Mitigating a Flood Disaster

By Tom Monaghan, President of Monaghan Golf Group


On May 5, 2017, fast and furious spring run-off waters flooded a golf course in the British Columbian interior that our company, Monaghan Golf Group, leases from the City of Kelowna. We had been told there might be a risk of flooding as it had happened - to lesser degrees – in the past. Like many of the environmental calamities escalating around the world, this year seemed different. Two creeks that flow through the property, one running north to south and the other east to west, were both bursting at the seams and finally, breached all banks to flow onto the course.

The devastation that these floodwaters wrought over a year ago is still impacting the golf course today. The physical damage that was done has been well-remediated (at a cost exceeding $100,000 CAD) and the greens are in fantastic shape. The biggest challenge we currently find ourselves grappling with is the lingering reputation of the golf course; this has had the longest-lasting negative impact. What has become annual flooding in the interior means the local community now assumes that as soon as water rises, that the golf course is under water and unplayable.

Before addressing that, let’s cover the basics. The first step is to make sure your insurance coverage includes flood. If so, be sure of what specifically is covered. Is it contents, buildings and equipment only? Is the golf course itself covered? In other words, if you lose fairways and greens does your insurance pay to replace the turf? Is rental equipment covered by insurance? For example, if you need to rent high-volume pumps to displace the water from the property, are the costs covered? What does your business interruption insurance cover?

Insurance can be complicated and sometimes it’s hard to know who to believe. Ensure you have a trusted, qualified and reliable insurance broker and company to deal with and be prepared to share details of your contract or lease with the insurance company in addition to your lawyer to make sure you are securely covered.

Second, you need a detailed plan of action in the event of a flood. While a written copy for all staff to read is important, pre-season meetings are necessary. Identify areas that seem susceptible such as culverts, typically water-logged parts of the course and so forth. Do you have sandbags at the ready? Tarps? Who is on speed-dial to help?

The third step is to ensure your staff is nimble and ready to go! They may have to provide some of the labour to mitigate floods and may be asked to do things typically outside of their job description. Our Pro Shop Manager and Chef found themselves sandbagging a creek for many hours and hauling pumps from place to place as the water moved. All-hands-on-deck is very important when battling a flood. At the same time, a golf course closure means staff may be out of work for an undetermined period of time. As an operator or owner, you need to prepare them for that.

Sometimes plans go out the window and your team needs to be cohesive to work through what becomes a very reactive situation. Strong leadership and constant communication are key.

Alright, you’ve purchased the correct insurance, you have your plan in place and your team is primed. In the following posting, we will talk about what to do after the flood has happened and address the actual clean-up, dealing with insurance and marketing your course back into the golfers’ roster.