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Golf courses partially reopen but future of four holes remains uncertain

By Sam Richards

Staff writer


(Wednesday, Jan. 25) The New Year’s Eve landslides on holes 5 and 3 of the Dollar Ranch Golf Course, which originally figured to close the course for a few weeks, worsened with the heavy rains on Jan. 14, especially on hole 3. Dollar course’s holes 3, 4, 5 and 6 figure to be closed for the near future, Director of Golf Mark Heptig said last Thursday.

Originally, the slide covering parts of No. 5 was the more serious of the two on this upper part of the Dollar course. Then Jan. 14 rains caused a substantial section of hillside above hole 3 to come down and now covers part of the green on that hole.

“It’s much worse than it was the first time,” Heptig said of the fresh damage on the third hole. “A good portion of the hillside came loose.”

Heptig said last week that the slide on 3 is probably the biggest one affecting the Rossmoor golf courses in his 30 years working here. Added Mutual Operations Director Paul Donner, in an email, “The (Jan. 14) slide on the golf course was a major slide. We are working with a contractor to get estimates and recommendations on the best way to move forward.”

Another .32 inches of rain fell overnight into Thursday – not a lot in and of itself, Heptig said, but enough to push back the 2023 opening date a bit further, given the saturated ground.

The Dollar and Creekside courses both reopened Tuesday, Jan. 24. The Creekside course was expected to be almost completely open, Heptig said, with just a couple of tees moved up.

The Dollar course sustained much more damage, with holes 3, 4, 5 and 6 to be closed because of the landslides.

“So, we will have 14 holes available at first (on Dollar) and then see what kind of progress we can make on the landslides,” Heptig said Thursday in an email. “Even when we do get the hillside stabilized, I can see playing No. 3 and No. 5 at shorter distances.” Crews were set to start that landslide recovery work Thursday, Jan. 19.

It’s uncertain how long the repair work will take, Heptig said – even if there is no more significant rain while the work is underway.

The practice areas and driving range, meanwhile, were to have been opened this past Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 21 and 22, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days, Heptig said. “We will obviously have to hand pick the range balls both days,” he added.

At the Jan. 13 GRF Golf Advisory Committee meeting, Heptig said most of the two golf courses’ bunkers also sustained damage from the heavy rains. “Restoring bunkers is going to take some time,” he said. “We have a few where the sand was literally washed out of the bunker.”

In addition, there may be some large chunks remaining of a large oak tree that fell on Dec. 31 near the 14th hole on the Dollar course. The largest pieces will likely require a large vehicle to remove them, Heptig said, which can’t get out onto the golf course before it dries out for fear it could further damage the grass.

Heptig told the Golf Advisory Committee that the rainy conditions to begin the year probably will put the Rossmoor courses behind the 2022 total for rounds played. Almost 81,000 rounds on the Dollar and Creekside courses were recorded this past year, a very strong year for GRF golf, Heptig said.

“We had a really good start and finish last year,” he told the committee. There was virtually no rain during January 2022, and many golfers took advantage, Heptig told the advisory committee. In January 2023, the number of rounds played, as of Jan. 19, was zero. And even if some parts of the courses open relatively soon – Heptig’s rule of thumb is that any part of the course will need at least five days without rain for play to resume – holes 3 and 5 on Dollar almost certainly won’t be part of the earliest return to play.

Whenever at least part of the course becomes playable, Heptig said, he expects strong demand.

“There’s a lot of pent-up golfer angst right now … I imagine the door will hardly stay closed once we do get going,” Heptig said. “As long as we don’t lose February, we should still have a really strong year.”