published Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Varied extremes have hit area golf courses

Weather has wreaked havoc on area golf courses within the last year. Here are a few examples:

Course, weather, impact

Signal Mountain, Tornado, 34 downed trees

Creeks Bend, Flood, Closed front nine

Lookout Mountain, Lightning, Lost irrigation

Chattanooga G&CC, Heat, Closed two weeks

WindStone, Heat, Closed to reseed all greens

Council Fire, Heat, Closed to reseed a few greens

Mother Nature has been a wicked witch to Chattanooga-area golf courses over the last 12 months.

She has delivered tornadoes, debilitating lightning strikes, historically high heat, floods and record-setting snow all within a calendar year of Phil Mickelson’s win at the Masters a year ago.

That’s the nature of the business.

“It’s certainly been eventful,” said Black Creek Club superintendent Scott Wicker. “Everybody had their challenges last year, and some were more extreme than others.

“I think a lot of people are glad to see 2010 behind us.”

Last year’s dominant weather problem was consistent oppressive heat. It killed grass and closed several area courses for at least a few days.

There were 92 days with a high temperature greater than 90 degrees in the four-month span of June through September. That particularly killed — or at least put under stress — bentgrass greens.

“Soil temperatures were so high,” said Council Fire Golf Club director of golf Hunt Gilliland. “We lost partials of six greens, and we closed for three weeks in September to reseed.

“It was the first time we had problems with our greens.”

Courses with bentgrass greens from New England to Florida and from Nebraska to North Carolina struggled with the heat last year.

Area head professionals and golf course superintendents would prefer a milder 2011.

“The heat took a toll on a lot of people, and it wasn’t just Chattanooga, but the eastern third, if not half, of the United States,” Wicker said. “We all hope 2011 is a little easier on us.”

But over three full months into the year, area courses already have endured other kinds of destructive weather. It started in January when about 10 inches of snow covered the area and turned golf courses into sledding heavens.

February, a balmy month by modern standards, ended with an F1 tornado rumbling through Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club, downing 34 trees on the course and closing it to play for a couple days.

“Cleanup is still going on,” Signal head pro Josh Metz said. “It was, yes, the perfect storm with the high winds followed by some eight inches of rain. It wasn’t pretty.”

The tease of 70-degree days in February were not a precursor of March, during which 11.7 inches of rain fell — almost double the monthly average. The extra water impacted low-lying courses such as Valleybrook, Brown Acres, Creeks Bend and Council Fire, which had to close at least parts of the courses.

“I’ve been there 10 years and it’s the hardest year I’ve ever had,” said Creeks Bend superintendent Patrick Shutters. “We’ve been flooded a bit this spring, but not bad. We’ve been able to keep the back open, but still.

“This year we may aerify once more and top-dress the greens a bit more and just pray.”

Lookout Mountain Golf Club may be the only course thankful for the rains of late March. A lightning strike dismantled its irrigation system.

“We had 3.59 inches of rain from Friday through Wednesday,” head pro Adam Campbell said. “The lightning hit a pole about 200 yards from the pump station and took it out.

“We had to cancel our pre-Masters tournament because of the wetness.”

Only Mother Nature knows how much wetter, hotter and stormier 2011 will be.

about David Uchiyama...

David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...

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