Quite a few people have asked me the significance of using Italian Grape Hoes to finish bunkers. It's a little bit like the old adage: if you have to ask how much something costs you can't afford it. With the Italian Grape Hoe, if you have to ask why its a better tool to finish bunkers with, then you have never used one.
The Italian Grape Hoe (IGH) has a heavy sharp blade 7-8 inches wide, depending on the manufacturer, and 10 inches high. It typically comes with a handle that is 5 feet long.
With the IGH, when finishing, renovating or edging bunkers, one always works from within the bunker. One simply chops down and pulls back a chunk of what ever material is being worked. It is at least twice as fast as using a shovel. As you can tell by the photo above, the IGH has a curved head, so it allows you to easily create the "right" angle on the edges of the bunkers, even when working on steep faces.
The first time that I saw or used an Italian Grape Hoe was at Merion Golf Club in 1980 when we did a lot of renovation/restoration work on the bunkers prior to the Open. Apparently, they had been using them since Flynn was the Head Greenkeeper and Joe Valentine was the Construction Foreman. When Flynn left, Joe Valentine took over as Head Greenkeeper and then Richie Valentine took over as Superintendent. I was Richie's Assistant in 1980 and 81.
In a future post, I'll describe "chunking" to make repairs and create features in bunkers, another original technique from the early days that was handed down to Valentine and from him to me.