Grand Strand golf courses are bracing for Hurricane Matthew, but in many cases they are also remaining open as long as possible Friday to accommodate booked golf package rounds and hope to reopen as early as Sunday afternoon.
Visiting golfers have no time for a hurricane.
Many of the Strand’s nearly 90 public courses in Georgetown, Horry and Brunswick counties are planning to remain open until mid-afternoon Friday to give those with morning tee times a chance to complete their rounds.
“We’re going to allow people to attempt to go out in the morning,” said Dave Genevro, general manager of the four-course Barefoot Resort. “So other than some rain, the wind is supposed to be pretty calm until late in the day. We’ll close after they get off the course.”
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Course operators have an urgency to reopen as soon as possible considering they are in the midst of an important fall golf season that lasts approximately seven weeks through the third week of November.
The approaching storm and the ordered evacuation along coastal areas of the Strand have lessened the demand for rounds in the immediate aftermath of Matthew’s wrath. But courses will still have some existing tee times Sunday and players anxious to get back on the links.
“It may be just getting one course ready to open [Sunday],” Genevro said. “With the amount of business we have if we can get one or two courses cleaned up we can handle play through Monday and Tuesday before things get ramped up again on Wednesday.”
This weekend’s scenario is all too familiar for course operators. About this time last year, they were enduring record rainfall totals over a weekend that caused widespread flooding and forced courses to close for at least two days. A few courses were closed for several more days or weeks.
“It’s kind of eerie because this is what happened last year, the same time,” said Andrew Galbraith, head pro at the three-course Sea Trail Resort in Sunset Beach, N.C. “We were down for a couple days. It was a tough one, and a year later here we are.”
It’s kind of eerie because this is what happened last year, the same time. We were down for a couple days. It was a tough one, and a year later here we are.
Andrew Galbraith, head pro at the three-course Sea Trail Resort in Sunset Beach, N.C.
Unlike last year, many Strand courses are fairly dry as they await the storm and may be in better condition to handle a lot of rain in a short amount of time.
“We’ve had a dry week, but the water tables aren’t as low as I wish they would be,” Genevro said. “Ponds are down a little bit. If we get 6 to 8 inches I think we’ll be okay. The fairways and greens will be fine, it will just be a lot of bunker work for us. It’s not just the bunker slopes, these storms sometimes wash sand out of the bunkers themselves.”
Founders Group International has six of its 22 Strand courses open for morning tee times Friday and has moved some players from other closed courses to those layouts.
“At this point we have to let Mother Nature take its course and deal with the issues that it leaves us,” said Founders Group International director of sales and marketing Steve Mays. “The idea is to reassess on Sunday and open the golf courses in the afternoon if that’s a possibility. I think the majority of our courses are planning on being closed Sunday and if we get open Sunday afternoon it will be a bonus.”
Pawleys Plantation, which is situated in tidal marsh in close proximity to the ocean in Pawleys Island, could be among the hardest hit of FGI’s courses, and of courses on the Strand in general.
“Obviously a course that’s closest to the ocean with tidal marsh along its perimeter you have the most concern about,” Mays said.
Arnold Palmer Golf Management operates five courses on the Strand – three at Legends Resort as well as Heritage Club in Pawleys Island and Oyster Bay Golf Links in Sunset Beach, N.C. – and all but Heritage Club are hosting golfers Friday morning and will reopen Sunday if possible.
“If we can open Sunday afternoon we’re going to open,” Legends head pro Matt Biddington said. “Because we have guests here on site who are ready to play, we’re going to do everything in our power to open at least 18 of our 54 holes at Legends on Sunday.”
What may keep people from the courses will be the condition of cart paths. Though the playing areas of courses may be playable, cart paths that are either flooded or blocked by fallen trees, or bridges that incur damage could limit play. “If our cart paths are passable we’ll be open,” Biddington said.
Being closed just 48 hours will hurt golf courses because of the time of year. They have already lost business following S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement on Tuesday that evacuations would start Wednesday, when schools and government offices would also be closed.
“We’ll get some people who will just change weekends, which is great, but you’ll get people who just cancel,” Genevro said. “I think the beach [golf market] in general, these weekends in October are always important to us. With April and October being key months for the golf business at the beach, if you had a choice you’d rather lose a weekend in August than October. A weekend in October affects all of us.”