How the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail drives away major flooding

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OWENS CROSS ROADS, Ala. (WHNT) – It’s one of the most frustrating sports known to man, the game of golf. And right now the Hampton Cove Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is dealing with a frustrating mess all its own. This is the worst flood event they’ve seen in more than a dozen years.

It’s not often you can say your clubs and golf bags aren’t the most important tools needed on the golf course. Rather, tractors and trailers are stealing the show on the River Course at RTJ.

“This is pretty significant,” said Robert Trent Jones Golf Course Superintendent, Jonathan Gruber. “I’ve been here since 2003 and it’s only gotten to this level one other time, and this time it got even higher at certain points.”

The golf course has a team of 16 maintenance workers that are responsible for keeping the three premiere courses immaculate.  This flooding event took all three courses out of commission for a few days. As the Flint River crests the team uses aerial drone footage to assess the damage.

“So the only turf you can see are some T-boxes and some greens,” explains Gruber. “Everything else is completely submerged.”

The course neighbors the Flint River and as a result is the only RTJ in a flood plain and without bunkers. This Christmas weekend the Flint reached 24 feet, teeing the golf course off for a major course flood. To prepare for the flooding event crews take precautions before the rain ever starts.

“All the holes that are close to the river,” said Gruber. “we bring all of that in and everything else we elevate so flood water doesn’t get to it.”

Monday night water drained quickly from the flooded courses. This is a key component for crews to get to work on the River Course. As soon as the water does recede, “You’ll find everything from an old deflated basketball to, you never know what you will find out there,” explains Gruber. “It’s just everything that moved down the river!”

And what’s more impressive than a hole-in-one, is how quickly this course will be transformed from an inflated river back to a golfing destination.

“We’ve been down this road before, we know what to do,” said Gruber.

Once the course dries up, heavy equipment can move in and golfers can get back to birdies, bogies and business deals. The Highlands and Par three Courses are expected to open in just a day or two. The River Course will take roughly a week to clean back up with crews working round the clock to get it in shape.