Two-and-a-half weeks after dealing with a tropical disturbance that dumped double-digit inches of rain in some areas, Southwest Florida courses are recovering from another blow after Hurricane Irma blew through Sunday night.
Like many property owners, courses across Collier and Lee counties are dealing with varying degrees of tree damage, standing water, or more, with some more fortunate than others.
Tiburón Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort is hosting the LPGA’s CME Group Tour Championship in two months, then the PGA Tour’s QBE Shootout a couple of weeks after that. The damage isn’t to any extent to disrupt those events, although anyone driving on Vanderbilt Beach Road between Livingston and Airport Pulling roads can see that most of the line of huge trees guarding the entrance and onward have been flattened.
“We had some significant tree loss throughout the property,” general manager Kevin DeDonato said. “We’re bringing in a crew to clean that up. We’ve got a great staff that’s been working real hard to get the place up and running. We plan to reopen next week but we don’t have a date yet.
“The Gold Course (used for the two tour events) is going to be in great condition just like it was beforehand. It’ll take a couple of weeks to get all of the trees cleaned up. We’re committed to getting that done and making the place look great.”
DeDonato said the Black Course, which is being renovated, still is expected to reopen on time Nov. 1.
Quail Creek Country Club, still reeling somewhat from 13.5 inches from the disturbance that created some flooding, had the first United States Golf Association event in Collier County history postponed Tuesday due to Irma. The Women’s Mid-Amateur, which was set for Oct. 7-12, will be rescheduled.
“We are waiting for the USGA to come down and ride the course with us,” general manager/COO Don Hunter said. “A couple of our issues are we have electric pumps that remove water from the property and we do have a diesel pump. We are down as how much velocity we can get off the courses. It’s just a matter of how long it takes to drain before we can really ascertain things. We had some pretty strong turf health going into the storm.”
Hunter said there were lots of trees down as well, but the long-term prognosis will have more to do with the water removal or drainage. He estimated it’d be another month before either course there could reopen.
Like Quail Creek, Worthington Golf Club in Bonita Springs was already hit hard by the tropical disturbance, with the layout in the midst of a renovation that took another hit from Irma. Head professional Don Tracy isn’t sure yet when the renovated course will reopen, other than it won’t be on the Nov. 1 projection.
“Unfortunately 60 percent is under water,” Tracy said. “On Tuesday, I couldn’t get to my pro shop. I got there (Thursday). I still can’t get to the pro shop with my car. There’s no power. I had to get to the maintenance shed and followed our superintendent’s buggy.
“It’s sad. I feel really, really bad for the membership. I hope they can be patient.”
Just to the north on Corkscrew Road east of Interstate 75, Stoneybrook Golf Club also had lots of tree damage, along with something a little different than some other places.
“We had some pretty heavy erosion on a couple of holes with bunkers. We lost the majority of our sand integrity,” director of golf Jeff Nixon said. “We may have natural bunkers for the season.”
Nixon toured the course Monday to assess the damage after returning from Orlando, where he had evacuated for the hurricane.
“You’re kind of overwhelmed and then you go back out and you start going hole by hole,” said Nixon, who hopes to have the course reopened in a month.
Nixon is very supportive of junior golf, and that’s coming through beginning Saturday. The driving range, chipping area and putting green all have been cleared, and juniors ages 4-7 (9 to 10 a.m.), 8-12 (10:30 a.m. to noon) and 11-18 (1 to 2:30 p.m.) are resuming their normal classes.
Reflecting the varying degrees of damage that courses are facing, three others in Lee County are reopening this weekend or sometime next week.
Old Corkscrew Golf Club, located farther east on Corkscrew Road, came out relatively unscathed, despite the eye wall to the east of the eye passing close by.
“If it weren’t for (no) power, we’d probably be open right now,” Old Corkscrew’s Mark Iwinski said. “I’ve got to give credit to (superintendent) Brad Caporini and his crew. We tackled it as soon as we got out.”
Iwinski said there were only 20-30 trees down, but pointed out there are not a lot of trees in the interior of the layout.
“If you went out there, you’d almost scratch your head, going ‘What hurricane?’” he said.
Verandah Club, located off State Road 80 in northern Lee, will reopen Whispering Oak, one of its two courses, on Saturday, along with its River House restaurant. Old Orange is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Sept. 23, the following Saturday.
