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Mar 12

Golf and Global Warming?

Floods Have Been Epic All Over the World

If you’ve spent enough time in North America, you have undoubtedly heard all the ins and outs of the global warming debate, from the time that Al Gore began touring with his lecture/demonstration about the slippery slope of failing currents and greenhouse gases. We’re still arguing about it, and whichever side one tends to believe, a lot of places are getting extremely and unexpectedly wet. For our purposes here, inside the vast predicament, is the impact the present climate has afflicted on some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world.
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I’m of a mind to side with science on this one, but it doesn’t really matter – wet is wet. Around 2013, the southern portion of the province of Alberta took an awful beating from Mother Nature, and it gave the exquisite country a black eye from which golf courses are still recovering and rebuilding. Look at a ‘before’ picture of the Kananaskis Golf Club, and it will take your breath away. The whole region is a full-blooded Switzerland where an understandable dialect is spoken. If you’re of English descent, you can thrill to it in your native language. And what a golf course, that is, until the floods of 2013.

flood 1Kananaskis is a Robert Trent Jones course, and one in which he took great pride, among the most beautiful natural settings he ever got to work with. After the floods, the exquisitely balanced water that wound its way through the course had taken over, and raged like an ongoing tsunami, destroying all beneath it, as if mankind had never been there at all. The force of water takes little time to show us its power. The preparation that went into such a course was not merely painting a beautiful picture and moving in sod. Everything about the masterpiece was delicately and carefully formed, and none of it was intended to withstand such abuse. Whether the facilities or the natural ground, the result was devastating, and three years later, the rebuilding continues, with an optimistic eye to reopening soon.

Thailand has experienced such things. The rains come on an annual basis. The people who live there get it, and pay attention to the calendar. Life is tailored around the calendar to live there without ugly surprises, and the approach to Nature is well-thought out. But, from time to time, a course is overwhelmed.
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This month, it is the U.S.’ turn, as an enormous swatch of the southland receives such amounts of daily rain that one scarcely thinks it possible to have that much fall in such a short time – 14 inches in some towns along the Mississippi River. Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama are severely affected. If you remember, Robert Trent Jones visited there as well, and left a string of pearl golf courses dotting the region, making Alabama one of the most golf rich states around. And, of course, Augusta, Georgia is very nearby. Points west are taking a terrible beating as well, as in the state of Texas, where high level courses have entirely disappeared, as they did in Alberta. In Texas, however, there are no surrounding Rocky Mountains to at least remind us of the frame, even though the picture is gone.

floodIn the reality of the disaster, people are dying. They are being forced from their home. They are in danger on many levels. Golf is not, at the moment, a concern for them. At such times, beauty needs to wait for the moment, even art, music, the beauty of outdoor relaxation that golf affords. But, sooner or later, Nature moves on, we reconstruct what was damaged or lost, and begin to crave the fine points again. The great golf courses deserve to be protected, maintained, and when necessary, saved, just like precious paintings and music scores.

In the long run, who can tell what adjustments must be made in order to preserve the game we enjoy so much? How can we prepare for such onslaughts of Nature? I don’t have an answer, but I do know that when humans love  and lose something, they rebuild, no matter what – whether it’s families, houses, towns…or even golf courses.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.