Golf Courses and Hurricanes: The 3 Biggest Risks to Your Club
Golf courses and hurricanes: While any club manager or superintendent doesn’t like to see that combination, it doesn’t stop it from happening! The 2017 hurricane season was a stark reminder of just how unforgiving Mother Nature can be to your beautiful sculpted golf course and grounds. Major Hurricanes Irma, Maria, and Harvey propelled the 2017 hurricane season to the most expensive in U.S. history. Driving rains, storm surge, and high winds all accompany hurricanes and are responsible for a majority of the damage.
If your club did not incur any of the $200 billion damage during the 2017 season, you’re one of the lucky ones. But there is no guarantee that you’ll be as lucky in the future. It’s important for all golf courses in hurricane-prone areas to assess their risks and prepare for what could happen. Below, we’ve listed the top three risks that hurricanes pose to golf courses and how you can prepare this season.
One of the biggest threats hurricanes pose to golf courses is flooding. There are two dangerous weather conditions that make this a big threat: High rain rates and storm surge. During a hurricane, rain can fall at a dizzying 6 inches per hour. If you’re near the coastline, storm surge can also pose a big threat. Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. When storm surge coincides with high tide waves can reach over 20 feet in height.
— Steve Timms (@TimmsSteve) August 27, 2017
Even if you’re not near the coast, the rain might be enough to wash out your bunkers, create landslides, or make your green a giant puddle. While reservoirs and other draining/holding systems can make a different for smaller rainfall amounts, sometimes there is just too much water. We recommend including vegetation on inclined areas prone to landslides. It’s also good to know how much rain to expect ahead of time. That way, you can prepare staff for what’s coming.
Another big danger that comes from the combination of golf courses and hurricanes is debris. Think of all the different everyday objects on your course that could become dangerous during a hurricane. A tropical cyclone becomes a hurricane when sustained wind speeds reach 74 mph. Category 5 hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of over 156 mph! That’s enough to pick up a golf cart and send it flying into your clubhouse or pro shop.
There are a few ways to mitigate these risks in the time leading up to hurricane season. We recommend using professionals to handle regular tree pruning and removal of dead branches. That way, hurricane winds can’t send these debris flying into your buildings. Another way to protect your club from debris during hurricanes is with storm shutters and windows. When the threat of a hurricane is imminent, make sure you have a plan in place to secure all assets. For example, you should lock golf carts away in a garage and move all patio furniture indoors.
Even if you follow these steps, you most likely will return to your golf course looking a bit less than pristine. It’s important to get out on the course (once the weather is safe) and assess the damage on every hole. Then you’ll need a cleanup crew to pick up branches, trees, and other debris that may have flown over from someone else’s property. It also helps to have a full tee-to-green insurance coverage that will replace all downed trees and cover you for any downtime due to a tropical system.
3. Power Outages
Finally, power outages are also a problem when golf courses and hurricanes get together. Sure, you don’t need electricity to play golf, but you do need it to make food, keep refreshments cool, and collect payment. During hurricanes, there are a lot of different weather conditions that can cause power outages. Fallen trees and high winds can knock out power lines. Flooding can also ruin utility equipment and zap power from your course. Even if your course doesn’t have a lot of damage, damage in your area could force utility workers to cut off power to your property so they can repair.
We recommend keeping a back-up generator on hand. While it’s probably not enough to run your facilities and your lightning safety equipment, you can minimize food loses by keeping your refrigerators and freezes on.
Golf Courses and Hurricanes: You Need A Plan
When it comes to hurricane preparedness, everyone needs a plan for before, during, and after an event. Our meteorological team works with hundreds of golf courses around the country to help them stay safe from hurricanes and other severe weather events like thunderstorms. If you’d like to learn about how the Earth Networks team can help you mitigate weather-related risks on your golf course, use the link below to contact us.
Everyone’s golf course is different – we’d love to customize a plan that works to defend your assets from the severe weather events unique to your area. It’s already hurricane season, so get planning!