Raking it in: The simple, homemade bunker rake holders at Saddleback Golf Club in Colorado prevent damage to equipment and eliminate a tedious task for crew members, among other benefits. Photos by Robert Flemming
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In the fall of 2018, our maintenance crew here at Saddleback Golf Club in Firestone, Colo., was trying to think of a solution for the 175 bunker rakes we have on the golf course.
We were running into problems that all golf courses likely run into: The rakes were getting run over by mowers or golf carts, and there always seemed to be a rake that was broken. We were also having problems with golfers throwing the rakes all over or putting three rakes next to each other. We had a uniform look every morning, but after a few golfers, the rakes would be scattered about.
Our maintenance team came up with a solution that has taken some time to perfect. First, we dug a hole on the edge of a bunker and put a piece of 2-inch PVC pipe in the ground so that we could place a rake in it standing up. These holders were pretty shallow, and having all the rakes 3 feet in the air looked a little odd. We did this on several holes and decided it wasn’t the look we wanted.
Next, we purchased an auger and drilled 4 to 5 feet down to place the PVC. This made the rakes almost flush with the ground, which gave the setup a much cleaner appearance. We now have the rake holders on every bunker, and we really like the look.
We’ve had some trouble getting the holders to drain properly, but we’re close to finding a remedy. We initially left the PVC open at the bottom, but that led to the rake handles getting muddy, even with pea gravel at the bottom of the holders. We then capped the bottom of the PVC, but that caused water to build up there. Finally, we added hood-type rubber fittings that slide onto the rake handles, and those have helped keep most of the water out. It’s not the final fix, but it’s close.
Saddleback Golf Club in Firestone, Colo. — just north of Denver — is an 18-hole public course that was built in 2000. The course features bentgrass greens and bluegrass/ryegrass tees, fairways and rough.
Thanks to the bunker rake holders, our mowing crew no longer has to get off their machines on every bunker to deal with the rakes. Our crew members who rake bunkers don’t have to move them anymore either. We’ve found that most golfers put the rakes back in the holders. We average only five to seven rakes per day that get left out of the holders, and I estimate we save three to four hours per week in labor by not having to move the rakes around. The holders also help keep the rakes equal distance from each other and in the best positions in terms of where the golfer needs them.
We’ve gotten a positive response overall from golfers. Golfers are much less likely to have their ball rest next to a rake now that the rakes aren’t lying on the ground. They also like that they don’t have to travel far to find a rake. And because the rake heads are straight in the air, golfers can hook them with their clubs and don’t have to bend over to reach them.
It took our staff some time to refine the bunker rake holder system, but I think this is a great idea for any golf course. It required a fair amount of work on the front end, but it’s now paying off. In today’s labor market, any labor savings is worth a try.
Robert Flemming is the golf course superintendent at Saddleback Golf Club in Firestone, Colo., where he has worked for 10 years. A 17-year GCSAA member, Robert earned a degree in horticulture from South Dakota State University and an MBA from the University of Colorado.