Heritage Hills Golf Course pro David Wilber says he’ll never forget Dec. 10, 2008.
It was the day after a crippling ice storm hit Rogers County. It was particularly damaging to Heritage Hills.
“Trees are something very special to a golf course,” Wilber said recently. “I walked out this door, and I thought we’d never recover.”
But Wilber and Heritage Hills are recovering.
The back nine was the most affected, but the fifth hole were devastated.
Wilber said his staff cut down 35 trees at No. 5, alone, leaving two that probably should have been cut down.
“We have not started replanting any,” Wilber said. “We did not get money from FEMA to replace trees. We got money from FEMA to remove trees.”
The natural environment surrounding No. 5 has been forever altered. Wilber said a lake is under consideration for that area.
“In most people’s lifetimes, trees would not be tall enough,” said Wilber. “It takes 20 years to grow trees.”
A lake at No. 5 would mean reserve water to supplement the lake that already serves to irrigate the course. That could mean savings in water purchases.
This year, not many dollars have been expended to buy water, but that’s usually not the case.
“We’ve only had to buy water once this year. We’ve spent $2,000 on water. Usually it’s $20,000 to $30,000,” Wilber said.
That doesn’t all add up to savings, however. Increased rainfall has caused other issues at the course. Wilber said he’s had to buy chemicals to treat fungus. There has been an increase in mowing and fuel purchases. Some of the bunkers have been holding water, and sand washes out of bunkers.
Wilber said: “The golf course itself is great. It’s been a good year for growing grass.”
Tree removal is almost complete, but work continues.
“We are actually spending those FEMA dollars. We’ve hired a crew,” Wilber said. “It’s 100 percent tree removal, limbs and/or trees. Stumps are a slower process.”
Stump removal will continue through fall.
“We’ll do some of the stump work ourselves once the season slows down,” Wilber said. “We’ve already cleaned up a lot. We’re past the halfway mark.”
The Heritage Hills crews did most of the early tree and debris removal, but they had to stop when the season began and mowing became a priority.
Wilber said the holes on the back nine were the most impaired because more trees are integral to that design. He believes designers cut the course, which opened in 1977, through a naturally occurring grove.
Wilber credited course superintendent Jacob Gordon, in that position less than a month when the storm hit, with responding well in a time of difficulty.