Why Are The Augusta National Bunkers White?

Why are all the Augusta National bunkers white, and where does the sand come from?

Why Are The Augusta National Bunkers White
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Why Are The Augusta National Bunkers White?

The Masters is arguably the most iconic golf event in the world, having been played at the same course since 1934, and part of that iconic appearance is undeniably down to the unique white sand bunkers at Augusta National. The bunkers at Augusta National (opens in new tab) have been filled with white sand for the past 40 years, ever since co-founder Clifford Roberts saw it for the first time in the early 1970s and insisted it be installed in time for the 1975 Masters.

In total there are 44 white sand bunkers at Augusta National, each majestic and hazardous in its own way. Of those 44, 32 are greenside and 12 are located on the fairways (in fact there are 10 holes that don’t have fairway bunkers at all).

Hideki Matsyuma plays out of a bunker at Augusta National golf club

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

The sand that goes into the bunkers is called ‘Spruce pine sand’ and is named after the mining district in Western North Carolina (opens in new tab) in which it is found. In fact the sand is actually quartz, a waste product of the mining process that takes place in Western North Carolina. The quartz is so pure that it prevents golf balls from plugging or burrowing into tricky lies.

“I’d rake it with my hand if I needed to,” said Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay, Phil Mickelson’s caddie for many years. “It fits the place so well. It brings out the green in the grass. It plays very, very well. You don’t hear about guys complaining about lies or balls getting away from them out of the bunkers.”

“It’s very soft on top and has a firm base”, said Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion. “You can’t necessarily spin it a ton, but it’s pure. What’s great about it is you have substantial high lips, but you won’t see a ball plug. Ever. It’ll hit the bank and go back to the middle of the bunker or go through it.”

The massive fairway bunker on the 10th hole is one of Augusta's most recognisable. It sits almost 400 yards off the tee, at the bottom of the hole's steep slope. Anyone landing in it has more than likely mishit their second shot.

Will Zalatoris hits his tee shoe on the 12th hole at Augusta National

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(Image credit: Getty Images)

The bunkers that sit behind the par 3 12th is particularly intimidating. Finding it leaves players with a tricky downhill shot back towards Rae's Creek. "You basically don't want to shortside yourself around any of the greens," said Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters Champion.

On the par 5s, the back bunkers at 13 are some of the most difficult, particularly if the pin is at the front of the green. "The green is sloping away from you towards the creek, and like on 12, you're looking at the water", Weir said. So in summary, the sand not only looks great, contrasting beautifully with Augusta's fairways and shimmering ponds, it also plays differently to other types of sand, and is so pure that players never complain about buried lies.

Sam Tremlett
Senior Staff Writer

A golfer for most of his life, Sam started playing the game to prove he was the best player out of his father and two brothers.
He quickly became a golf equipment expert and has always been the one family and friends come to for buying advice, and spends a lot of his time putting golf gear, apparel and shoes to the test.  
He is a graduate of Swansea University where he studied History and American Studies, and he has been a part of the Golf Monthly team since February 2018. He also previously worked for World Soccer and Rugby World magazines.

A jack of all trades across print and digital formats, Sam now spends most of his time testing and looking after golf gear content for the website. He also oversees all Tour player content as well. 

Unfortunately, Sam is not a member of any club at the moment but regularly gets out on the golf course to keep up the facade of having a handicap of five. 

Sam is currently playing:
Driver: Titleist TS3
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade M5 (15 degrees), Nike Covert Tour 2.0 (19 degrees)
Irons (4-PW): Titleist AP2
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 54˚, 58˚
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circa 62 #6