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Hurricane Dorian sends golf courses bracing for potentially devastating damage

August 31, 2019

With a potential natural disaster such as Hurricane Dorian heading toward South Florida in the coming days, golf naturally becomes less of a focus for those in the storm's path. For a club like Cypress Head Golf Club in Port Orange, Fla., a municipally owned public course outside Daytona Beach, the facility is actually prepared to play a huge role outside of golf.

Cypress Head officials began their storm prep days ago as Hurricane Dorian intensified. Part of that is prepping its facility to become a hub for first responders, if needed. Staff members have enough food to feed emergency personnel. The course even offers employees who live in nearby mobile homes, not built to maintain the possible 100-plus mile-per-hour winds projected, temporary shelter. Cypress Head's banquet hall could house up to four or five folks, as it did in past hurricanes.

"We’re fully hurricane-proofed, we have impact-resistant doors and the roofs have been strapped down," Cypress Head general manager Bob Duquette said Friday. "At this point, our hurricane preparation has become somewhat standard. We have a series of protocols to run through, which started days ago."

Though the path of the storm is unclear, it's possible Hurricane Dorian makes landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Tuesday, and early projections show the golf-heavy West Palm Beach area feeling the wrath of the storm. South Carolina also declared a state of emergency on Saturday morning, as some projections call for the storm to ride the coastline north and make landfall in the Carolinas. The Bahamas, with top facilities such as The Albany Club, host to Tiger Woods' hosted Hero World Challenge in the fall, appeared to be in for a severe hit on Sunday before the storm heads to Florida.

Though it might appear selfish for some to be thinking about golf courses with a major storm and devastation possible, it's important to remember the effects a hurricane can have on a course, its members and employees. Hurricane preparation has become routine procedure for Florida clubs, particularly in recent years with Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Michael.

When contacted Friday and Saturday, golf clubs all along the coast from Jacksonville to Miami said they would be shutting down on Friday or Saturday to ensure the safety of its employees and their families.

Old Marsh Golf Club, a former 100 Greatest course and Pete Dye design in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said it began preparations on Thursday, and it would be closed until at least Wednesday, when officials can evaluate how bad the damage might be.

"The prep is an extensive and timely process. We are mass pumping water off our property, in conjunction with South Florida water management, to reduce potential flood damage," said Tom Dyer, director of golf. "We're clearing and sandbagging all drains making sire debris won't clog, storing & securing any and all loose objects, and sandbagging all doorways."

Quail Valley Golf Club in Vero Beach, Fla. has some unique challenges. With two locations, including a social club right on the river, in addition to its 18-hole course, officials have been busy for the past week preparing for the worst. Director of golf Don Meadows detailed an elaborate agronomic plan, including the spraying of 35 acres of golf course with growth regulator to help combat saturation from the expected heavy rains, and the application of preventative fungicides on all 18 greens to help prevent losing the grass.

"Dorian is presenting some unique challenges as it continues to slow, widening the gap of time between when we can resume regular turf management practices," said Quail Valley superintendent Dustin Naumann.

The American Junior Golf Association was playing one its premier events, the Junior Players, at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach this weekend, but changed the schedule to include a 36-hole day in order to finish early and get families out ahead of any severe weather. South Africa's Jayden Schaper claimed the title.

The Orlando area is bracing for a potential hit, as well. Mountain Lake Golf Club in Lake Wales benefits from being closed in the summer, so more basic preventative measures are being taken, Director of Golf Jonathan Powell says. Not every course is as lucky.

Call these first-world problems. And in most ways, they are. But these are important jobs. Particularly so at Port Orange's Cypress Head, where club officials are prepared to help the community in non-golf aspects.

"Funny thing is, I hate to say it but most people don’t think about playing golf at times like these," Duquette said. "Most people know they have way bigger things to take care of. But we're here to do our part."