Golf courses on the Grand Strand are enduring some lost revenue from cancellations and a day or two of closure in some cases.
But course operators are generally thankful Hurricane Irma did not come directly through the Carolina coast, allowing the Myrtle Beach golf market to be minimally impacted by the storm.
Some courses, including the 22 courses owned and operated by Founders Group International and the four layouts at Barefoot Resort, were hoping to get through Irma with just a half day of course closures on Monday afternoon.
Barefoot had more than 50 players on its courses Monday morning, and FGI’s Grande Dunes Resort Course hosted about 20 golfers.
“All are open at this point,” said Steve Mays, acting president of Founders Group International. “We’re remaining open and waiting to see what the day brings today. We don’t anticipate any significant damage to our golf courses.”
The Strand was being hit Monday by the outer bands of Irma, which was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday morning.
Widespread showers accompanied by heavy downpours and strong wind gusts were predicted for Monday afternoon.
Sustained winds of 30-plus mph with gusts that were expected to hit 50 mph were forecast for the Strand on Monday, with up to 2 inches of rain predicted.
Rain and showers were predicted to continue through Tuesday morning, though winds were predicted to dissipate to about 15 mph throughout the day, with clearing expected in the afternoon.
The rain totals shouldn’t be enough to force many courses to close. “We had close to 18 inches of rain in August, and already in September we had 3 inches of rain one night and we were open the next day,” Genevro said.
Unless the winds were strong enough to knock down tree limbs or trees themselves, Genevro expected the worst of the damage to be bunker washout.
“We plan on being open [Tuesday] unless something happens above and beyond and it’s worse than they anticipate it to be … unless the wind is stronger and for a longer period of time and we might have some trees down,” Genevro said. “The only reason it won’t be open is if the wind is bad enough to leave debris on the courses.”
There was a chance the Grande Dunes Resort Course would close Monday afternoon if wind gusts were strong enough to close its bridge across the Intracoastal Waterway.
Storm surge in inlets and marshes that might carry into Tuesday was also a concern for a few FGI courses including Pawleys Plantation and Willbrook Golf Club.
“Only time will tell,” Mays said. “We have to worry about the amount of rain we get because we’re so saturated from August, but hopefully we’ll be all right and dodge a major bullet.”
The threat of Irma has led to a loss of rounds and revenue, however, as many rounds were canceled this week and even next week when visiting golfers canceled planned vacations.
“Once there was talk of the hurricane, some canceled at the end of last week not knowing. We’re trying to reschedule and get them back,” East Coast Golf Management president Mike Buccerone said.
East Coast operates five courses on the Strand and has a total of 19 area courses in a marketing cooperative. Buccerone said about 10 of those were open Monday morning, with sporadic play at best.
Genevro said the cancellations were fewer than he anticipated. He said 500 rounds were played on Barefoot’s three resort courses Saturday and many rounds remained on the books through this week. Most of those who canceled rounds this week just moved their rounds to later this month or this fall.
Some courses took precautions with little or no rounds scheduled. Sister courses Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and True Blue Golf Club were closed Monday and operators hoped to reopen the courses Tuesday.
East Coast Golf Management accommodated some pre-booked package rounds Monday morning, though Buccerone envisioned closing the courses in the afternoon.
“If it gets worse today we’ll shut it down. Everybody’s just on call,” Buccerone said. “We made all our preparations this weekend with regards to worst-case scenario.
“I really don’t anticipate us being open [Tuesday] but we’ll watch it hour by hour and make a decision later [Monday] afternoon.”
Some golfers braved the tropical storm conditions to get 18 holes in Monday afternoon. Former coworkers Michael Scarver of Myrtle Beach and Lloyd Walters of Memphis, who said he is the uncle of U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, were the only two golfers in the afternoon on Myrtlewood Golf Club’s PineHills Course.
“When they open the golf course they expect you to play, right?” Scarver said. “… This is my new job. I’m retired, so this is my job. I didn’t miss a day of work in 42 years. I don’t plan to miss a day in this new job, either.”
Course operators feared they would have a natural disaster to deal with for the third consecutive year, as the first weekend in October featured record rainfall and flooding in 2015 and Hurricane Matthew last year.
“It’s three years in a row with something like this going on,” Buccerone said. “Last week we were worried about the rain itself and flooding that could happen afterward. The rivers are so high. We’ve been so wet any sustained winds could have knocked some trees down. I’m glad it didn’t happen. We’re dodging the bullet.
“We’re very fortunate. We’re ready to have this thing past us and move forward.”