

“The shaper is really an artist on a piece of machinery,” said head professional Mark Johnson.

The club now has 18 holes with white-sand bunkers that are more in line with modern courses. The old bunkers, which were larger and dish-shaped in nature, were designed in the 1960s.

The sand is also a significant step up in quality. It had to be hauled in from Best Sand Corporation from Chardon, Ohio, and it almost literally came from the banks of the Ohio River.

It actually consists of two different particles, one of which is white.

“It allows for more consistency,” said Aaron Porter, the FCC course superintendent.

Johnson said golfers are finding they have to be a little more aggressive when hitting out of it. It’s also put some more life into a couple of holes that needed it.

Take the eighth hole, which previously was a short par 4 that golfers used to bomb their drives without much fear of a hazard. A few interesting bunker twists near the fairway and by the green has turned it into what Johnson considers one of the most visually pleasing holes on the course.

Johnson said the new bunkers are similar to what golfers on the East Coast would find on a Donald Ross-designed course. Construction consisted of leveling an entire area around a bunker and building it back up.

Better drainage was installed so water no longer remains in a bunker for an extended period of time.

“What we’re finding is it’s going to be more predictable,” Johnson said. “You know what you’re getting with every bunker. Sometimes in the old sand — if it had some moisture a few days ago — then all of a sudden it became hard and firm and you didn’t know it until you bladed it over the green.”

The first phase of the bunkers – the back 9 and holes 1 and 2 – were completed last year.

An interesting twist to the new bunkers: the sand will be removed every fall, stored in the club’s maintenance facility and re-installed every spring as a flood protection measure.

The course, incidentally, has come back remarkably well from last year’s flood. A ratings official from Golf Digest visited the course on Friday.

“Between the bunker renovation and the conditions, I think the course is going to rival where it was in ’95 when it hosted the U.S. Junior Amateur,” Johnson said.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.