In the devastating wake of Hurricane Dorian, the operators of the two highest-ranked golf courses in the Bahamas are focused on relief efforts and supporting the basic needs of people on the ground. There will be plenty of time to assess the golf courses later, they said.
Dorian hit Abaco as a Category 5 hurricane over the weekend before effectively parking for more than a day atop nearby Grand Bahama. The storm’s winds were a sustained 185 mph with gusts to 220 mph, and the storm surge exceeded 20 feet across the low-lying islands.
As of mid-day Thursday the official death toll in the Bahamas was 20, but that was expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue. Marsh Harbour on Abaco has been described as effectively destroyed.
Baker’s Bay Golf and Ocean Club, on the barrier island of Great Guana Cay about 12 miles north of Marsh Harbour, was directly in the path of the storm. The Tom Fazio course at Baker’s Bay is ranked No. 15 in Golfweek’s Best Mexican and Caribbean Courses and is the top-ranked course in the Bahamas.
“At this time our concentration and focus is on providing essential relief for the people of the Abacos including our employees at Baker’s Bay,” Carol Taylor, chief marketing officer of Discovery Land Company, wrote in response to an inquiry about the club. “We are concentrating on arrangements for evacuations, medical aid, drinking water, food, shelter and funding for relief from the disaster.”
Baker’s Bay has been a popular destination for many pro golfers and celebrities, and was the site of spring break trips by Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth in recent years that played prominently on Instagram. Fowler posted his concerns for the club on Instagram this week.
The Abaco Club at Winding Bay, about 16 miles south of Marsh Harbour, reported this week that it suffered damage but called it “manageable” on an Instagram post. As with Baker’s Bay and all of Abaco and Grand Bahama, the focus at Abaco Club is on protecting lives.
Abaco Club is ranked No. 18 in Golfweek’s Best Mexico and Caribbean Courses and No. 2 in the Bahamas. The club was the site of the Korn Ferry Tour’s The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic in January.
“We are extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of our staff members and other residents of Abaco,” David Southworth, founder and CEO of Southworth Development, an affiliate of which owns the Abaco Club, said in a statement. “There is an urgent need for immediate assistance on Abaco, and we are moving fast to provide that assistance.
“We haven’t even been able to ascertain whether all of our staff members are safe yet. Communications systems are still down, power is out, roads are flooded or blocked by fallen trees. It’s a humanitarian disaster on an almost unimaginable scale.”
The Abaco Club announced it has launched a GoFundMe effort dedicated to providing immediate disaster relief for the island’s residents. Joe Deitch, chairman of Southworth Development, pledged $1 million to the relief effort and hopes others will support the relief efforts.
“The people of Abaco are more than just our friends and neighbors,” said Deitch. “They’re like family to us. Both David and I have homes on the island, and we cherish our relationships with the people of Abaco. What happened there is a tragedy, and we’re going to do all we can to help.”
Contributions to this GoFundMe effort (http://www.gofundme.com/f/abacodorianrelief) will be distributed by the Abaco-Winding Bay Relief Fund, a charitable organization created expressly for this effort with 501(c)3 status applied for and pending. All funds received will be used to provide assistance in the form of food, shelter, medical aid and supplies, and assistance in the clean-up and rebuilding efforts.
There are several courses on Grand Bahama, and the conditions of those courses and communities have not been made clear in the wake of the storm as all efforts are on supporting people’s basic safety.
Farther south in New Providence, which consists of Nassau and Paradise Island, several top courses appear to have escaped serious damage from the storm. Those include Albany, which is No. 21 on Golfweek’s Best Mexico and Caribbean Courses and is site of the Hero World Challenge in December.
Dorian has since moved past Florida as a Category 2 storm without inflicting much serious damage. As of Thursday it was moving just offshore of the Carolinas as a Category 3 or high-Category 2 storm. Parts of Charleston, S.C., had flooded with wind gusts in excess of 75 mph, according to Weather.com. Tornadoes and water spouts also have been spotted in the Carolinas.
Many courses from Florida to North Carolina have been shuttered most of this week with mandatory evacuations of coastal areas. Several course operators in the Carolinas have said they hope to be able to make initial assessments Thursday and Friday and hopefully return to business as early as this weekend.
PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., reopened Thursday after having closed because of evacuations. TPC Sawgrass, site of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, plans to reopen Friday after being closed as the storm passed offshore.