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March 26, 2023

Turtle Point Y&CC sustains heavy storm damage

By By Gregg Dewalt, Alabama Golf News Editor
Turtle Point cart sign

Blackberry Trail damage less severe

KILLEN – Iconic Turtle Point Yacht and Country Club sustained major tree damage late Friday night and Saturday morning when a line of severe thunderstorms lashed Northwest Alabama.

Turtle Point damage
Winds snapped off a pine tree at Turtle Point. More than 100 trees at the course were uprooted.

A partial survey of the damage at Turtle Point, consistently ranked among the top 5 or 10 courses in Alabama, revealed more than 100 trees uprooted and littered across the property.

Another area course, Blackberry Trail Golf Course, sustained less severe damage.

The storms that left much of the Florence/Muscle Shoals and surrounding without power and killed one man in nearby Morgan County came from a system that devastated towns in Mississippi and left at least 26 dead.

No injuries were reported in the Florence/Muscle Shoals area, but dozens of homes sustained damage either from falling trees or the high winds. The National Weather Service had not issued a statement on whether the damage was from straight-line winds or tornadoes.

Debris strewn across Turtle Point

Several holes at Turtle Point, a Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed course that opened in 1961 alongside the Tennessee River, were unrecognizable as tree trunks, limbs, branches and pine cones littered the rough, fairways and bunkers.

Turtle Point tree damage
Uprooted trees block a cart path at Turtle Point.

Efforts to reach a club spokesman were unsuccessful Saturday. The club was going to be closed Sunday and is always closed on Mondays, but it appeared from the damage that it will take longer than that to get the course playable.

A short tour of a portion of the course revealed Nos. 1, 3, 11 and 17 bore the brunt of the storm. The first hole is a dogleg right to an elevated green with trees on both sides of the fairway. Tall pine trees lining the right side separate the hole from the practice range were ravaged, as were trees protecting the left side of the fairway.

House damage near Blackberry Trail
A house was damaged adjacent to Blackberry Trail.

The driveway leading to the club resembles Augusta National’s in that it is lined with a canopy of pine trees. Nos. 3 and 8 run adjacent to the road with the pines providing a buffer. Many of those trees were toppled by the storm.

Two baby eagles killed in storm

No. 11 is a par 5 that doglegs to the right. About 200 yards from the tee box to the where it doglegs was strewn with trees and debris. So was No. 17, an adjacent par 5 that features a small pond in front of the green. The cart path from No. 17 green to No. 18 tee was impassible.

Damage to houses at Blackberry Trail
Damage to Blackberry Trail forced a closure through Monday.

Two sources confirmed that two baby eagles were killed in the storm.

Late Saturday afternoon, workers were busy transferring perishable goods from the clubhouse to refrigerated trucks.

At Blackberry Trail, several homes in the Plantation Springs subdivision sustained major damage. Most of the damaged homes were along Nos. 6, 14 and 15. The course will be closed Sunday and possibly Monday, but damage to the course was less severe than at Turtle Point.

Damage at Turtle Point
The storm scattered debris across the Turtle Point golf course.

The late-night storms were just the latest setback for golf courses across the state in what has been a cool, rainy winter and spring. In late January. Selma Country Club sustained major damage from a direct hit by a tornado. Less than a month ago, courses across the northern tier of the state were damaged by straight-line winds that reached upwards of 70 miles per hour.

Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News

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Featured image: A sign blown down by winds at Turtle Point. ll photos by Gregg Dewalt

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