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Bunker Blues

British Open 2023: The R&A makes a big announcement about Royal Liverpool's brutal bunkers


Andrew Redington

HOYLAKE, England — Royal Liverpool Golf Club's devilish bunkers won the day on Thursday, and may have lost some top golfers the tournament along the way.

Jon Rahm, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy were some of the highest-profile victims during their first round, and no player was left unmoored by them.

"They're everywhere," Shane Lowry said. "If you end up in a bunker, it's a penalty shot."

What makes Royal Liverpool's bunkers so difficult?

The bunkers themselves are small and deep, and on Thursday, the sand on the floor of those bunkers was raked flat. It was an intentional adjustment made specifically for Open Championship week, and that combination proved incredibly difficult.

When members play the course, the sand is raked so it's higher on the edges than in the middle. It makes the bottom of the bunkers more concaved, which means that when a ball drops into the bunker, it rolls more into the center.

But with a flat bottom, as we saw Thursday, balls that trickle into the bunker drop straight down into the sand, and stop rolling. It leads to very awkward—and often impossible—lies. The ball would settle up against the bunker face, and the player would effectively have no chance of a recovery shot. He would be lucky if he could even get two feet into the bunker.

Which led to the R&A making an announcement early during the second round on Friday: That due to drier conditions, they'd be altering the way they rake the bunkers to build up the sides, thus encouraging balls to roll towards the center of the trap. This then would potentially give golfers a greater chance for a recovery shot.

A small adjustment to make things slightly more playable, though players won't want to test it.

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Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.

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