Full extent of flooding damage revealed
The full extent of the damage and the recovery of the flooding that devastated several golf courses throughout the British Isles this winter is now beginning to emerge.
Most clubs have now reopened after the worst winter in their history, but the financial damage incurred has been huge.
Playgolf Bournemouth, for instance, has entered liquidation, after the entire course became unplayable when it was flooded by the River Stour in December 2013. Christmas dinners were boxed up and hand-delivered to customers as the entrance to the club became submerged under water on Christmas Day.
A spokesman said the operating business had entered liquidation and would be bought by its parent company, while the course, which is owned by a separate company, has continued to trade, meaning that customers and staff have been ‘unaffected by the company’s financial troubles’.
In Ireland, the extent of the damage was so severe that the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) has set up a £205,000 ‘Emergency Loan Fund’ to assist golf clubs.
Clubs may apply to the GUI for an interest-free loan of up to £10,000 each, for up to 10 years, to help with the cost of essential repairs after wind damage in February resulted in debris and trees being strewn across several courses.
It is rare that the GUI provides financial assistance to clubs and this has only been made by possible by a recent amendment to a clause of the GUI’s constitution.
It is thought several Irish golf clubs suffered six-figure damages, with some close to £1m. Limerick Golf Club, for instance, had more than 300 of its trees fall down during one period of high winds.
“It makes a lot of sense for the GUI to introduce this scheme at a time when many of our clubs have suffered damage to their courses, piling increased pressure on finances already hit by falling membership numbers and green fee rates,” explained GUI treasurer Rollo McClure.
“The capital sum set aside from GUI reserves for the scheme would otherwise earn minimal bank interest, so there is a negligible opportunity cost,” he added.
Some clubs in England suffered even more financial damage than those in Ireland.
Royal West Norfolk Golf Club was possibly the worst hit – it lost £600,000 of machinery, including three tractors and six or seven ride-on mowers, in flooding, as well as suffering damage to fences and banks and three weeks of lost business when the course was closed.
A workshop and store were also destroyed, meaning the club suffered at least £1.2m of damage.
Ian Symington, club secretary, said: “We were very lucky that the main dune defending the golf course survived largely intact. A lot of sand got taken away but that is building up again now. If that dune had been breached the golf club’s days would have been limited.”
Whilst the dune was not destroyed, the bank that runs alongside the access road to the club and the beach car park was breached in five places.
Another venue severely affected was Datchet Golf Club in Berkshire, which became famous around the world when Prince William and Prince Harry arrived to help move sandbags on Valentine’s Day.
The course is now playable again but the club lost ‘thousands of pounds’ due to the floods.
The water subsided in March and the club’s greenkeepers cleared debris from the greens, fairways, ditches and tee-offs, and have worked on damaged grass, at a great financial cost.
However, a £250m River Thames Scheme, developed by the Environment Agency and the government, will deliver aid to areas damaged by the floods and the golf club is set to benefit.
“Datchet Golf Course is within the area that would benefit from the scheme that is currently being developed,” said an Environment Agency statement.
“We are working with our partners to a agree £120m of funding needed to secure £136m from the government.”
Jim Staniford, club secretary, said: “Staff have worked very hard to get the course back into shape and it’s nice to see people back in the clubhouse again enjoying their rounds, even if there are a few moans and grumbles.
“I wouldn’t like to say how much it has cost us to repair the course because it’s frightening me just thinking about the bills coming in.”
He added: “I imagine we will lose a few members but I hope to retain everyone.
“Now we just want to push forward with the open days and golf sales that were due to go ahead in February.”
Some of the clubs hit by flooding will never be the same again.
It is thought that some of the coastline by Maryport Golf Club in Cumbria receded by 10 feet and the club will have to spend at least £50,000 building new coastal defences.
Jim Wood, club secretary, said that without new defences the course’s first three holes could be completely lost.
He said: “We are worried about the future. We are feeling a bit claustrophobic from the pressure being put on us by the sea.
“We get very nervous at high tide.”
Meanwhile, one of the first golf clubs to close due to the flooding has now reopened.
Parts of Caerleon Golf Club were under several feet of water as the club shut in December.
“We are back up and running,” said manager Lee Fox. “The greenkeeper is out cutting the grass. March wasn’t too bad, it’s just getting the golfers back and getting the word out that we are back open and we are ready to go. The course is pretty much back to normal, all the machines have been serviced and the greenkeeper has been out doing the striping on the grass. It’s all systems go.”