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Flooding an ongoing problem for local golf courses

The fairway of the ninth hole at the Sycamore Golf Club is flooded Tuesday.
The fairway of the ninth hole at the Sycamore Golf Club is flooded Tuesday.

When Sycamore Community Park had standing water up to the seats of its benches last week, the park’s superintendent of golf operations, Kirk Lundbeck, wasn’t concerned.

The park and its golf course, which sit on a flood plain at 940 E. State St. in Sycamore, have a history of flooding after steady rainfalls and heavy snow accumulation.

Although last week’s flooding appeared to be monumental, the situation was actually routine, he said.

“We’ve had a tendency to have this issue in the past, so our grounds crew is very good at flood recovery,” said Lundbeck.

The course had limited damage because of the dormant grass and cold temperatures. Lundbeck said the water was mostly runoff, which didn’t hurt the turf.

That’s not to say Sycamore’s golf course hasn’t had more serious flooding situations in the past.

Lundbeck recalled the summer of 2007, when standing water forced the back nine holes to be closed for a long period of time. The summer sun burned the grass through the water, which he compared to a magnifying glass effect. Sediment in the water also stifled the growth of the grass.

Sycamore’s golf course isn’t the only course in the area that has flooding issues. River Heights Golf Course, located at 1020 Sharon Drive in DeKalb, often experiences flooding, especially because the Kishwaukee River splits the course, said Roger Huber, superintendent of golf operations for River Heights.

“When the river comes up, half of the holes are going to have water on them,” he said.

Huber said the biggest problem after a flood at River Heights is the debris the water brings onto the course. He mentioned one particular winter when ice chunks in the water carved out some of the turf.

The cost of repairing the course after a flood includes equipment, labor and products needed to reseed and re-sod, which Lundbeck said can be very expensive.

“It’s impossible to put a figure on it, because it depends on the flood itself,” he said.

Sycamore park board President Ted Strack said the district can’t exactly prepare for flooding events financially, but they can work to maximize the resources they have while working with a minimal budget.

“The golf course is ... one of the crown jewels of the Sycamore Park District. [It’s] very well maintained,” he said. “To be able to have that kind of facility at the price point we charge to users is phenomenal.”

The golf course the swimming pool have contributed to the park district’s consistent deficit problems. Over the past five years, the golf course accrued about $400,000 in losses.

The Golf Course Fund and the Swimming Pool Fund suffered a combined deficit of $177,000 in 2011.

Strack stressed the importance of the golf course being able to pay for itself through user fees since tax dollars are not used to help fund the course.

Strack said the park board is optimistic it will be in positive financial territory this year. But those numbers are dependent on the weather, and if flooding keeps golfers off the course, it will pose a problem, he said.

Lundbeck said the course will continue to experience flooding because of its location, but he feels they are adequately prepared.

“We can’t avoid it, because the Kishwaukee River runs through here,” he said. “But we can prepare and minimize it as best we can.”

Although the calendar says spring has arrived, the warmer weather has yet to follow suit, which leaves Lundbeck and Huber anxious to get golfers out on the links.

“Hopefully things will turn around here pretty soon,” said Huber. “In the meantime, we’ll just focus on making sure we have everything ready to go.”

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