Locally-sourced sand is a Cool Golf Thing

A sense of place is better than imitating the untouchable.
Old Works' black slag sand bunkers give it a distinctive look.

Farm-to-table dining has caused something of a revolution in the American culinary scene in recent years. The idea of focusing on ingredients cultivated close to their point of ultimate consumption has long been ingrained in many of the world's great food cultures, but the ability to boast of importing great products from afar, at great expense (e.g. "Our tuna is flown in every week from Tokyo!"), was long considered a feature, not a crutch, of great stateside eateries. But if you'd been eating out pre-pandemic, you likely noticed menus spotlighting local farms as the points of origin for many dishes' key ingredients. Savoring local produce helps tie diners to the place in which they are dining.

Golf lags behind in this trend, but it is improving. Some courses still insist on installing blindingly white sand in their bunkers in misguided pursuit of a "premium" feel. This attempt to distract golfers from a course's flaws often only ends up adding one to the list. Call it a lingering symptom of Augusta Syndrome.

Better to be like Old Works in Anaconda, Mont. Built on a Superfund site, it uses black slag (a byproduct of local mining operations) in its bunkers, giving them a striking look.

Or Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, N.C., a Perry Maxwell masterpiece that is one of the South's greatest golf courses. Its bunkers use coarse, earthy-colored sand from a local river-bottom. Why import when you have great materials nearby?

Or this week's European Open host course, Golf Costa Adeje, which sits on the southwestern slope of Tenerife, an island of Spain off the coast of Morocco. While the course's formal bunkers are more traditional in hue, large sandy wastes there sport black volcanic ash native to the island.

March 22, 2019
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Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
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Locally-sourced sand is a Cool Golf Thing