By JOHN REITMAN
The rain gauge at Shady Grove Golf Course had captured 3.75 inches during a raucous early morning thunderstorm Thursday that was as inconspicuous as a family of hungry raccoons ransacking a garbage can in the middle of the night.
By the time Shady Grove owner Scott Malloy arrived at the course Thursday morning, the gauge might as well have read 3.75 feet.
The storm that caused flash flooding in area creeks and rendered many roads — and basements — impassable had several local golf course operators, many of whom already have been inundated with rain this summer, pleading for a mulligan as the Blanchard River blew past its 11-foot flood stage and flirted with record highs.
By dawn Thursday, the creek that bisects Shady Grove had spilled over its banks onto the golf course. When Malloy ventured out to assess the damage, what he saw was almost surreal.
The creek, which enters the course from north of U.S. 224 and meanders along Township Road 237 before eventually emptying into the Blanchard River south of State Road 568, flooded several fairways and formed an impromptu island green on No. 13.
“There were fish swimming past me on the golf course,” Malloy said.
The flooding creek slowly receded throughout the day. By Friday, the course was open for walkers only, but the practice range will remain closed until it dries enough that balls don’t plug and Malloy can mow it.
“Putt-putt’s open,” Malloy said with a chuckle. “The good thing is I’ve had plenty of time to do paperwork. Payroll is already done for this week. Today was data-entry day.”
Golf course operators typically welcome rain because it gives their irrigation system, and thus their bottom line, a breather. But Shady Grove is among several courses in the area that have reached a point of diminishing returns with Mother Nature. Red Hawk Run and Findlay Country Club also experienced major flooding this week. A phone call Friday to Birch Run in North Baltimore yielded a voice mail message indicating the course was closed due to flooding.
So far this year, a total of 27.57 inches of precipitation have fallen in Findlay, including 6.19 inches in the first 14 days of July, according to the National Weather Service. Those figures, according to NWS, are well ahead of the respective historic averages of 18.5 inches for the first seven months of the year and 3.54 inches for all of July.
Minor flooding is a common occurrence at the Findlay Country Club. But what happened this week was anything but minor.
According to Brian Heydinger, the club’s new director of grounds, the club has taken on 11 inches of rain in the past 14 days, including 4.25 inches on Thursday alone. The course already was closed on Wednesday when the rising Blanchard River floodwaters made the bridge on No. 18 impassable.
By Thursday, parts of Nos. 1, 8, 9 and 18 were under water, including the greens on 1, 8 and 18.
Although 14 holes at the course will be open for play while repairs are underway, the club has had to postpone an outing scheduled for Monday. The FCC club championship, slated for this weekend, has been delayed a week, said Chad Bain, the club’s director of golf, membership and marketing.
Rescheduling play has been a regular occurrence this year, Bain said. The men’s opening day was rescheduled twice and an outing that was to take place July 10 also was delayed.
“It’s been a tough year,” Bain said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve had to reschedule something this year. In fact, it’s been a year of schedule changes.”
Debris cleanup will begin once floodwaters have receded, and Heydinger and his staff will aerate the affected areas Tuesday to promote air exchange in the soil profile. The Findlay Area Golf Association, which had events rained out Wednesday and Friday, is set to play its season-ending championship Wednesday at FCC, and Bain hopes it will go on as scheduled.
According to the National Weather Service forecast on Friday morning, the Blanchard River was expected to crest at 16.4 feet late Friday and drop below the major flood stage level of 13.5 feet about 2 a.m. Sunday. It is not expected to drop below the 11-foot flood stage until Sunday night, according to the NWS. The river’s record-high crest was 18.50 feet in 1913, which was slightly ahead of the mark of 18.47 feet that caused catastrophic flooding in August 2007.
The bentgrass greens at FCC should be able to withstand moving floodwater for a few days, says Zane Raudenbush, Ph.D., professor of turfgrass science at Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.
“If the water is moving, (bentgrass) can probably tolerate three to four days (of flooding), but they need to be prepared to get all the silt off the greens immediately with flat shovels,” Raudenbush said via text. “If the water is stagnant and shallow, then it could potentially bake the greens in a few hours.”
Red Hawk Run experienced what Anthony Brock, the club’s manager, described as “severe flooding” Thursday on Nos. 4, 5, 12, 13 and 15 when the creek that runs through the property spilled over. By Friday, the water had receded and superintendent Ben Taylor and his crew had the course cleaned up and ready for play. Cart paths only, of course.
“Yesterday, the water was over the bridges,” Brock said. “Today, if everyone stays on the cart paths, we should be OK, and we’ll be open for play all weekend. We don’t like to close if we don’t have to.
“When people have free time and want to play golf, we do whatever we can to open up as soon as possible.”
John Reitman is director of news and education for TurfNet, an Orlando, Florida-based news and information source for the golf industry. He can be reached at email@example.com.