#HoustonStrong: Golf Club of Houston's road back from disaster

This week’s Houston Open will be headlined by players like Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson. The Houston Open offers players a final opportunity to prepare for and be invited to next week’s Masters. It’s a popular stop for players in the field at Augusta because of the immaculate condition that mimics Augusta with its overseeded rye grass and short grass runoff areas. 

This year’s course preparations were more difficult due to last fall’s Hurricane Harvey. The devastating storm inflicted $125 billion worth of damage, an amount similar to Katrina in 2005. The Houston area was hit with unprecedented rainfall, leading to an unfathomable amount of damage. Federal aid, non-profit groups and private funding (such as the Houston Texans’ Defensive End, J.J. Watt, who raised over $37 million himself) led recovery efforts.

The Golf Club of Houston faced a significant challenge to get the course back into playing condition, and it’s taken a herculean effort from the grounds staff to have the course ready. To get a glimpse of what the recovery was like at The Golf Club of Houston, I asked Superintendent Brian Buckner (@GCOHsuper) a few questions about what the process was like:

What were some of the immediate challenges for the course following Harvey? 

First of all, we were very fortunate with regards to the Harvey storm. While we did take on a lot of water, the course drained just as fast. Our biggest concern was the removal of all the foreign debris that had been left behind after the water had receded. We removed around 40- 30 yard containers full of debris from the property. Second task was to remove silt from green 1 on the Tournament Course and the whole front nine on the Member Course. Those were the main issues to get the place back open. Other issues, obviously a lot of trees down and bunkers. Bunkers had to be completely rebuilt after the storm. This was contracted out.

All photos compliments of Brian Buckner.

What were some things that surprised you or came about when you and your team were getting the course into playing condition?

It’s amazing the amount of debris and what you’ll find. Items that we recovered were tires, doors, peoples’ docks/patios and even a 4-wheeler.

What are some key things you do differently to get the course ready for the Houston Open that most people may not be aware of?

The course is overseeded wall to wall for this event. Preparations are year-round for this one event. We are either prepping for overseed, actually overseeding with grow-in, then after the transition back to Bermuda and prepping that seed bed to do it all over again. Conditions are to mimic Augusta’s conditions as we are a tune-up the week prior to the Masters. All cuts are to be similar to Augusta’s.