Many golf courses in the Greater Houston area and southeast Texas were left under water in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and many golf course superintendents were left scratching their heads. The unprecedented rains led to flooding throughout the area as Harvey sat and churned for days, dumping more than 3 and 4 feet of rain in some places.
When the storm finally left, thousands of homes were flooded, businesses were destroyed, and families were uprooted. Golf courses were not spared from the devastation, with many located nearby or adjacent to the many waterways in the area that topped their banks at record-setting levels. First responders from across the country poured into the area to help, while financial assistance and donations of clothing, food and other items began to stream in from around the globe.
“No human being could watch that and not be moved,” says Nathan Crace, a golf course architect based in South Mississippi. “Not only by the sheer volume of water, but also by the strength of the human spirit — neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. In 2005, when Katrina came onto the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it changed the landscape here forever. Watching the devastation from Harvey, you knew that part of the country was going to be years in the rebuilding process.”
Crace is a mainstay on Twitter, and spent a good bit of time combing through Twitter during and after the storm to see the impact Harvey had on golf courses in the area. He watched as superintendents posted videos of their courses transformed into rivers, and later as they posted pictures of their crews picking up the pieces and assessing the damage. Then, early one morning while watching the Weather Channel’s coverage of aftermath, he had an epiphany — a unique way he could offer assistance to a golf course in the impacted area. Crace felt he needed a partner to help pull it off, so he called fellow ASGCA member Todd Quitno of Lohmann Golf Designs.
“I picked up the phone and told Todd what I was thinking,” Crace recalls. “And to his credit, he never hesitated. He just said ‘I’m in. Where do we start?’”
Crace’s idea is a collaborative effort between himself and Quitno to offer one golf course in the area impacted by Harvey a chance at something they may not otherwise be able to afford — a professionally designed plan of action. They are teaming up to provide a complete golf course master plan—at no cost to the course — designed by the two ASGCA members. Their goal is to help that course develop a “road map to the future” and to truly transform its facility and operation.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to help in some small way,” says Quitno from his office in Chicago. “Being a thousand miles removed from Houston, it is hard to even comprehend what folks are going through down there. To some, rebuilding golf may seem a low priority, but I know many courses never came back after the Katrina disaster, which is a real shame. We know there are courses around Houston that probably needed some help before the storm, but didn’t have the funding or direction. Maybe they had a list of ideas they were trying to prioritize. While Harvey probably turned that list completely upside down, this could be an opportunity to come out on the other side better than they were going in, making the most of a bad situation.”
To find a course to help with the pro bono master plan, Crace and Quitno want any GCSAA member at an affected course to email them a one or two-page letter detailing what they need done at the course (both before and after the storm) and how a professionally designed master plan could both improve their course and their community. They will accept letters through Sept. 30. They hope to choose one applicant before the middle of October.
“We decided we didn’t want to wait and sit on this,” Quitno says. “We want to get started helping someone now and not months down the road, because this plan can help them with everything from planning to budgeting to working out settlements with insurance.”
Crace and Quitno have stipulated some ground rules for their offer:
- The course should be a public course or open daily to the public (because part of the goal it to also help grown the game and help the community).
- Courses currently in talks with another ASGCA member, working with another ASGCA member, or otherwise bound to another member should not apply, because the goal is to help a course that may not be able to hire an ASGCA member — not to take work away from other members.
- The course’s golf course superintendent must be a GCSAA member.
GCSAA members at courses interested in taking advantage of this opportunity should visit the Watermark Golf Companies’ Facebook page for details and instructions. Look for the “Hurricane Harvey Master Plan” post. There you can find instructions for emailing the application letter.