| Oct 21, 2022
Recently, Steve Randall, GCSAA director of chapter outreach, and I conducted site visits with members in the Ft. Myers Area that were impacted by Hurricane Ian. Our intent was to gauge the impact the storm had on their facility and at
home and determine support GCSAA could provide. Steve and I were scheduled to facilitate a strategic planning session with the Everglades Chapter Board that was postponed because of the hurricane. We maintained our travel plans and repurposed the
time for outreach.
We visited with Eli Rahz, superintendent at Lemon Bay Golf Club in Englewood. He reported losing approximately 510 trees and receiving about 20 inches of rain. Wind speeds in excess of 195 mph were reported in the area of his facility. His course recovery
plan is coming along well, and the hope is to have the course reopened by November 4. Eli’s wife, Amanda, and their two daughters were evacuated from their home which took on about 4 inches of water. They were evacuated by airboat and are safe
and well. The house will require significant work to restore, but Eli feels fortunate.
Aerial view of first hole at Lemon Bay Golf Club in Englewood. Photo was provided by superintendent, Eli Rahz.
We spent time with Phil Garside, superintendent, at Olde Hickory Golf Club in Ft. Myers. His facility has already resumed play. He lost several trees and was without power for approximately 1 week. In talking with Phil, he commented that, “it’s
kinda demoralizing when you first look at it, but then you move on…” The timing of Hurricane Ian is problematic that the golf season preparations were mostly complete for many of the courses impacted. Most of the impact at Olde Hickory
was on the Cypress trees which now have the appearance that winter is already upon us.
We also met with Bryce Koch, CGCS, president of the Florida GCSA, at his facility in Ft. Myers, Cypress Lake Golf and Country Club. Bryce also reported about 550 trees down from the storm. He is uncertain about the total rainfall as he was confident his
rain gauge overflowed numerous times. He was prepared to open the course the following day. There was plenty of activity on his practice facility until it began to rain during our visit. His home was spared the worst as he lives farther east from
the more heavily impacted areas. His home is east of I-75 and escaped with minimal issues.
Bryce did comment that impacts of the hurricane could be summarized as follows: east of I-75 was less severe, I-75 to Route 41 were more intense, and west of Route 41, the impacts were extreme. Steve and I saw this firsthand in our travels.
We were scheduled to meet with superintendent Paul Bacon at Crown Colony Golf and Country Club. However, Paul was dealing with a 14-inch mainline separation under a bridge that was shifted during Hurricane Ian and was unable to meet with us.
We took some time to observe conditions at three other facilities in the Ft. Myers area leading out towards Sanibel Island. The Forest Country Club just west of Route 41 received significant tree and water damage that we observed. As we made our way out
toward the barrier islands, Kelly Greens Golf & Country Club and Shell Point Golf Club were both severely impacted with extreme tree damage and flooding from storm surge. It could be years before these courses are able to recover from the scars
that Hurricane Ian left.
Through communications on Twitter, I have been able to connect the courses most severely impacted that have lost most if not all of their maintenance equipment with donors in the area as well as on the east coast of Florida. The support coming from everyone
around the state is encouraging to see, and I would ask anyone with resources they would be willing to share to please reach out and let me know and I will connect you with those facilities in need of assistance.
View of 4th hole at The Sanctuary Golf Club on Sanibel Island. Photo Courtesy of superintendent Kyle Sweet, CGCS.
Home just outside of the Forest Country Club in Ft. Myers. Home was battered by Hurricane Ian and resulted in fire that destroyed this duplex. Photo courtesy of Steve Randall.