Corey Bowers was starting to get a real feel for Aberdeen Country Club.
Having shifted to the course as its head golf professional and general manager in early 2018, he was was running the popular 27-hole layout with the redesigned 4,000-square-foot clubhouse. And then it was all under water.
Bowers surveyed the damage from the post-Hurricane Florence flooding and wondered if he’d ever be in charge of the property again — or if there would be much of a golf property for anyone to command. However, the game and his job weren’t his top concern.
“The hardest part was seeing the community,” Bowers said. “We were there as the flood waters were there urging community members away. We saw with Matthew the water coming to the houses and saw the projections that it was going to be even higher than Matthew. It was scary.”
The neighborhoods surrounding Aberdeen were evacuated with the help of the National Guard, and, as Bowers put it, every home and condo suffered some type of damage.
It makes it even more improbable that the golf course, which was underwater for the better part of September, has its re-opening set.
The club’s parent company, Founders Group International, announced that Aberdeen will begin booking rounds again for Feb. 1. Given some of the aerial images from September, that is nothing short of a golf miracle.
The wait-and-see is over. And after the water tables from nearby Buck Creek returned to levels sufficient enough for repair and maintenance to resume in late-October/early November, the staff went to work. The course was overseeded in last month, and only a two cart path bridges connecting the Woodlands Nine still need to be repaired. Others bridges will be surveyed again after the New Year, but no damage is expected.
It has reaffirmed initial meetings in which it was decided immediately that everything would be done to get Aberdeen back up and running as soon as possible, according to FGI Director of Marketing Justin Binke.
“Aberdeen is a great golf course in the area. We just gave it a new logo,” said Binke, referring to the new red dragon design that replaced the old unicorn logo. “We had a lot of improvements on the course. We want to have that course open. It’s three nines. On behalf of FGI, we want that course open as long as possible. It’s a lot of people’s favorite on the north end.”
Not surprisingly, if any course in the area knows how to bounce back from a storm, it is Aberdeen.
The clubhouse was completely destroyed by the flooding associated with Hurricane Matthew in 2016, crews were brought in to rebuild it, complete with a revamped bar and grill and more streamlined pro shop.
On top of that, a high-end water-pump system was installed on along the course prior to its re-opening in early 2017 to better regulate day-to-day conditions. It wasn’t enough to navigate the Florence-related flooding, of course, but after the heaviest waters receded, it played a roll in getting the Tom Jackson layout playable again.
Two of the other courses that suffered were not-so-coincidentally also part of the Founders family. On either side of Aberdeen on S.C. Highway 9, Colonial Charters required a nine days to open half of its 18-hole layout before the other nine holes joined suit later a couple weeks later.
Long Bay Golf Club, to the northwest, was spared direct damage. However, there were transportation issues that forced its closure and then slimmed down the tee sheets.
“The golf course was fine. The flooding around it, over the highway, you couldn’t get to it,” Binke said. “The storm’s damage was nothing [to the courses]. What really cut us off afterward was the flooding from the rivers in North Carolina. You couldn’t get anywhere. People getting back, people trying to get in, it blocked a lot of their passages.”
When Long Bay was fully operational again, it hosted a fundraiser for its neighbors at Aberdeen.
Bowers was touched by the generosity of fellow industry employees and strangers alike. Beginning in February, he’ll start to see both teeing it up at his course again and remember the impact Aberdeen played during the repairs.
“You’d like to say you want to forget about it. But you can’t. It’s there,” Bowers said. “There were some surreal photos and you can’t forget what happened to your facility. A few of our employees live in the community [with the] members. To see everyone rally around each other, what I’ve seen in that community is some of the best signs of humanity.”