IOWA DERECHO 2020

'It's a mess': Cedar Rapids golf courses closed for cleanup after damaging storm

Some could open later this week, others will be closed longer

Golf balls rest in a hopper at the Men's City Amateur Golf Tournament at Ellis Park Golf Course in Cedar Rapids on Sunda
Golf balls rest in a hopper at the Men's City Amateur Golf Tournament at Ellis Park Golf Course in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, August 7, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In a frustrating year that includes activities being wiped out by a pandemic, golf became one of sport’s safe escapes.

Now, that won’t be a recreational or competitive option.

None of the Metro golf courses could avoid the impact of the derecho that unleashed greater than 100-mile-per-hour winds on several Eastern Iowa communities Monday. Each sustained structural or surface damage, forcing closures of a few days to a couple weeks.

Work to clear courses, ensure safety and resume rounds already has begun.

“The guys are doing the best they can to get things cleaned up and get people back out as soon as we can,” City of Cedar Rapids Golf Service Interim Manager and Merchandise Coordinator Dave Roe said. “Be patient. It was a big disaster. There is a lot to do.”

Each of the three open public courses — Ellis, Gardner and Twin Pines — suffered damage. Ellis was hit hardest. Winds destroyed the clubhouse, causing it to need to be rebuilt.

“We lost the roof and all the windows were busted out,” Roe said. “It’s got a lot of water damage.

“Gardner and Twin Pines were damaged. They’ll need repaired but it was minute.”

Roe said Gardner and Ellis lost about 150-250 trees. He said it was too early to estimate the financial setback to the three courses.

“Twin Pines is probably the best off. We’re hoping next week we can open there. We’re hoping within a couple weeks we can get people back out there.”

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Elmcrest Country Club Director of Golf/COO Larry Gladson estimated the club’s course had 200-300 trees down or severely damaged and fence lines were crushed.

“We have a lot of trees out here,” Gladson said. “So, you can imagine we got hit pretty hard.

“We’re moving pretty good but it’s still every bit of a week before we’re playing golf out here again. It’s tough to know at this point.”

The entire Elmcrest staff, superintendents from other communities and about 75 members already have chipped in to assist with the effort. Gladson said he expects more members to help once they take care of things at their homes.

“It’s obviously been very difficult in a lot of ways,” Gladson said. “The resiliency has been amazing to watch. People are helping one another and I believe that’s going on throughout our entire community.”

Elmcrest suffered minor damage to some greens, but there are pressing matters that loom. The course needs power to water the grounds with warming temperatures approaching.

“The greens were in good shape,” Gladson said. “We do need electricity to come on. We need it to fire up our irrigation system, because the next couple days are supposed to be hot.”

St. Andrews Golf Club was supposed to host a boys’ golf meet Thursday, consisting of the Metro’s Class 4A teams. It won’t happened after the storm ravaged the course.

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“It’s bad,” St. Andrews golf professional and superintendent Mike Hall Sr. said. “We’re doing our best. We have quite a crew working.”

Trees have been cleared by the ninth hole and near the clubhouse. They have two to three staff members, five to six junior golfers and hired another seven-man crew to help. The next step is addressing a course littered with trees.

He said cleanup efforts cost him approximately $5,500 a day and doesn’t know how many days it will take, guessing 10 at least. Hall also said the business could miss out on up to $25,000 of weekly revenue.

It could have been worse if two trees (about 5 feet wide) had fallen differently.

“If they fell the other way, we’d have no clubhouse,” Hall said. “Basically, it’s all over the course. We’re trying to get it playable. It’s a mess.”

According to one of Airport National’s golf professionals and owners, Matt Erger, the course suffered tree damage. The buildings are fine, but no power or water service has caused temporary closure. It could open in a limited capacity later this week.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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