Golf after a nor’easter

October 18, 2013

After a pleasant and mostly bone-dry month, a fall nor’easter roared into the Cape Region Oct. 10.

It dumped more than six inches of rain over a stretch of three-and-a-half days, and the storm’s strong onshore winds also kept the tides from doing their usual thing. The combination caused serious flooding in all the usual low spots, such as Prime Hook Road and the Inland Bays, along with beach erosion.

Surprisingly enough, however, the nor’easter did not keep everyone off Cape Region golf courses.

On Friday, Oct. 11, I thought about the ponds at the Rookery South and the overflow systems in place for storms like this one. I contacted Chris Adkins to confirm my memory about how the Rookery’s drainage systems were set up, and he set me straight.

Adkins also noted in passing that they hosted 30 golfers at Rookery South that day, and 16 golfers at Rookery North.

On a typical sunny fall day on Cape Region courses, those numbers would be abysmal. For a day like this one, when more than two inches of rainfall were recorded in nearby Georgetown, 46 paying customers is a sure sign that some folks are just crazy - about golf, that is.

Adkins reminded me that while all of the ponds are connected at Rookery South, there are only two overflow drains. One is at the pond fronting the green on the fourth hole, which drains into the forested wetlands nearby. The other sits between the 12th green and the 13th tee, and drains off to the east toward Prime Hook.

He thought it was only the second time this year that the water rose high enough to start flowing through those elevated drains. Adkins believed that the previous 30 days of dry weather made the course able to absorb a large amount of rain before the ground became so soaked that the ponds became the best and only place for all that water to go.

I remembered back in July 2000, as Adkins and Pete Oakley were preparing for public play on their new course. Two weeks before the Rookery officially opened, a 12-inch downpour flooded the course.

The new drains worked fine, but Oakley laughed and said Adkins thought those drains would never be needed.

On Sunday, Oct. 13, the rain showers were mostly done, but the easterly winds continued to blow in at 20 knots. I figured the grey, threatening skies made it a perfect occasion to play golf, something I hadn’t been able to do for a few weeks.

I drove up to Rookery North, and saw a rarely used sign greeting the few golfers showing up that day: “Cart Paths Only.”

The Rookery North property is a former nursery. During its more than 50-year existence as Shawnee Country Club, the members prided themselves on how well it drained off whatever Mother Nature would dump on it.

A three- or four-day nor’easter, on the other hand, is a bit much even for this place.

I waited for the members of my usual Sunday gang to show up, but none did.

Given the wet grounds and high winds, I decided to strike off on my own at the 10:40 a.m. start, but under two conditions.

First, I would play from the green tees, taking a page from the Tee It Forward program. I also thought the wet ground would eliminate any roll after the first bounce, if the ball didn’t just plug into the turf instead.

Second, I would play lift, clean and place throughout the course.

That combined approach worked out great for the day’s round. The easterly winds meant that I only had to hit into the wind on the eighth and 18th holes, with most of the rest of the holes presenting a strong cross-breeze challenge.

In addition, the few playing groups I encountered graciously waved me straight through.

With a brisk walking pace and a string of often lucky one-putts, I finished the 18 holes in two hours and 15 minutes.

Not bad for an iffy day for golf, all things considered.

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