Stillwater CC could take weeks to reopen after storm damage; OKC courses devastated

Lake of the Ozarks
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Above: Left to right, a huge elm on the fourth hole at Stillwater CC ruined by the ice storm and ice damage to Lincoln Park GC.

By Ken MacLeod

The back nine holes at Stillwater Country Club could take more than six weeks to reopen due to the amount of damage from a Tuesday ice storm that damaged or felled millions of fully foliated trees throughout  central Oklahoma.

Superintendent Jared Wooten said virtually every one of the thousands of trees on the Stillwater Country Club course were damaged to some degree, including large elms that played a crucial role in course strategy, including the one that guarded the fourth green and another fronting the 12th green.

“It’s really bad,” Wooten said. “I’d estimate 85 percent of the trees are significantly damaged. It’s amazing because the cedars and pines are usually the first to go in an ice storm, but they are okay. It’s the elms, pecans and oaks that are the worst, solely because they still have all their leaves and the weight of the ice on the leaves.”

 

Wooten estimated he and his seven-man crew could have the front nine playable by Nov. 15 and the back nine could take up to a month longer.

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“It’s kind of heartbreaking,” he said. “Every year for the last 15 years we do a ton of tree work and had them trimmed up nice and neat. And we had planted a lot of trees to fill gaps that are now just gone. It’s heartbreaking that we have to start over on the entire course.”

Across the state many superintendents in Edmond, Oklahoma City, Norman, Ponca City and other areas were getting their first look at the damage. Steve Carson, director of golf at Lincoln Park in Oklahoma City, sent in some pictures showing extreme damage to trees, as did several readers from various clubs.

Carson said Friday that Lincoln Park was still without power and trying to remove debris from the cart trails and play areas. He was hopeful to be open Saturday if power is restored and said two nines of the four on the 36-hole facility are mostly clear. His big concern is the hundreds of damaged tree limbs still hanging in trees that could snap off and fall.”

Carson and his counterparts in Oklahoma City had mostly been able to recover from having been closed for five weeks this spring due to the pandemic and now this, which will result in cleanup costs, lost revenue while shut and long-term effects to the optics. However if past ice storms that have hit the state are an indication, superintendents can at least point to increased air flow and sun light as positives to come from a bad situation.

Chris Garrett, superintendent at Quail Springs Golf & Country Club, said the havoc wrought on nearly every tree was unprecedented.

“I don’t know how to explain it,” Garrett said. “I’ve seen ice storms this bad before, but never this widespread.”

Despite some damage to most every tree at Quail Creek, Garrett said most were in the rough and he expected the course to be able to open on Saturday while crews continue to remove the deadwood and hangers.

“Fortunately not many trees toppled over,” he said. “Most lost branches and they dropped straight down.”

Steve Kimmel, head professional at Oak Tree National, said crews would be working to remove hundreds of limbs that were broken but still hanging in trees and it might take weeks before the course could reopen safely. Photos of Twin Hills Country Club, a heavily wooded private course, showed thousands of trees that will need work before it can reopen.

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