A hot tub on the 18 green? After Hurricane Ian, damage assessments begin on island courses


It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Ian hit southwest Florida, but the road to the recovery of golf courses on barrier islands, such as Sanibel and Captiva, remains long.

“Well, the island is still there…many houses are still standing. In our case, we took a pretty devastating hit,” said Mike Dopslaff, head professional at Dunes Golf and Tennis Club. say it Fort Myers News Press last week.

The Dunes, located on the northeast side of Sanibel, is one of two 18-hole courses on the island that were rocked by the Category 4 storm, which made landfall Sept. 28 in Cayo Costa, Costa Rica. Florida, a barrier island just north of Captiva and Sanibel Islands. Sanibel Island Golf Club is the second course, located on the southeast coast. A third club, the Sanctuary Golf Club, a 1992 Arthur Hills private design, is a few miles north of Captiva.

With the Sanibel Causeway collapsing into the Gulf of Mexico and blocking vehicular traffic, employees of these clubs began bringing boats to the island last week to assess the damage.

Initial findings: A massive storm surge left the course’s fairways, greens, tee boxes and bunkers under several feet of salt water, turning the grass into a muddy mess and severely altering the topography, while 150 mph winds toppled several trees and mutilated other structures.

At The Dunes, a 1985 design by Mark McCumber, the course’s iconic tree in the first fairway was uprooted, among many others. While the clubhouse is still standing, that’s about it: there is severe water damage, ruining almost everything inside. Eight inches of water rushed inside the pro shop, scattering clubs and other items. All golf carts were destroyed.

And there is currently a seated hot tub in the middle of the 18e green.

“Who knows, it might be a novelty on our 18th hole,” said Brian Kautz, General Manager of The Dunes. The first call. “We all need to have a sense of humor and hope.”

Kautz estimated the course to be “90-95% brown because Bermuda grass does not tolerate salt water at all”.

“I went off course when I got there and a helicopter landed in our first fairway, which they’re using as an airstrip to fly in supplies and set up a fire station,” Kautz added. “I found rental club sets down the street from the wagon barn.”

Gene Taylor, head professional at Sanibel Island Golf Club, the co-design of Truman Wilson and Bill Dietsch which opened in 1976, described similar damage to his club for The first call.

“So full of mud and slippery,” he said of the fairways, which photos showed were also covered in various other debris. Another photo showed golf carts strewn across the property. Aerial images revealed a hole mostly underwater.

The South Seas Golf Club, a nine hole located at the northern tip of Captiva, had, according to a photo taken (main photo above), at least one hole completely eroded.

The Gasparilla Inn and Club course, designed by Pete Dye in 2004, is the closest barrier island course north of the landing site at Boca Grande. According to the club’s website, the course suffered “significant damage” and would be closed indefinitely. Photos from Google Earth showed several areas of the course underwater.

With more important things to settle in the immediate future — homes and businesses have been totally destroyed or severely damaged — the timeline for the return to golf on Sanibel Island is unknown.

But there will be, at some point, a return to golf.

“Once the shock is over, and the inspiration I will have bringing it back and overcoming the challenges…” Dopslaff said News-press“It will feel good when we open the doors and someone starts over on that first tee.”


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