The summer of Beaver Creek Golf Course
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Mother Nature does its share of controlling the game of golf. Weather, no matter if its rain, wind, cold, heat or snow, it can all get in the way of a golfer's plans, and it most certainly has its affects on a golf course.
But nowhere has that fact been more evident this summer than Havre's Beaver Creek Golf Course.
An unusually heavy amount of rain fell on the Hi-Line area late in the spring and that rain, mixed with the usual snow melt and runoff from another harsh winter created flooding conditions this year unlike anything the area has seen in quite some time. And in turn, the rampaging Beaver Creek wreaked havoc on BCGC, leaving it under water not once, but twice.
The first flood came on May 21, then an even bigger amount of water spilled out of Beaver Creek on June 3. The second flood came quickly too, leaving the course under water in less than a day according to longtime BCGC owner Max Erickson.
"The first time it flooded was May 21, and we were closed for a couple of weeks cleaning that up," Erickson said.
"Then, on the third of June, the church group was out playing in the morning, but, by that afternoon, the course was completely underwater and unplayable.
It happened that fast. We've never seen anything like it out here." The flood of June 3 left BCGC completely unplayable for almost a month and the damage was extensive.
It wasn't until July 1-2 that there were golfers back on the course, and even then the course wasn't in the kind of shape it usually is by that part of the summer.
"The water did all kinds of things out here," Erickson said. "At one point, the creek was so high, the only thing visible on the bridge in front of No.
9's green was the hand rail. The water ran up the cart path on No. 9 and eroded a huge hole in the ground. All you could see were tree roots and wires and pipes. It really did tear things up for a while." An important part of the course that was spared from the damaging floods was the greens. BCGC's greens are severely sloped from front to back and the flood waters never covered them, so even when the course was under water, the staff was able to maintain the greens, thanks to some help from Signal Point Golf Course in Fort Benton.
"It was really neat," Erickson said.
"The water never covered the greens at any point, so we went and borrowed a small hand mower from Fort Benton, and every day, we were able to load it into the four-wheel-drive tractor, take it out there and mow the greens. So we were able to keep the greens in really good shape.
The main damage however, was to the grass in the fairways. The mowers used to cut the fairways don't pick up the tiny grass clippings that come up when the fairways are mowed. Those clippings are biodegradable waste, so when the flood waters mixed with those grass clippings, and as the water reseeded, it formed a crust over the live grass. That crust then sat on top of the grass in the fairways and solving that problem has been one of many tasks Erickson and course superintendent Linda Brower have had to tackle this summer.
"The biggest jobs, obviously we've pumped a lot of water off the course, and we've done a lot of aereating the ground. We've spent hours and hours trying aereating the fairways, trying to get the grass to come back to life because of the damage the flood did.
It's been a lot of work, Linda (Brower) has done a great job, she's worked really hard and it's just one of those situations, this was something that we had no control over, so we've just went to work and done everything we can to bounce back from this." Indeed, Erickson says he's estimated the flood has and will cost the course around 20 percent of its income for the season, which typically runs from April until October. There were no customers on the course from the beginning of June to the beginning of July, and, typically, that's one of the busiest times for any golf course as golfers start to fully come out of winter hibernation, leagues begin and tournament season gets underway.
And even now, in early August, the course hasn't completely come back to life like it normally would be this time of year, but Erickson has taken it all in stride and is thankful for all of the understanding and support he's received from the community. Golfers are playing yet again on the grand old Havre course, men's league is up and running and for the most part, things are fairly normal on the layout.
"The golfers, the people of Havre have been great during all this," he said. "The support has just been awesome and I want to thank the community of Havre for supporting is. This is just a great place with great people and everybody, they've just been awesome to us through this."