Windward courses hit hard by recent storm
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By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser
By Bill Kwon
The heavy rains that drenched Windward O'ahu the past two weeks took a toll on nine golf courses from the Turtle Bay Resort to Waimanalo, shutting down play for days and leading to a loss of revenue in the thousands of dollars.
The hardest hit was the Ko'olau Golf Club, which is along the slopes of the Ko'olau Range that sent torrents of water coursing through the golf course, especially on the 15th and 16th fairways.
"We had 25 inches of rain from Feb. 15 to last Thursday and we were closed for four days," said starter Ben Hipa, who has been with the golf course for three years. "We've had worse (rain) but this was a constant downpour."
At nearby Luana Hills Country Club, which got socked with 14 inches of rain in a 24-hour period last week, swollen streams forced the course to shut down for several days.
"The amount of rain was tremendous. We were afraid the golf carts couldn't cross the bridges, especially on the back side," said Darin Sumimoto, the facility's director of operations.
Sumimoto said the course is still wet, and there was no real damage to the course, though revenues were affected.
Turtle Bay's Palmer and Fazio courses were also flooded in certain low-lying areas, including all of the sand bunkers, after taking 6 inches of rain last Thursday and Friday.
"A lot of the bunkers collapsed, but we were able to rake the sand back up," said Matt Hall, the resort's director of golf.
The rain and runoff water affected the Fazio course more than the Palmer course, recent site of the LPGA's SBS Open and the Champions Tour's Turtle Bay Championship. Hall was thankful that the deluge didn't occur during those nationally televised tour events.
"Fazio took a little longer to drain out, but Palmer was no problem. Still, there was a definite impact on revenue," Hall said.
The heavy rains also took a toll on the revenue at the Kane'ohe Klipper Course at Marine Corps Base Hawai'i, according to head golf professional Todd Murata.
He said because of the rain there were 1,200 fewer rounds played this year than in the same period in 2005, resulting in a revenue loss of around $17,000.
"We got pounded. We had about 22 inches of rain. Four holes — one, two, eight and nine — the whole area became one big pond," Murata said.
Four holes at the private Mid-Pacific Country Club in Lanikai were also under water, leading to the course shutting down for four days during the week of Presidents Day, according to PGA head professional Mark Sousa.
"The worst were three and seven, the low spots which got the most runoff," he said.
During a 10-day period, play dropped off some 80 percent among the members and guests, Sousa said.
Even diehards found it irritating to play in the rain at the one Windward layout unaffected by the heavy rains — the nine-hole municipal Kahuku Golf Course.
But they played.
"The course is practically waterproof," said Frank Mauz, explaining that it is always playable because of the course's sand base. He and his gang of eight "Professors" weren't deterred by the weather.
"We never close unless there's thunder and lightning," said Kahuku starter Eleanor Crisostomo.
On Thursday, the day of the heaviest rains, "Only seven golfers showed up all day, three were from Montana who said it was their last day of vacation," Crisostomo said.
They rented clubs and it took two full days to dry out the golf bags, she added.
The Pali Golf Course, the other Windward municipal course, was closed for 5 1/2 days because of the rain and mountain wash-off that created streams down the middle of the first fairway and along the third and sixth holes. It cost the city about $1,500 a day in revenue.
Olomana Golf Links was also unplayable for several days because of 5 inches of rain, adding to what came down the week before, according to club pro Lloyd Nakama.
The ground was saturated with rainwater entirely covering the 14th fairway, which is the lowest area of the golf course.
Still, it's not the worst case of flooding Nakama has seen in his 35 years at the Waimanalo golf course. He remembers in 1971 when the course was so inundated that only the top of the flagstick could be seen at the par-5 first hole.
With still more rain predicted in the days to come, all of the golf course superintendents on the Windward side are keeping their fingers crossed and saying, "Nuf already."