What Is a Grass Bunker in Golf?

A shallow grass bunker in front of a putting green

"Grass bunker" is a term many golfers use for an indentation in the ground, or a hollowed-out area on a golf course, that is filled not with sand but with grass. Another way of putting it: A grass bunker is a depression full of rough ... which could certainly be depressing to a golfer who hits into one.

Important note: Grass bunkers are not, technically, bunkers at all under the Rules of Golf. They are not penalty areas or what used to be called hazards in the rule book. A bunker, according to the golf rule book, is a hollowed-out area filled with sand. There is no sand in a grass bunker, just grass.

A grass bunker, therefore, is treated as just any other grassed area of a golf course, any other patch of rough. The rules that apply to those areas are the rules that apply to grass bunkers.

Grass bunkers are sometimes called "grass hollows." Just like regular bunkers, they can vary greatly in size, shape and depth, from very shallow (as in the photo above) to ones that are deeper and with thicker rough.

What's the Point of a Grass Bunker?

Is there any special design element or architectural purpose to a grass bunker? Any reason a golf course might have them?

Not really. A grass bunker can just provide a different look to, for example, rough around a putting green. And the rough inside a grass bunker might be even thicker than rough elsewhere. Grass bunkers can also be "found objects" on a golf course; that is, not intentionally designed — a natural depression where the grass is allowed to grow thicker, for example.

However, some golf courses have been known to convert some of their "normal" bunkers (filled with sand) to grass bunkers as a cost-saving move. Taking care of sand bunkers is more expensive than taking care of a grass bunker. Care of grass bunkers, after all, consists mainly of ... mowing the grass.

Photo credit: "Treetops Golf - Masterpiece, Gaylord, Michigan" by danperry.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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