Golf courses bounce back after record June, July rain
SEBRING - During the summer, Curtis Lawson makes sure to get in his golf game in the morning. Florida's afternoon showers and thunderstorms are an inconvenience many golfers have learned to deal with over the years, but this year's torrential rainfall in June and July was a different story. South Florida Water Management District says the period from May 18 through Aug. 1 was the wettest start to the wet season since 1968. Needless to say, some of this rain saturated area golf courses, inundating some of the lower-lying areas with water and forcing golfers to stick to cart paths.The Sun 'n Lake Golf Club had to shut down one of its courses for four or five days this summer because of the rain. The other one, Turtle Run, which is now open, was shut down this summer for renovation. The rain "really affected our business greatly July through August," said Geoffrey Fisk, Sun 'n Lake's assistant golf professional, even though the golf courses drain well. "Everything is back to normal now." The driving range looked nice and green Tuesday as Dave Schumaker and Chad Lund hit a few balls. Lund felt the local courses held up well despite the weather anomaly. "In Orlando, the high-end courses had water, too," he said. Schumaker said some of the ponds at Highlands Ridge Golf Course that used to be empty are now full. "It makes it looker better," he smiled, but not the best news for wayward golf balls that end up in the ponds. At Placid Lakes County Club's course, attendance was not affected, said Rich Tufts. "We've been pretty lucky," he said. Holes five and eight had been under water but golfers could tee off in the back. Friday, a freak lightning strike took off a chunk of grass, exposing an irrigation pipe three feet below, but all that has been filled up. "This is the most rain I have seen in a long time," Tufts said. Attendance at Spring Lake Golf Course was not affected even though they shut down the links a couple of times so that the golf carts didn't run tracks in the wet grass, said Sean Garner, pro shop attendant. At River Greens Golf Course, what saved the day was its porous sandy soil, which meant the links drained well and the rains didn't lead to any closures, said co-owner Lisa Davis. Since they were open, they ended up accommodating golfers who couldn't play in other places, Davis said. "We got a lot of calls," she added. The drop in attendance and the loss of green fees was not the only thing golf course officials battled this summer. There was more mowing to do and more maintenance costs. But Mother Nature has its own mind and there are things no one can really predict. As Sun 'n Lake's head golf professional Andy Kessling put it: "It's hard to budget for a record rainfall."