What Costs More Than $700,000 and Weighs Over 1,950 Tons?

by Monty Becton, Marc DeWall and Mark Semm

The bunker renovation project on the golf course at Cordillera Ranch is an extensive project beginning in November of this year and will include the removal and replacement of 1,950 tons of sand and will cost in excess of $700,000. Scheduled for completion in March of 2016, this project is under the direction of General Manager Monty Becton, Mark Semm, Director of Agronomy, and Marc DeWall, Director of Golf, who have coordinated the testing and execution and anticipated how it is going to change not only the playability of the golf course but also enhance the beautiful landscape of the golf course.


Mark Semm and his team have already spent the past year evaluating bunker liners and various sand materials in anticipation of renovating the bunkers on the golf course. Several test bunkers on holes #6 and #12 were installed in the spring of 2015 in order to evaluate specific materials that have become popular within the industry to determine which of the liner and sand products would work best on the Cordillera Ranch golf course.

“The installation of these test bunkers allowed us to study the materials and methods in ‘real life’ situations to help determine what liner and sand combination would work best for us. We received a lot of feedback regarding the test bunkers which also helped in the decision process,” says Semm.

After trial and error, the Better Billy Bunker Method (www.billybunker.com) liner was chosen. A bunker liner is the interface between the subgrade and the playable sand and prevents contamination of the bunker sand from the soil below. The Better Billy Bunker Method has been used at over 500 golf courses totaling an installation of over 10 million square feet. This method uses a two inch gravel drainage layer over the subgrade which is then sprayed with a polymer that binds the gravel together. The finished product is a liner that is extremely durable, drains very well and prevents wash outs during heavy rains.

The sand selected is Bunker White, available only in California. “We had to go to California to find a sand that met our criteria. It has excellent playability characteristics because it is an angular sand which helps minimize fried egg lies, drains well and has a striking bright white color. These excellent qualities of a bunker sand are almost impossible to find in Texas where sands are more round and soft which lead to more fried egg lies and do not have the brilliant white color,” explains Semm. The sand will be shipped to Texas via rail car, off-loaded into trucks and delivered to the course.

One of the greatest benefits of the newly selected materials is the ability to minimize bunker erosion during normal rainfalls. This helps reduce long-term maintenance and allows the bunkers to be in a playable condition more quickly after a rainfall than with traditional mat bunker liners.

The actual renovation process is relatively simple. Professional Golf Services from Fort Worth was selected as the contractor for this project based on their reputation and certification required to install liners such as these. To begin, the existing sand and old liner will be removed to the subgrade and any salvageable material will be stock piled for use throughout the course. The existing tile drainage will be inspected to ensure proper function before the two inches of gravel drainage rock is placed over the subgrade and sprayed with the polymer binder. After 24 to 48 hours of cure time the new sand is installed, compacted and raked.

“I believe this project will have a significant impact on our golf course, but will also create some challenges during the renovation process. We have more than 100,000 square feet of bunkers and we’ll have to store the material coming out of the bunkers as well as the sand we’ll be replacing in the bunkers. The new liners also include 1,100 tons of gravel which will need to be staged during the renovation process,” says Monty Becton.

The project is scheduled to start in November and be completed by March 2016.  The golf course will be open for play throughout the renovation and we will work with the contractor to minimize interference with golfers.

While the new bunkers are going to be fantastic for golfers, there will be a “settling in” period with the new sand before it is somewhat compact. Learning to play from the new bunkers will be a learning curve for everyone. Bunkers will always be considered hazards, but the new bunker sand that has been selected and the drainage system being installed will provide some of the most consistent, playable bunkers possible.

This project, along with the other improvements, are slated for the end of 2015 and throughout 2016. As the 10th anniversary of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course draws near, Cordillera Ranch is committed to maintaining a top-rated golf course and facilities. “In addition to the bunker renovation, we have our normal capital expenditure budget to consider. The club will spend in excess of $1 million dollars on capital improvements over the next 14 months, not including our normal operating payroll and expenses,” states Becton.

The team agrees, the Better Billy Bunker Method combined with Bunker White sand will bring the “best of the best” in liner and bunker sand to Cordillera Ranch. And the professional golf staff will be there to answer any questions along the way, and help improve your bunker play!


1. Current bunker after 1 inch of rain



2. Removing old material and liner



3. Adding gravel and drainage rock



4. Applying BBB polymer



5. Finished bunker after 2 inches of rain

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