Every golfer has encountered bunker sand on a green, but few surely have given any thought to it beyond swiping at it with a towel or hat. Until now.
Eben Dobson, a San Diego-based financial planner, has made it his mission to eliminate this unwanted intrusion on a green, indeed to make doing so part of golf etiquette on a par with repairing ball marks or raking bunkers, and he has designed a product to do so.
He calls it the Wisp, a bristle brush system that sifts the sand directly into the grass surface.
"It's why Augusta (National) uses a dew stick," Dobson said. "They don't want the blemish. Golf has stepped over this problem for however many years. I'm trying to expose that problem and saying that this is very simple etiquette for the most precise area, the putting green, where the game is won or lost."
When he was in college, Dobson worked at a golf course in Minnesota and used a dew whip in the morning. "But I also noticed what it would do for sand," he said.
The idea began to percolate in earnest a year ago, when he was playing in the San Diego City Amateur at Torrey Pines South. At the par-3 eighth hole, with a face bunker, he had a birdie putt through bunker sand that he attempted to blow away by waving a hat or a towel. So he set out to devise an instrument that would remove the loose impediments, in this case sand, without otherwise altering the playing conditions.
"I worked very closely with a brush company that had no idea what I was making," Dobson said. "Finally, they sent me the perfect blend, where it would not change the grain, would not change spike marks, would not sway anything that pertains to the rules of golf."
He nonetheless has met with resistance from the USGA. "I did not design it for a guy to use it as a curling tool to make his line better," Dobson said. "It's 100 percent an etiquette tool. I'm not a tool salesman, I'm a golf enthusiast."
His idea is to have maybe two of these strategically placed on greens with bunkers, perhaps on the collar between the bunker and the green. Ideally, a player who has hit a bunker shot would use the Wisp to clear the sand for groups playing behind him. "We made them so they're inconspicous," Dobson said. "They're hunter green. They weigh a pound, so a grandmother can use it. It's a very soft device that sifts sand instantly. We know if it's not convenient golfers will not use it. That's why there are three rakes in every bunker."
One skeptic was concerned that his ball might hit the Wisp. "There are 3,000 sprinkler heads, cart paths, rub of the green," Dobson said. "Maybe it'll knock the ball onto the green."
Lomas Santa Fe Country Club in Solana Beach, Calif., was the first course to employ the Wisp, Dobson said. Earlier this week, he said he received an order from a Japanese company that manages more than 100 courses.
"It's common sense and it works," he said.
-- John Strege