The Hoylake rake. Supplied
Bunkers are never easy, but at the Open Championship, they’re hazards in the truest sense of the word.
And so are the rakes.
The subject of bunker rakes may seem like a small, largely inconsequential detail, because it usually is. But players pay extra attention to small, inconsequential details during major weeks. And early in the week at Royal Liverpool, everyone is stressing out about the rakes.
“They’re the kind of rakes you’d use in a garden,” one coach said.
“It looks like we’re raking sand dunes,” added another.
The rakes aren’t the ones Royal Liverpool Golf Club usually uses, according to one member of the club. They’ve been put into play especially for Open week, and the issue specifically is that they have wide teeth.
Conventional bunker rakes have the prongs very close together — designed to quickly clean up the mess players leave behind.
But with wide-tooth rakes, you can’t get the same level of detail. Once a player has been in a bunker and his footprints have been raked away, it’s still obvious he was in there. Here’s an example from Royal Liverpool’s second hole. The right side is the untouched side; the left side is what it looks like after being raked.
The wide-tooth rakes succeed in levelling the sand, but that’s about it. The prongs are so far apart that they leave behind messy little ridges that the ball will inevitably roll into.
“The ball rolls down to the crevice,” says PGA Tour player Michael Kim. “It’s not plugged but it’s definitely not a good lie.”
It’s the bunker equivalent of hitting your ball into a divot, or some other bad lie. Once a player’s ball rolls into one of those crevices, they might struggle to generate enough spin to get the ball to stop on the green. Once it lands, it simply won’t stop rolling. That five-foot putt rolls to eight, or 12 feet. From an easy par to an easy bogey.
It’s a small but clever way of making these pot bunkers a little more penal. Late in the day, after a few different players have raked away their mess, bunker shots will be particularly difficult. Avoiding those nasty pot bunkers is a key to every Open Championship. And with these rakes, that’ll be especially true this week.