Ease of installation key to success of bunker project

ALLENTOWN, Pennsylvania – Lehigh Country Club in Pennsylvania is at the end of a bunker renovation with architect Ron Forse, and the club is installing the Capillary Bunkers liner as part of the process.

Lehigh was built by architect William Flynn in 1926. And, says director of grounds John Chassard, the course is mostly unchanged from what Flynn created. 

“Back in the late 1980s, the club decided it needed a consulting architect to oversee the course,” he says. “Until then, there was no strategic planning – a grounds chairman could take office and do what he wanted. Fortunately most of ours had basically left the course alone, but still, it was a potential problem.”

The club hired architect Ron Forse at that time, and, working with Forse, regrassed the greens, rebuilt the bunkers, and reset fairway lines. “That was our first masterplan,” says Chassard. “Up till that time, the bunkers had not been touched – except for day-to-day maintenance – since the club’s foundation.”

In 2008, the bunkers were slightly reworked again; sand was replaced, and a small amount of drainage was added to problem areas to improve performance. 

“We put geotextile liners in about ten per cent of our worst-performing bunkers,” says Chassard. “But they didn’t survive winters too well. The pins holding the liners down would push out, burrowing animals would damage the liners, and bunker rakes would catch them every now and again. So, two or three years ago, we started talking about redoing the bunkers again and adding a better liner.”

Lehigh tested several of the liner products on the market, including Capillary Bunkers and a number of its principal rivals. 

“But as time went on and we started to try to lock down contractors for the work, the choice became quite obvious,” says Chassard. “Ron has a lot of experience with Capillary Bunkers, as does the contractor we chose. Plus, the issues with rival products really came into focus: timing, the specific conditions needed for installation, and the need for a certified installer. 

“Capillary Bunkers can be installed in any weather, and it’s very easy to source, which made us able to schedule the work better, and get bunkers installed when we were ready, not when the installer was. Once we started doing the first few bunkers, it became clear to me that that was something I could install with my own crew – which could be important as we didn’t do all the bunkers at one go.”

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