Winter storms Desmond, Eva, and Frank have wreaked havoc on golf courses throughout Ireland but nowhere more aggressively than at the famed Killarney Golf & Fishing Club in Kerry.
The Killeen and Mahonys Point lay-outs have suffered to such an extent that a return to full-time play over the former (the venue for four Irish Open Championships and countless other major events) is unlikely before the end of February at best. Mahonys Point could be back in action by late January and the clubhouse by the end of next week — provided there is not a repeat of the devastating rainfall of the past month.
“From December 5, with the outbreak of Storm Desmond, up to Wednesday of this week, we had 508 millimetres of rainfall, which is five times the usual for December and triple the national average”, explained Killarney general manager Cormac Flannery.
“The place has been absolutely hammered with rain, with the 18th holes on both courses fully covered by water and a large number of others seriously flooded.
“From December 5, the clubhouse, which is located on a promontory and is quite low lying, has been almost impossible to access as it is cut off by road.
“The staff have been getting in on utility vehicles and tractors and in turn there have been a number of issues to deal with that you wouldn’t think of until they confront you.”
However, members and staff alike tackled the various challenges with typical resolution and good humour. When the storms relented, they opened 18 holes between the two courses and named it “The Ark Course”.
It consisted of the 1st to the 12th holes on Mahonys Point (with the exception of the 4th where work is underway on a tee complex).
From there they moved on to the 2nd tee on Killeen and onto the 12th to the 17th on Killeen.
“It was a pretty long 18 holes with a par of 75 for the men and 76 for the ladies but at least they were able to get out there and enjoy themselves,” said Flannery.
“The staff updated the signage so that visitors wouldn’t get lost, we had special score cards and even held one member’s competition. December 26th and 27th were particularly busy and maybe we will now set a new record for the course!”
All concerned are putting a brave and philosophical face on the situation. They are happy that the only significant damage was caused by erosion to the 1st and 4th on Killeen and the 16th on Mahonys Point and they will have new tees once the lake level drops.
“We cannot thank the staff and the members for the way they have responded”, continued Flannery.
“They did a marvellous job in clearing 100 tons of debris after Storm Desmond and our one biggest disappointment is that another 50 tons were washed in by subsequent storms and that will now have to be dealt with.
“But the spirit here is fantastic, all the more so because the bookings for 2015 were great and yet by December 1 bookings for 2016 were up 30% again’” he said.
Contact with various other clubs throughout the country told a similar story of closed courses for much of December and considerable uncertainty as to when they will be fully playable again.
The midlands is one of the areas most heavily affected by the winter storms with many courses in the Shannon and Lakelands region suffering the effects of flooding. While only one back tee was under water at Glasson, on the shores of Lough Ree, the course was closed as a precaution while several holes were under water at venues such as Carrick-on-Shannon and Athlone.
“We could play around the flooding where the Shannon has come in but we have been closed since St Stephen’s Day,” said Athlone’s PGA professional Kevin Grealy.
“We were actually open for a lot longer than most of the other courses in the area but the fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth are all affected.
“From memory this is the worst it’s been since the floods of 2009. It’s just Mother Nature, I’m afraid, and we would hope there would be no lasting damage though we won’t know until water levels return to normal.”
While the Golfing Union of Ireland was unavailable for comment yesterday, it set up an Emergency Loan Fund Scheme in 2014 to assist clubs that had suffered damage as a result of extreme weather.
An initial €250,000 was set aside for clubs so that they could apply for an interest free loan of up to €12,000 (£10,000 stg), with a maximum term of 10 years.
A special meeting of the Central Council of the GUI had to be held in order to amend the Union’s Constitution, which formerly prohibited the Union from providing financial assistance to its member clubs.
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