“The biggest thing is we had at least 14 inches of rain,” general manager Jay Severson said. “They were all overflowing. The golf courses drain well. We had large lakes basically on both golf courses that have now subsided. Employees from the golf house have been working on the golf course. It’s been a big team effort by (superintendent Jake Wentz) and everybody.”
Fort Myers Country Club, located west of U.S. 41 in Lee County, had just four inches of rain, but had 200 trees damaged, City of Fort Myers director of golf Rich Lamb said.
“I’m going to say 100 are pretty easy fixes,” he said. “We probably have 20 older, mature trees, and in most cases they’re not in play, that took a real severe hit and they’re going to have to be taken down and cut up and destroyed.”
Lamb is hoping to have the front nine opened Monday, and the back by the following weekend. At Eastwood Golf Course, the city’s other club, where a renovation was going on, it received seven inches of rain and affected 50 trees. Lamb said the dilemma is how long to wait so the renovated holes aren’t damaged while the affected trees are removed. He said the back nine — which is not the renovated nine — is “at least seven days” from reopening.
Alico Family Golf, located west of Interstate 75 in south Lee County, said in an emailed release it had “minimal cosmetic damage.” Coral Oaks Golf Course in Cape Coral will reopen this weekend, beginning with the driving range and restaurant opening Saturday at 7 a.m., and the golf course on Sunday at 7 a.m. utilizing temporary greens.
The Forest, which is located near the flood-ravaged Island Park neighborhood in south Lee County, did receive additional damage from Irma after dealing with flooding from the tropical disturbance. But GM Matt Gaudet is optimistic.
“We’ve got our fair share of cleanup ahead of us,” he said. “Many hands make easy work and we’ve got a great workforce here. We’ll be back to normal before you know it. It’s amazing — when you have tragedies. you really get to find out how incredible your staff is. You get so bogged down with the monotony of day-to-day work.”
Gaudet said when power is restored will result in a better timeline on when the two courses there can reopen.
River Hall Club, in Alva in northeast Lee County, had over 250 trees down, head professional Jim Feipel said. He said the earliest staff is looking to return is Sept. 25, and there currently is no power, so that makes it hard to peg when the course can reopen.
In Collier County, Hideout Golf Club, located east of Collier Boulevard close to where Interstate 75 turns east, had some tree damage and some water, director of golf Shawn Ward said in a text, but hopes to reopen by Sept. 27.
The Quarry, on Immokalee Road just northeast of Collier Boulevard, will remain closed for a scheduled maintenance Sept. 18-22, then reopen on Sept. 23. While getting the golf course ready was a priority for general manager/COO Bob Radunz, so was his staff, some of whom suffered great loss, especially some on the maintenance staff who live in Immokalee or Golden Gate Estates.
“It’s the long-term impact on our greatest asset, our employees, is what we’re trying to focus on now,” Radunz said. “How do we rebuild their lives and get them housing?”
He said many stayed at the clubhouse and are still doing so, and some are staying with members.
“Our members have been extremely generous in giving their time in the debris cleanup and in donations of water, food, bedding, generators,” he said.
As for getting the golf course ready, Radunz credited superintendent Rodney Whisman for his advanced planning, including having debris equipment ready to go ahead of the storm to quicken the clean-up. He said other than trees missing, the clubhouse area looks unscathed.
“Psychologically, it makes a big impact,” Radunz said. “It’s an important piece of the recovery effort.”
Radunz s aid the club still plans to host the South Florida PGA Section Assistants’ Championship on Oct. 4-5.
The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, which reopened just under a year ago after a renovation that included Jack Nicklaus as a consultant, may not reopen until the end of the month.
“It’s a mess, but it’s a superficial mess,” general manager Jason Parsons said. “Unlike the tropical disturbance, we have no massive flooding issues. We have issues, but most of our issues are relative to limbs and trees.”
Parsons said they do have power, and said the club’s website at naplesbeachhotel.com will be updated regularly as far as reopening.
“We’re lucky Naples isn’t under water,” he said, referring to the forecasts of Irma making landfall as a Category 4 or 5. “This is ugly, but this is ugliness that’s repaired in one season. It’s nothing what it could’ve been.”