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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Damage from a strong storm forces the closure of a handful of South Strand golf courses. When will they reopen?

One course reopened on Tuesday, while four others are expected to reopen later this week or early next week after a heavy cleanup

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A severe thunderstorm that is believed to have produced a microburst on Sunday night on the south end of the Grand Strand caused significant property damage that forced the closure of a few golf courses in Pawleys Island.

River Club reopened on Tuesday after being closed Monday, while three public courses and one private course remain closed so repairs and cleanup work can be done.

Litchfield Country Club and Tradition Club are expected to reopen Thursday, and Willbrook Plantation is scheduled to reopen on June 22.

All four courses are among 21 owned and operated by Founders Group International.

In addition, the private Reserve Golf Club that is adjacent to Willbrook may reopen this weekend.

Heavy winds paired with torrential rain resulted in trees being uprooted and large and small limbs being thrown about.

According to the National Weather Service, a microburst is a localized column of sinking air (downdraft) within a thunderstorm and is usually up to 2.5 miles in diameter.

Microbursts can cause extensive damage and can be life-threatening at the surface. They spread as they hit the ground, but where the microburst first hits the ground experiences the highest winds and greatest damage. Wind speeds as high as 150 mph are possible in extreme microburst cases.

“There wasn’t a tornado,” said FGI vice president and director of agronomy Max Morgan. “It was definitely some straight line activity. Most of them were blown over in the same direction.”

Fallen trees block a road at Willbrook Plantation after a strong storm hit the Pawleys Island area Sunday night. (FGI photo)

According to Morgan, River Club had one tree down and a lot of debris that had to be picked up Monday.

Tradition and Litchfield each have about a dozen trees down and a lot of debris.

Willbrook has about 25 trees downed on the course and another 25 or so around the course.

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“We couldn’t even get to the [Willbrook] pro shop [Monday],” Morgan said. “All the roads were blocked. It literally looked like a Category 2 hurricane came through there.”

A tree company has been hired to help remove the downed trees at Willbrook. 

Morgan said a lot of the trees that were downed were hardwoods including several varieties of oaks, though he doesn’t believe any of them were the old and large live oak trees on any of the properties.

An uprooted tree nearly fell onto the clubhouse Sunday at The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island. (Reserve Club photo)

At The Reserve Club, director of golf Donald Clement said the course was hit hard. He estimates 50 to 75 trees have been felled, including some large ones.

“There are two or three giant ones that are here around the clubhouse,” Clement said. “One of them is right beside my clubhouse. We were lucky as hell that it didn’t fall on the clubhouse, it just fell parallel to it.

“. . . It was so random. We weren’t even expecting anything. I woke up Monday morning and I usually sleep in Monday mornings because we’re closed, and my superintendent texted me and said, ‘It’s not good.’ “

Clement said Saturday is a tenuous reopening date. “I think that’s a lofty goal, but Saturday is a goal. We’ve got to try to get a goal,” he said. “We may be nine holes even on Friday but I don’t know.”

Morgan said the damage essentially ended at River Club and All Saints Church on Kings River Road. “It’s a local thing,” he said.

He said the most recent instance of a microburst that he recalls that damaged courses in the area was about 10 years ago at River Club. “It is a rare occurrence,” Morgan said.

There won’t be any long-term repairs needed at the FGI courses, Morgan said.

“There’s no structural damage or anything like that. Just a bunch of trees,” he said.

A tree at The Reserve Golf Club in Pawleys Island was snapped by a storm Sunday night. (Reserve Club photo)

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