Editor's note: Due to a reporter’s error, Sarah Mooney’s title was incorrect in an earlier version of this article. She is the head golf professional at Forest Hills Golf Club. The Chronicle regrets the error.
With sunshine in short supply this summer, about 20 golfers took advantage of perfect conditions Tuesday afternoon, putting on the practice green at Forest Hills Golf Club.
“We’re really busy when it’s sunny outside. People are coming out, they want to play,” Forest Hills head pro Sarah Mooney said. “And when it’s raining, they’re all waiting on the porch until they can go out.”
Area golfers have familiarized themselves with the term “cart-path only” as wetter-than-normal conditions in June and July have affected area courses in different ways. Forest Hills, which has received 26 inches of rain since June 1, is wet in some spots but in good shape as it prepares to hold the annual City Amateur today through Sunday. It’s a much different story at a pair of courses close to the Savannah River.
River Golf Club director of golf Chris Verdery said his course has taken on 40 inches of rain since June 1, making cutting tough and golf carts on the course impossible. In June, the River Club had its fewest number of rounds played since opening in 1998. Verdery said July is trending to be even worse.
“It’s been terrible in every way,” he said. “We like to control the amount of water we have on our golf course. Thankfully our course drains really well. However, the rain’s been so unbelievable.”
Verdery said club members have been understanding about the situation. He just wishes weather conditions would improve for them – and for the course.
“We need three straight days of dry weather,” Verdery said. “We really need to get out of this cycle. I want our members to come out and play and enjoy themselves.”
At Champions Retreat Golf Club, general manager Bill Fitzpatrick said rain isn’t so much the problem. Instead, because the course is adjacent to the Savannah River, Champions Retreat is dealing with an increased river flow from water the Army Corps of Engineers is releasing through Thurmond Dam.
“Not only were we saturated from rain,” Fitzpatrick said, “but when they announced they were going to release water downstream, that compounded the problem.”
Because of the additional water, Champions Retreat has closed 18 of its 27 holes. On the Island Nine, about five holes have been affected, with water climbing over the top of bridges.
“It’s really stopped us,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s just so much water to take at once.”
Fitzpatrick said the additional water has not reached any greens. And one positive of the rain is cooler temperatures have helped maintain the bentgrass putting surfaces.
At Bartram Trail Golf club, head professional Robby Watson said the maintenance crew finally mowed the fairways Wednesday for the first time in 18 days. Watson said his course has received about 22 inches since the start of June, and he added golfers can now start driving carts onto fairways at a 90-degree angle.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Watson said. “We haven’t had to close down the course, except when it’s raining.
“The course is as green as it’s ever been. Some of it is rain and some of it is keeping people on cart-path only.”
Watson said Bartram Trail is benefitting from the rain because the course now has a full pond. Last summer, the course had to purchase water from Columbia County.
“So in my mind, it hasn’t been all negative,” he said.
At Forest Hills, Darren Davenport and his crew made last-minute preparations to get the course ready for the start of the City Amateur. Wet areas around the course have made it difficult to cut and made it worse to control weeds. But Davenport has been able to pump water from the bunkers, and warm, mostly dry weather this week has helped.
“The golf course is in really great shape,” Mooney said. “It’s just wet.”