LIMERICK Golf Club was a scene of “devastation” this week after hurricane-force winds ripped at least 300 trees from the course.
The damage, unprecedented in the club’s 123 year history, has presented it with significant “challenges to recover it to playability”, according to management.
During a “terrifying” 80-minute period, officials and members watched from the clubhouse as trees were ripped from the ground, with winds gusting up to 160kmh blowing through in last Wednesday week’s storm.
“To see one tree falling after another, it felt like an eternity here,” said general manager Pat Murray.
“It was absolutely terrifying to look at. We have never had anything like that before. It could be months, years, getting everything cleared to start again. And until everything is cleared, we are not going to know the full extent of how much destruction is done to the golf course.”
Holes one to six on the parkland course, and around 10, 11 and 12 and 15, suffered particularly badly, leaving the course “closed indefinitely”.
“At first count so far it is in and around 300 trees, excluding boundary walls and what is down in the forested areas and the woods on the golf course,” said Pat.
“Holes 1-6 and 7 are devastated, pretty much levelled, I can’t describe it any other way.
“They are signature trees, there are no small trees down, they are significant across the course. There are craters left behind, so even when we get to the position of having the trees cut, we are still left with a big root bowl that has uplifted out of the course.”
Large numbers of members have been out in recent days helping with the massive clean-up, and the board of management hope to get play back on holes 7-18 in the short term, but are likely to be counting the cost in the long-term.
Across Limerick, golf clubs have also reported significant tree damage, but none as bad as suffered in Ballyclough.
Castletroy, which reopened for play on Tuesday, lost 100 trees and saw boundary walls and fencing damaged. However, due to the course’s design, major damage was avoided on tee boxes and fairways.
“Certainly on our 13th hole we had a big evergreen tree that took a lovely hardwood tree down with it - we were cultivating the hard wood but both are gone now,” said general manager Louis Keegan.
“We were closed from Wednesday, but we are back running our normal 14 hole course now. We are lucky in that we have had a very good reaction from our members to help out.”
However, the Castletroy club could have suffered far more extensive damage, as during the height of the storm the clubhouse “roof was extremely close to being taken off”, said Mr Keegan.
Rathbane manager John O’Sullivan said that the course “got away very lightly” with about 35 trees down, noting that a tree which fell beside the clubhouse could have caused serious damage.
“We had a couple of mature beech down. There was one very close to the clubhouse and we were very lucky the way it fell. We got away very lightly, we are counting our blessings,” he said.
Adare Manor Golf Club had “between 30 and 40 trees down”, according to captain Richard Hickey.
“Thank God only one green was really hampered, the sixth, the big tree fell down on it,” he said. “But there was nothing really that would interfere with the course.”
In neighbouring Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort, golf professional Gary Howie reported “a lot of trees down, but from a golfing point of view there is no major hassle”.
“We probably have a couple of hundred trees down on the property, which sounds a huge amount, but it is an 800-odd acre site, so it is all in perspective,” he said of the championship course, which re-opened on Wednesday.
“From a purely selfish point of view, golf-wise, we didn’t lose any trees that define our holes or as such make you play the holes a different way. If we had lost six particular trees on the course, it would have been a disaster.”
In Ballyneety, manager Liam Lawlor reported a loss of “about 30-40 trees”.
“We got on reasonably well compared to some of our neighbours, but have still had our fair share,” he said. “Some trees are in a precarious state, so we are having a look at them to see if they need to be felled. We are not quite closed, but it is really only members playing.
“Given the weather we have had and the conditions of the climate, we are wary of it, because we have put a huge amount of work in getting it right for the spring. We are targeting St Patrick’s weekend as our major kick off time,” he added.