Hurricane Irma barely affected the golf industry
Guest post courtesy of: Len Ziehm. Len enters his 50th year covering golf – writing currently for a variety of Chicago publications. He was the Chicago Sun-Times golf writer for 41 years and has also been golf columnist for Chicagoland Golf for the last nine years and the Daily Herald for the last eight. You can read his work at www.lenziehmongolf.com.
The damage incurred from Hurricane Irma was devastating, no doubt about it. Irma was the biggest hurricane to touch down in Florida in years.
Hurricane Irma wreaked destruction throughout Florida, and continued its damaging path through Georgia, South Carolina and even Tennessee. There was something strange about it, though; the golf industry, hit hard so frequently by hurricanes of the past, were seemingly spared this time. At least that seems to be the case based on a wide range of reports three weeks after Irma touched down in the continental United States.
Florida was hit first, and Irma engulfed the entire state. It figured to be the hardest-hit golf-wise but, other than in the Keys, most all the damage done was easily reparable. In Naples, the Tiburon 36-hole facility had extensive damage done to its Sydney’s Pub, but one course opened in two weeks and the other, which had been undergoing an update, is set to open as scheduled on Nov. 1.
That’s basically as bad as it got in the Sunshine State, which is good news for all concerned with tourist season beginning this month and holiday golf on the horizon. The weather reports about Irma might make tourists reluctant to come to Florida, but they won’t have any problem finding golf courses to play if they make the trip.
Here’s a sampling of how Florida courses survived Irma’s wrath.
PGA Golf Club—the designated winter home of the PGA of America’s 28,000 members in Port St. Lucie—resumed normal operations on Sept. 16, just five days after Irma touched down in Florida, and its PGA Learning Center and dining facilities reopened two days before that. PGA Golf Club encompasses four 18-hole courses but one, the Ryder layout, is undergoing a renovation and won’t re-open until early December.
“We were fortunate in terms of the amount of damage at our facility, and our staff did an incredible job with the cleanup,” said Jimmy Terry, PGA Golf Club’s general manager.
The Evergreen Club, a popular nearby public facility in Palm City, had the most eye-catching damage – a huge tree that was uprooted on its fourth hole – but golfers resumed play on nine holes of the course after only two days of cleanup and it’s now completely open, though there’s still signs of tree damage.
More than 250 trees went down at Innisbrook Resort & Golf Club, home of the PGA Tour’s Valspar Championship in March, but three of the courses re-opened quickly. None of the downed trees landed on a green or a tee box. Innisbrook’s North course was undergoing a renovation when Irma paid her visit, but its re-opening is planned for early November.
TPC Sawgrass, home of the PGA Tour’s Players Championship in Ponte Vedra, was hit harder, though only 200 trees went down. Dye’s Valley was re-opened first and The Players’ Stadium Course opened on Friday.
LPGA International Golf Club, a few miles south of Sawgrass off I-95, wasn’t hit nearly as hard as the PGA Tour headquarters were. Kate Holcomb, of the Daytona Beach Area Visitors and Convention Bureau, reported the damage throughout Daytona’s 20-plus courses as “cosmetic, requiring cleanup but not long-term recovery.”
Mike Glenn, general manager of LPGA International, said all that resort’s courses but one were open after only a couple days of cleanup, and the well-regarded Jones Course opened last week after a summer greens’ renovation project was completed.
“The courses are in great shape. You wouldn’t know there was a storm,” said Glenn.
Sailfish Point Golf Club, in Stuart—a waterfront community in the southern part of the state—closed two days before Irma arrived and opened a few days after Irma left.
The more centrally-located facilities didn’t feel the brunt of Irma. Reunion Resort, which has three courses in Orlando, needed only one day for cleanup before re-opening. Streamsong, near Lakeland, was fully operational on its Red and Blue courses, and the new Black Course opened on Friday.
Another of our personal favorites, Mission Inn Resort & Golf Club in Howey-in-the-Hills, had only minimal damage on its El Campeon and Las Colinas courses but was very much involved in the hurricane recovery effort. The resort housed a number of energy company employees, and even transformed its ballroom into a makeshift shelter for 200 senior citizens forced to evacuate a nearby assisted living facility.
Hammock Beach, in Palm Coast, had its Conservatory course open three days after Irma hit. That resort also provided lodging for over 50 of its employees and their families who didn’t feel safe in their homes during the storm. Hammock’s Jack Nicklaus-designed Ocean Course, though, remains closed. Last year’s visit from Hurricane Andrew created severe damage there and the recovery plan was upgraded to a restoration, leaving the course closed for a year. It’s expected to open later this fall.