Golf courses around the Grand Strand that were in areas hit hard by Hurricane Florence and subsequent flooding are still working on getting all of their holes open nearly five weeks after the storm made landfall.
But the Myrtle Beach golf market, consisting of approximately 90 courses in Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties, continues to get closer to being full strength in the midst of the busy fall golf season.
The front nine at The Witch in Conway will reopen Thursday, giving the course a full 18 holes. It has been operating as a nine-hole course for nearly a month.
The Witch’s front nine is susceptible to Waccamaw River overflows and was closed because of flooding for three weeks after historic rains in 2015, four weeks after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and five weeks this year because of Hurricane Florence, which hit on Sept. 14.
Bald Head Island Club off the coast of Southport, N.C., which is private but also accepts some golf package play and stay-and-play renters, took nearly a direct hit from Florence.
Though the club weathered the storm fairly well, it has taken some time to recover.
The front nine is scheduled to reopen Wednesday, and the maintenance crew will continue working on the back nine for a reopening that hasn’t been set, according to head pro Brian Stewart. The practice area reopened on Oct. 5.
“The [members] that are around are going to be excited to get away from their cleanup and process, it will give them a nice little break to get away from that monotony and get them back on the golf course,” Stewart said. “We’ll hopefully have all 18 opened up shortly and get back to status quo.”
The pro shop building is elevated and was nearly unharmed, the outdoor Terrace Grill facility opened the first week of October, and the tennis courts flooded but did not have any other damage.
The main clubhouse consists of three primary rooms, and two – the Palms dining venue and Ocean Room ballroom – likely have mold damage that will have to be repaired. An extended lack of electricity contributed to the damage, Stewart said.
The club was in the midst of a facilities improvement project that featured the building of an ocean-view restaurant and aquatic center that includes pools and water slides, and construction on that project resumed Monday.
At the private four-course St. James Plantation in Southport, N.C., two courses are open and the other two are expected to reopen by Monday.
The Founders Club reopened about two weeks after Florence hit and 18 holes of the 27-hole Members Club reopened shortly thereafter. The Players Club is scheduled to reopen Friday, and the Reserve Club is expected to reopen on Monday. The third nine at the Members Club is expected to reopen in early November.
The Reserve Club head pro Barry Walters said St. James courses had standing water from torrential rain, damaged bridges, washed-out areas of cart path and washed out bunkers, but the most widespread damage was from uprooted and damaged trees.
Walters said the club brought in three different tree service companies that have worked 12 hours per day, seven days a week.
“I’ve been here since 2000 and I’ve been through a number of storms, but this is by far the worst.” Walters said. “What the arborists are doing in the long run will be good for the existing trees. It will give them a chance.”
At the private Wachesaw Plantation Club in Murrells Inlet, 17 holes on the course have been open since Sept. 19 but the par-5 18th hole just reopened early last week.
Approximately 1,700 sandbags were placed around the 18th green that abuts the Waccamaw River/Intracoastal Waterway, and though some were removed once the water receded from the putting surface and much of the connected fairway, some remain. Water breached walls of bags that were stacked about 6 feet high.
Without the 18th, the club utilized an extra par-3 hole located near the 16th and 17th holes. A bridge between holes 17 and 18 was overtaken by water and a cart path between holes 14 and 15 was flooded, so the club made a new path from 14 to 15 through a neighborhood until the water receded.
Wedgefield Plantation in Georgetown reopened on Sept. 1 after being closed for more than two years. Then after being open for 10 days, it closed for another nine days because of Florence.
The course had a couple trees down but no other notable damage from the storm, but the property was too wet to cut the grass.
The course has ample sand in bunkers only on holes 16 through 18 because Mitch Thompkins, who is leasing and operating the course, has had to wait on sand after sandpits along the Pee Dee River flooded. Other bunkers will be played as waste bunkers or allow free drops until sand arrives, which Thompkins hopes will be next week.
Residents who have long awaited the reopening have been regularly playing. Thompkins said one men’s group of about 30 golfers plays five days a week. “I’m just happy to be open. Our members are very happy,” Thompkins said.
Aberdeen Country Club in Longs will surely be the final course to reopen.
Aberdeen was closed for nearly six months following Hurricane Matthew in 2016 after the clubhouse suffered water damage and had to be renovated, and water levels were even higher in the clubhouse this year so it will likely be closed for a while again.