Hurricane Matthew hit the southeastern United States on the weekend of October 8th as it moved very close to the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. While many golf courses were negatively impacted, most have reopened while continuing repairs. Questions arise concerning how to pay for damages and what the future holds for these courses.
OC Welch Golf Properties have been renovating their Donald Ross-designed course since 2014. The annual Savannah City Amateur was scheduled for October 22-23, however it was postponed until December due to the many damages the course suffered. Their renovations have been set back, and the ability to host tournaments and other events will be affected as well.
OC Welch Golf Properties are not the only ones with damages to their course, the Landings Club and its six golf courses were heavily damaged with 1,200 to 1,500 trees down. Club director Steven Freund said in a press release that they hired eight tree removal crews from Miami, Atlanta and Savannah. Kevin Drum, executive director of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Golf Association and member of the governor’s commission on recovery, estimates it costs golf courses $100 per tree to remove, on average.
Flooding is also a serious issue. While most courses are designed for good drainage, some courses may have to replace greens. Replacing a green on a golf course can cost upwards of 50K. Downed trees and flooding are not the only threats in a hurricane: damage to buildings, golf cart paths, and electrical wires are a few of the problems courses face. With expenses such as these, one would assume that insurance would be an asset in times like these. Unfortunately, recently many golf courses are unable to get coverage in coastal areas.
Aerial Tour of Ironwood Golf Course after Tornado and Storm Damage
Many Golf Courses Aren’t Insured
A large number of insurance companies have pulled out of coastal markets since the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005. For those who have managed to keep their insurance, golf clubs such as Gulf Hills Golf Club have seen their insurance premiums tripled. In order to pay for their new plan, the general manager of Gulf Hills Golf Club reported cutting out equipment policies and deleting coverage on low-end items. To make things even more difficult, the coverage limits on available plans are so low, and premiums and deductibles so high, that many golf courses find little to no value in taking the insurance.
FEMA Aid Available
Many of the coastal golf courses have reopened while repairs are in progress, but others may be closed for the unforeseen future. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Joseph M. Bartholomew, Sr. Municipal Golf Course in New Orleans remained closed for several years. The course was submerged under water for about six weeks, some areas measuring 15-20 feet deep. The course’s superintendent estimated damages of $11 million. The city of New Orleans funded most of the repairs with money raised from city bond sales. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also supplied several million in aid, and other federal funds were also applied. The Bartholomew, Sr. Municipal Golf Course repairs were some of the first capital projects approved by FEMA and passed by the city and state after Katrina.
If you’re a public course, you may be able to get help in the recovery process from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Over the past half dozen years, FEMA has implemented policies that give golf courses increased disaster-relief options — everything from assistance with infrastructure to the restoration of turf and trees. Please note any work completed before FEMA gets involved is not eligible for assistance (with exceptions for stabilizing structures in the interest of public safety). In order to receive aid from FEMA, the state’s governor must first request that the White House declare a federal emergency.
Ken Lacasse, a Vermont greens chairman, told one reporter after Hurricane Irene, “I grew up in this valley and the courses have been here for 40 years, we just can’t let a freak storm like this take us out of the golf business. You just grin and bear it, move through it, and this too shall pass.” People, as well as golf courses, are hurting in the southeastern United States. Now is the perfect time for golfers to unite and help those in their community while golf courses rebuild.