Recent storms leave mark on Beaufort County golf courses

At Fripp Island's Ocean Point Golf Links, there's an arched bridge that takes golfers from the first hole's fairway across to a peninsula where the first green and No. 2 tee are located.

For a good chunk of the weekend, it was an underwater bridge -- obscured by more than 3 feet of floodwater from the abnormally high tides and unrelenting rain.

"It arches up and goes over the pond, and it was completely under," course superintendent Kevin Lashley said Monday.

Even by Monday afternoon, the waters had receded only far enough to expose the bridge's top half. "It's just water laying there, waiting to drain out," Lashley added flatly. "It can't drain during high tide, so you kind of lose four or five hours in a day when it could be draining."

Ocean Point appeared to take the worst that the storms had to offer Beaufort County golf courses, though it wasn't alone in remaining closed another day to let standing water dissipate. Yet just 10 minutes away, its sister course Ocean Creek was open for whoever wanted to slosh their way through 18 holes.

"As long as we have people paying attention to our request to keep carts on the path, we're fine," said Ocean Creek superintendent Jerry Ross. "If they can just walk (from the cart) to their golf ball, I have no problem with them playing."

"Cart paths only" was the standard Monday, as courses were grateful for whatever business they could get.

"People just don't want to play in this (weather), and I don't blame them," said Pinecrest head professional Ernie Hanewinckel. "I just hope that it soon it stops, and everybody that's been cooped up in the house will come out and play."

Forecasts call for clearing conditions Tuesday, eventually breaking into afternoon sunshine. The sun finally will have the stage to itself on Wednesday.

"We've become weathermen," said John Farrell, head professional at Sea Pines Resort. "People have been calling all day, so we keep the (weather) radar up in the shop. We tell people not to take it down."

Hilton Head Island and Bluffton courses largely remained open all weekend, though Saturday afternoon's heavy rains prompted some to close early for the day. Sea Pines' Harbour Town and Heron Point courses remained open, as did Palmetto Dunes' trio.

Moving to the northern half of Beaufort County, though, found a different story.

Fripp Island suffered extensive flooding as Saturday's downpours lingered. A video posted on the Facebook page showed Ocean Point's meandering lake well past its banks, flowing into several fairways. High tides compounded matters on course's oceanfront holes.

Lashley said the course received more than 9 inches of rain -- nothing compared to what fell on Charleston or Columbia, but enough to complicate matters for days.

"The way the drainage is set up," he said, "there's only two ways for the water to get out. It just takes longer when this happens.

"We'll be lucky if we get open by Friday, just because of all the flooded stuff."

Though Ocean Creek lies less than three miles from Ocean Point, Moss estimated his side of the island received 2 inches less rain than his counterpart. Ocean Creek also had an advantage in that cart paths run through the entire course.

The Sanctuary on Cat Island received 5 inches over a 72-hour period, leaving that course too wet to reopen Monday.

"Right now I've got a lake in the middle of my driving range," head professional Reed Weatherford said. "We'll have to get out there and undo the drains. ... We've got the wind (to help drying); we just need the rain to stop. Hopefully we'll be back to business tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Not all the damage was limited to the county's northern half. Several courses had to deal with debris cleanup, and a pine tree gave way alongside the 14th fairway of Moss Creek's North course.

The 30-foot pine toppled into the rough, superintendent Mitchell Wilkerson said, so play was unaffected. Crews went out to remove limbs, but the trunk figures to remain until it becomes dry enough to send out a backhoe without damaging the turf.

Crews everywhere faced the prospect of rebuilding washed-out bunkers. Nonetheless, everyone was grateful the area was spared from the torrential deluges that fell on Charleston and Columbia.

"We're very lucky," said Weatherford, noting that Kiawah Island reported 20 inches of rainfall. "For only being an hour south of them, we didn't get that. We would have been in big trouble if we had."

Wilkerson might have summed it up best: "Give me a day of sunlight," he said. "Make everybody feel good."