Originally Posted by Harmonious
You are correct that the places where the PGA tour plays are very high end courses, set up with consistent greenside bunkers. And the tour players spend some time before the tournament hitting out of them to get familiar. With some experience, anyone should be able to recognize the type of sand (or clay, or mud) they are playing from. And with practice, they should be able to develop a method for each type.
When my course was built, they brought in different types of sand. And the maintenance is not best. Some bunkers are soft and fluffy, some are clayey, some never dry out and are hard-packed. Each requires a different setup, a little bit different clubface positioning, maybe even a different club to use. But I wouldn't say any type is more or less difficult than another, once you become familiar with them. The only difficulty could come when/if there is a narrow layer of soft sand over a clay base which could cause you to bounce off the clay and smack the ball over the green. That can happen, but thankfully not too often.
The guys who I play with that complain about poor sand in the bunkers after they leave it in or shoot it over the green never set foot in a practice bunker to learn how to play out of them.
I agree that one needs to recognize the type of sand they are playing out of and adjust accordingly, but I do think PGA courses provide the best opportunities for a golfer to have success out of the sand.
For example, I play at a friend's course 10 or so times per year. It's a neat little course, but they are strapped for money and sand has not been added to any bunker in what appears to be 20 years or more. With that, each sand bunker has become, what I call, a "dirt" bunker. At the same time, the original design of the bunkers are in place - many of them having a high lip that you must get the ball over. Now, these high lips have become even higher because the sand is gone and you are even lower inside the bunker.
I don't know about you, but no matter how many times I practice a 10' "bunker" shot from compact dirt which I have to carry a 3' lip, i don't think I'll ever have as much success as when I'm hitting from actual sand which gives me a margin for error and allows me to get the ball UP much easier.
PGA tour players would certainly do much better than me out of these traps, but I would venture to guess they wouldn't do as well as they do from the good sand they play from on the tour.
This is just a mild rant about my buddies course, but I'll bet many people play on courses with these conditions.