When greenkeeper Jeremy Parkman experienced repeated flooding of the bunkers at Dale Hill Golf Club, he decided to put his 20 years of estate and water management experience to the test in finding a solution.
During his career, he has acquired a reputation as a consistent and innovative problem solver. Working closely with his Course Manager, Mike Mosse, on the 36-hole Ian Woosnam designed course in East Sussex, Jeremy began to draw up a design for an efficient, cost-effective, time and labour saving drain for bunkers that would be adaptable and easily fitted by course staff with minimum disturbance to play.
The first prototype produced was a unit connected to existing drainage runs and mounted at bunker base level under the sand. It was fitted and trialled in the autumn of 2007 and worked well initially, but the sand soon became contaminated after heavy rainfall and the efficiency of the unit was adversely affected. The 'Eureka' moment came when he decided to extend the unit to the surface of the sand. Jeremy realised this was a radical step, so after initial checks with Grant Moir from the R&A that it conformed to their rules, he pushed forward with the developments.
As soon as the unit became surface-mounted, its ability to remove substantial amounts of water was hugely increased. Because the water no longer had to filter through the sand, the majority of contaminants being washed into the bunker are carried straight through into the unit from where they can be removed.
The amendments to the design also created additional benefits, such as providing a flushing point, reducing sand migration and providing a datum point of sand depth in the bunker. These benefits far outweigh the small aesthetic cost of seeing a 6" grill in the bunker which is comparable to having a sprinkler by a green and is covered by the same rule.
The final test was to ensure that no sand or other contaminant could block the outfall pipe. This was achieved through extensive testing and development over the following 12 to 18 months, until the current design was achieved.
In the final design, water enters the unit through the grill then fills the top chamber where any sand and contaminants are trapped. When this is full, water then flows down the central pipe into a second sand trap enabling the water to flow freely away down the existing drainage run.
Because of the length of the centre pipe extending into the second sand trap finishing below the level of the outfall, only after extreme rainfall, when both sand traps are full, will the unit's efficiency be slowed, making sure no sand blocks the outfall. With correct maintenance, Bunker Plug copes with even the most persistent and heavy rainfall.
With the final design achieved and testing complete, the next steps were to patent the invention, decide on production methods and prepare for marketing. Jeremy contacted friends Frank Thomas and his partner Valerie Melvin who run their own company, Frankly Golf (www.franklygolf.com), based in Florida. Frank was Technical Director to the USGA for some 26 years. They provided tremendous help and encouragement to him, setting up some great introductions and giving invaluable advice.
In 2008, Jeremy teamed up with MJ Abbott Limited, one of the UK's largest golf course construction companies who have worked on many high profile courses around the country and overseas including The Celtic Manor Resort & Wentworth. MJ Abbott's in-house team specialises in adapting and fabricating specialist machinery for use on the golf course.
"Bunker Plug will be manufactured and marketed Worldwide exclusively by MJ Abbott", Jeremy announced at Harrogate Week 2010. "MJ Abbott installed the irrigation and drainage at Dale Hill and have been on-site regularly ever since carrying out additional work. I know and trust the team and was aware of the reputation they have for excellence in the golf sector.
I showed them the first prototype at Harrogate in 2008 and, seeing the obvious potential, they offered to assist me in fabricating the unit and we have worked in close partnership since. Through our collective input, the Bunker Plug has evolved to the final design and production is underway. Patents have been applied for in both the UK and America and MJ Abbott and I are delighted to be introducing this brand new product to the market at Harrogate Week."
Echoing those sentiments is MJ Abbott's Contracts Director, Nigel Wyatt. "MJ Abbott has more than 40 years experience within the land drainage and golf course construction industries. Bunker Plug is a new, exciting and very cost-effective product which provides a solution to flooding of golf course bunkers. As a company we are pleased to be the exclusive distributor behind such an innovative device."
The benefits of using Bunker Plug are:
- Eliminates flooding in 90% of cases
- Can be fitted in approximately one hour
- Significantly reduces contamination
- British design, manufacture and distribution
- Designed to fit 2", 3" and 4" drainage pipes at various depths
- Prevents any sand or silt infiltrating drainage runs
- Increases course playability
- Eliminates the need for pumping
- Due to its unique segmented design, can be tailored to any bunker
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Can be retro fitted to provide peace of mind prior to tournaments or society days
For further information, contact 01722 716361 or www.mjabbott.co.uk / www.bunkerplug.com