2004: Newsmakers - Courses clobbered by Frances

For a glimpse of the devastation Hurricane Frances brought to the golf course industry, take a look at what happened to Buncombe County Municipal Golf Course: After the storm passed, the fourth fairway was a river of floodwaters that reached the roof of the on-course restroom, and an industrial trash bin had been washed onto the fifth hole from who knows where.

Buncombe County Municipal, a Donald Ross design that opened in 1927, is in western North Carolina. The county seat is Asheville, nearly 700 miles from Sewall’s Point, Fla., where the eye of Frances came ashore Sept. 5.

The lumbering Category 2 hurricane moved across Florida over 36 hours, its breadth so large that the storm system engulfed the entire peninsula. After Frances moved into the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm, it cut through Florida’s panhandle and churned northward, leaving a trail of flooding, tree damage and debris on golf courses up and down the eastern seaboard.

Tee sheets throughout Florida and as far north as western New York were washed out by Frances for days and maybe even weeks at coastal courses that took the brunt of the storm’s 100 mph-plus winds and tidal surge. Frances marked the second hurricane in three weeks to cut across Florida and leave golf courses in disarray.

Charley, a Category 4 hurricane, made landfall Aug. 13 at Punta Gorda on the southwest coast, racing diagonally through the peninsula to exit near Daytona Beach on the east coast. Golf courses in central Florida, which includes the greater Orlando area, were hammered physically and economically by both storms. A third hurricane, Ivan, was scheduled to make landfall in the United States at press time, on a track to come ashore in the Florida panhandle.

In South Florida, PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, home of the PGA of America, lost at least 10 days of green fees and pro shop business.

John Gardner, vice president of golf operations, said Sept. 9 that he expected to reopen at least one course, The Champion, on Sept. 13, and the other three on-site layouts in the following days as crews cleared fallen trees and cleaned up debris.

In Vero Beach, just a few miles north of where Frances came ashore, Craig Weyandt sweated out the loss of power. Weyandt, superintendent at The Moorings Club, needed to run the irrigation system to water the Bermuda turf. The front nine of The Moorings sits along the Indian River, which overran parts of the private executive course as Frances hit. Large chunks of two tee boxes and a green were washed out by the tidal surge.

The Moorings’ clubhouse was another matter. A raised structure that overlooks the river, its double-decker roof was so twisted by Frances’ winds that Weyandt said a structural engineer was doubtful the building could be repaired.

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