By Ken MacLeod
Golf courses throughout northeastern Oklahoma were in various stages of repair Monday after losing power and thousands of trees to an early Sunday storm with destructive straight-line winds measuring over 100 mph.
A few public courses in the area were open Monday. South Lakes in Jenks was open, but its electric carts were running out of juice until power can be restored and it was only accepting cash for greens fees. Battle Creek in Broken Arrow was open with power although tree clean-up was ongoing. Bailey Ranch in Owasso is open with minimal tree damage. Cherokee Hills in Catoosa was hoping to get its front nine open by Monday afternoon.
Both City of Tulsa complexes Page Belcher and Mohawk Park were closed and without power Monday morning. Calls to golf course general manager Tom Wolff to determine to the length of the closure were not immediately returned.
LaFortune Park in central Tulsa was hit particularly hard, with massive amounts of trees and limbs down. By Tuesday the range was open and the par-3 course open until 6 p.m. The clean up on the 18-hole championship course could take the rest of the week, said Director of Golf Pat McCrate. Tulsa County, which owns the course and employs the maintenance crew, was expected to bring in extra workers from its Parks Department to help the cleanup efforts of superintendent Scott Sherman and his crew.
The Tulsa Golf Association’s City Championship, scheduled for Saturday-Sunday at LaFortune Park, will be postponed to July 22-23. Meanwhile the loss of revenue during what is normally a huge week stings. LaFortune Park has been averaging more than 400 rounds a day between the par-3 course and the championship course.
Southern Hills Country Club, site of eight major championships, was also hit hard and without power. Superintendent Russ Myers said a major team effort between his crew, volunteers from the pro shop and other employees and bringing in some outside help had transformed what looked like a war zone on Sunday into a manageable situation by Monday afternoon.
Myers said Southern Hills had 34 trees uprooted or knocked over plus another 15 to 20 that will need to come down due to heavy damage. In addition, thousands of limbs off trees that will remain were being picked up.
At The Oaks Country Club in west Tulsa, superintendent Dan Robinson was attending a superintendent’s conference in Louisiana but keeping close tabs on the clean-up efforts at his course, particularly the efforts to get power restored and being able to resume watering his bent grass greens as temperatures soar into the 90s.
“That’s what we’re panicking about,” Robinson said. “You can’t go that many days without water at this time of year.”
Robinson said The Oaks lost close to 40 large oak trees plus another 50 small or medium sized trees.
At Tulsa Country Club, the story was much the same on tree damage. Superintendent Brady Finton was able to rent a large generator and hook it up to his pump station Monday morning to provide water to the greens, easing one concern. Another concern was what to do with massive amounts of food the clubs had on hand if power is not restored soon.
No golf course in Oklahoma needed another Mother Nature gut punch less than The Canyons at Blackjack Ridge in Sand Springs. It had recently shut its greens down to resprig for the third time in the past four years due to the severe winter kill that affected courses throughout the state, but was particularly hard on those with new Bermuda greens. Now it has massive tree damage to clean up as well. Golf course manager Brian Talley said today the course expects the greens to reopen in early August while the course should be able to reopen with temporary greens once power is restored.
The Canyons at Black Jack Ridge completed a major renovation in 2021 that included a huge investment by the city in a new clubhouse, patio and other improvements as well as the greens. This is the third time that winter kill has resulted in a need to resprig the Champion Bermuda greens.
“You go back to 2017-18 and we thought life was about to be good, with record rounds and revenue,” Talley said. “But Mother Nature is taking a toll. Between the zero degree days in the winter and 100 mph winds in the summer, this has been crazy.”
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