Lee County golf courses rebound after Ian

LEE COUNTY, Florida – Golf courses in Lee County continue to recover from Hurricane Ian. In the seven weeks since Ian landed in southwest Florida, golf courses across the county have been working around the clock to reopen.

“Coming out of the hurricane, walking through the gates and seeing all the damage, sad as it is, it was so great to see our staff and teams coming together as a community to help clean up and restore life,” said Jason Smith, senior amenities manager at Shell Point Golf Club in Fort Myers.

Located just a few miles from Sanibel, Shell Point suffered severe storm damage.

“This golf course, it’s 18 holes, 380 acres, was completely underwater,” Smith said.

If they were left with nothing but debris on the course, they could have reopened earlier. But the multiple feet of water was a major problem.

“With the wind, downed trees and debris, it’s quite easy for us to get back up to speed in a few days or weeks, but it took us almost a month and a half to get back up to speed because we had areas below 4,5,6,7 feet of water,” Smith said.

In addition to flood damage, the 80-foot bridge over their sixth hole was destroyed and a car was found on the fairway. But even with all these hurdles, the course has made great strides to reopen on December 1.

“This crew had dropped about 15 pallets of sod and over ten truckloads of sand into our bunkers to get it back to where it is,” said Shell Point golf manager Ryan Fitzpatrick.

But Shell Point wasn’t the only golf club to recover after Ian. Palmetto Pine Country Club in Cape Coral had over 500 trees felled on its course.

“On September 29, me and our landlord walked the grounds and didn’t expect to be open for at least a month, maybe two. You really couldn’t get out of the golf course; there was so much debris everywhere,” said Scott Beaugureau, chief golf professional at Palmetto.

Luckily for the club, the majority of their damage came from downed trees. There was little to no flood damage on the course, which made it easier to reopen 15 days after the storm hit.

“So many courses are still having issues because they’ve been under salt water for a few days, and we haven’t had any of that, but we’ve had great winds. Winds of 150 miles per hour have crossed here, and you can tell just by looking around,” Beaugureau said.

Now, despite being open for play, the club is still working to remove trees around the course. But, like Shell Point, they have made huge strides in recent weeks. “We’re still in recovery, but we’re getting there,” Beaugureau said.

Michael C. Ford