In Upper Midwest, a golf season in peril

Looking north across Souris Valley Golf Course at two normally dry upland holes, the 414-yard par-4 fourteenth hole (left) and the 522-yard, par-5 15th (right).

Souris Valley Golf Course, a popular muni in Minot, N.D., has more water holes than ever. The Souris River that bisects the course has spilled its banks and flooded most of the 18 holes. The course, part of the Minot Park District, might not fully open this season, golf professional Steve Kottsick said.

If so, it likely won’t be alone.

Across the Upper Midwest, where melting snowpacks and record spring rains have forced the evacuation of entire towns, golf courses stand in danger of an abbreviated season – perhaps a total wash-out. The Missouri River Basin imperils courses from eastern Montana across the Dakotas and into western Iowa.

Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora, N.D., has closed because of the rising Little Missouri River that ambles through the front nine. In Bismarck, the raging Missouri River has closed Riverwood Golf Course for the year.

Downriver in Pierre, S.D., city muni Hillsview Golf Course is “two-thirds covered with water,” course manager Todd Surdez said. Ironically, the course has no usable irrigation, because the pump house is submerged. Workers haul water by truck to hose elevated greens in an effort to keep them alive. With the Army Corps of Engineers easing pressure on reservoirs by releasing more water across the region, Surdez says Hillsview might be done for the year, perhaps even into 2012.

At Souris Valley, Kottsick has cobbled a makeshift nine-hole loop – perhaps enough to generate $100,000-$125,000 this year, one-quarter of normal revenue. He says he’ll need every dollar for the cleanup from 4-5 feet of silt that he expects to see once the waters finally recede.

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