Bunkers are Focus of Tributary Renovation

The First Call  |  
June 6, 2024

Southeastern Idaho’s Tributary has concluded a bunker renovation by original architect David McLay Kidd. Located in the town of Driggs on the Wyoming border, Tributary came to life in 2008 as Huntsman Springs, built for businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman. New ownership in 2017 changed the name and the character of the development to appeal to a wider audience.

“It was a major construction project, and after 15 summers and winters, the course has matured exceptionally well,” Kidd told golfcoursearchitecture.net. “The conditions have always been fantastic. Superintendent Guy Johnson has been there since the beginning, and he maintains incredibly good bentgrass greens, bluegrass fairways and fescue rough.”

In a desire to improve the course, Kidd and Johnson focused on the bunkers, and especially the sand, which had originally come to the property in an unusually fortuitous way. The sand made available was the result of a happy accident, stemming from a windstorm that blew the sand from the legendary St. Anthony Sand Dunes onto the highway, not far from the property. Kidd and Huntsman Springs arranged to clean up the highway and brought the sand over to Driggs to cap the course and use it for the layout’s 150 distinctive bunkers. All the bunkers were hand-finished, with high faces created by piling the sand. Kidd brought in fescue and Irish grasses to create the bunker surrounds that lent an Old World authenticity to each hole.

Ultimately, however, the lack of a barrier between sand and stones from this original sand deposit created a situation where stones were emerging through the sand into the bunkers. In addition, the bluegrass sod surrounds had breached the fescue grasses that ringed the bunkers.

“The wind through the winter and summer months had scoured sand out of the bunkers or reshaped them,” said Kidd. “Sometimes we embraced those new shapes that nature had given us, and sometimes we didn’t. For our recent work, we took the opportunity to take a fresh look at the whole golf course and where bunkers were, where they weren’t and where they had grown in. The project has been a complete renovation, including the removal of some, adding new ones in, recutting every edge and installing Profile’s Flexterra solution for erosion control. Edges leading into bunkers have been cut back, returning bunkers to their original shape and making them easier to maintain.”

In the renovation, Kidd not only sought to improve conditioning related to the bunkers, but also to enact playability solutions. “The course originally had around 150 bunkers, many of which had little strategic purpose other than the visual ‘ooh ah’ moment,” said Kidd. “We took a couple dozen out, mainly the ones that were only penalizing bad shots. And we made a few bunkers bigger—the ones that were guarding the tightest lines.

“We haven’t touched any other part of the layout—yet,” said Kidd. “Planning is underway on other adjustments and we’re also talking about building a Himalayas-style putting course and updating the practice facilities. Bunkers are the first step, but I don’t expect them to be the last. We’ll continue to improve the course. The club is garnering new members, selling real estate, and is really, finally hitting its stride.”