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March 4, 2023

Heavy rain, high winds batter some north Alabama courses

By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Burningtree golf course storm damage

Downed trees, soaked turf have maintenance crews busy

DECATUR – Heavy rain and a Friday wind storm kept maintenance crews busy and golfers scrambling for places to play across north Alabama.

Several area courses were closed to allow them to dry out and let cleanup crews clear fallen trees and remove debris after violent wind lashed the region with gusts as high as 70 miles per hour in some locations.

Other courses were partially open, while courses that sustained little tree damage opened unimpeded save for soggy conditions that limited carts to the paths.

The closures and disruptions came at a bad time, as the region was experiencing  one of the best weather weekends since the calendar turned to 2023. Temperatures were in the mid-60s across north Alabama and Sunday temperatures were expected to reach near 70 under sunny skies and calm winds.

That’s a complete 180-degree turnabout from last week, in which the region sustained heavy downpours on Wednesday and Thursday followed by a fast-moving line of thunderstorms. The region sawnd a lengthy period of sustained winds over 30 miles per hour that gusted as high as 70 miles per hour in Madison County. Saturated ground combined with the wind was a perfect recipe for trees to uproot.

Storm closed some courses through weekend

Among the courses contacted Saturday, Decatur’s Burningtree Country Club and the popular city-owned Point Mallard seemed hardest hit. A message on the answering machine at Point Mallard indicated the course would be closed all weekend.

Burningtree also was closed for the weekend, and head professional Colby Odom said he hoped it could reopen by Tuesday.

“But that’s not certain,” he said. “We have a bunch of trees down. The scoreboard blew down, the driving range mats are torn up.”

Burningtree hosts the popular Spirit of America tournament around the July 4 holiday and USGA qualifiers throughout the year.

Odom said the good news is that there was no damage from falling trees to any greens or tee boxes during the storm. But cleanup crews worked throughout the day to remove fallen trees blocking cart paths.

“We had trees down on Nos. 3, 4, 7 and 8 on the front nine and 13, 15, 16 and 17 on the back nine,” he said. “We have a lot of trees out here but none that fell besides on No. 1 were what I would consider healthy.”

Odom also said that Burningtree’s back nine was soaking wet and unplayable.

In Lauderdale County, Blackberry Trail was closed Saturday but staff hoped to reopen on Sunday. It lost several Leland cypress trees in the storm, but the course’s main issue was water-logged conditions.

Cypress Lakes, Twin Pines open

Across the Tennessee River at Cypress Lakes, play continued as usual. Staff there spent the day trying to accommodate players from other courses looking to take advantage of spring-like weather while maintenance crews cleared debris and fallen trees.

Just south of Cypress Lakes in Littleville, Twin Pines reported one tree down but the course was open for business.

Deer Run in Moulton had its front nine holes closed and was cart path only on the back nine. The staff said a few trees were toppled but hoped to have all 18 holes open on Monday.

In Limestone County, Southern Gayles lost several trees but sustained no major damage. The front nine was closed but the back nine was open.

Sunset Landing in Madison reported seven trees down but it was open for business.

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’s north Alabama sites were spared most of the storm’s wrath. The 36-hole facility just outside Muscle Shoals reported no trees down, while Hampton Cove in Huntsville lost several trees. The Highland course remained open for play but the River course remained closed due to flooding.

Huntsville Country Club and Valley Hill had little in the way of trees down and both were open for play. There was no report of damage at The Ledges, which is scheduled to host the Hometown Lenders Championship in early May.

Golf professionals and pro shop personnel were unanimous in hoping better weather was ahead after a rough start to the year.

“It seems like we’ve been on the cart paths since December,” RTJ Golf Trail at the Shoals Director of Golf Cully Gillem said.

With warm temperatures and sunny skies expected through Monday, conditions were conducive for courses to dry out – just in time for rain in the forecast for Tuesday-Thursday with temperatures cooling into the low-to-mid 50s by week’s end.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image courtesy of Colby Odom

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