The flood of 2013 in Southern Alberta and the ice storm that followed later that year followed by a brutal winter and widespread winterkill in Ontario and Quebec got the most notice from a national perspective, but cases of nature’s fury have been much more prevalent in recent years.
Atlantic Canada is just coming off a brutal winter itself in which several golf courses had to deal with the same circumstances as Ontario/Quebec the year before.
Earlier this year, fires raged out of control in from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, but didn’t threaten golf operations directly. They did, however, affect air quality, drop ash and force no-smoking bans on golf courses.
A few weeks ago, wild weather blew into Calgary again, where rare funnel clouds touched down and pelting hail made fairways look as if it was the middle of winter. After one evening of sudden storms came another.
Meanwhile, in the province to the west, B.C. continued to go through a drought that has forced Stage 3 water restrictions and, in the case of the Sunshine Coast to the north of Vancouver, Stage 4 restrictions.
Generally speaking, that means if you’re a golf operation on municipal water, you can only water tees and greens if you’re on Stage 3 restrictions. If you’re on Stage 4, that means no watering at all, at least none to any consequence.
Needless to say, long term Stage 4 could pose a serious problem to golf operations should that be required on a wider scale across the province. The good news is that the City of Vancouver has stated that it doesn’t see that happening in the foreseeable future.
These natural events are covered regionally across Canada by the local media and often seem like isolated incidents such as the storm I witnessed recently that struck with such ferocity that I called my family to the basement.
Thankfully, the storm blew through as quickly as it arrived, everyone is safe and sound and a few downed branches were the extent of it.
Oddly enough, these events are occurring in what is shaping up to be a wonderful summer across most of Canada in which rounds are up as a result. B.C., in particular, was enjoying a glorious early start to the season and, in many ways, still is despite the water restrictions.
Over in Calgary, however, GNN blogger Tiffany Gordon told me the other day that she is still dealing with the effects of the flood over two years ago at her home base, the Cottonwood Golf and Country Club, and you wonder what long-term effects such events are going to have on the industry in the future.
In B.C. for example, the fire season started early, little wonder considering the dry conditions, and while we hope it’s done for the year, there are no guarantees. The so-called “wet coast” needs a lot of rain to replenish the reservoirs and it’s hoped El Nino does that in the fall.
As Kyle German, another GNN blogger in B.C., said to me the other day, visitors from California say conditions in B.C. are nowhere close to what’s happening in their home state where the drought has continued for four years and has reached crisis proportions.
We’d prefer to keep it that way, thank you very much, but again, there are no guarantees.
We’ve been told for years that water could become the next great challenge for golf and it could be that we’re reaching that point now. That and other weather events could have more long-term consequences instead of being isolated incidents, considering their frequency and severity in recent years.
It isn’t time to panic, but it is time to consider the possibilities.
Weather is obviously something we can’t control, but something we need to deal with for the long-term survival of our businesses, perhaps alternative water supplies, best practices that apply to a changing environment and other contingency plans.
Deal with it, don’t deny it.