May 23—The first shot on No. 1 at Hayden Lake Country Club looks different than it did a year ago.
A tree stationed about 225 yards from the tee box that often came into play on the drive and possibly the second shot was uprooted during the January windstorm.
“Essentially now it’s a wide-open tee shot,” director of golf Matt Bunn said.
The 342-yard par 4 was one of numerous holes in the region directly impacted by the windstorm, which leveled hundreds of trees with gusts that reached 70 miles per hour.
Downriver lost 28 trees, including three pines that landed in the parking lot. Repairs to the clubhouse entry way were completed recently after it was clipped by branches on a falling tree. Indian Canyon lost 26 trees and removed 13 more for safety or turf health reasons. Thirty-five trees, including a few that flattened the fence to the driving range, went down at Pine Acres.
“It was a big mess,” Indian Canyon pro Doug Phares said. “It seemed overwhelming, but before you knew it, (city parks crews) were through with it. They finished up at Downriver, Comstock (Park) and then came here.”
Spokane County golf director Doug Chase said a minimal number of trees were lost at Liberty Lake, MeadowWood and Latah Creek.
About 47 trees were uprooted at Coeur d’Alene Golf Club and another 22 were cut down due to safety concerns. Hayden Lake lost about 35 trees. Shoshone Golf Club in the Silver Valley lost approximately 100 trees.
Cleanup efforts took time, but courses were able to open on schedule.
“It was really a perfect storm,” Spokane city golf manager Mark Poirier said. “We had that mild January with a lot of rain. If that windstorm happened when the ground was frozen a lot of those trees would still be here. The turf was so soft.”
The complexion and perhaps the playing strategy changed on holes that lost well-placed trees. Here’s a look at several holes that were impacted seriously or subtly by the windstorm.
An iconic tree on No. 5 at the nine-hole Shoshone course was a windstorm casualty. The image of the tree is on the scorecard and merchandise such as hats and shirts in the pro shop.
“Our logo tree, it was kind of a staple of the course,” pro Jason Waters said. “It changed the hole a lot. It was on the right-middle part of the fairway so it’s a lot more open. It wasn’t super dead where it snapped off, maybe a little rotten in the middle. We left the (3-foot) stump there.”
How did players react?
“For me, it was, ‘Oh no,’ ” Waters said. “For some golfers, they were pretty happy about it.”
A few holes at Downriver have a different look, but the 332-yard 15th was probably influenced the most by the absence of a pair of trees (one by the windstorm and the other was diseased).
“Standing on the tee, there were two trees set in the fairway, one on the left and one on the right,” Downriver pro Steve Conner said. “They just narrowed it up a little bit. The one on the right snapped in half and it had to come out. It’s pretty wide open now.”
Minus downed trees, there’s additional space for recovery shots on innumerable holes in the region, including after hitting wayward drives on Nos. 2 and 12 at Indian Canyon. Both are par 5s.
“Shots to the right on 2 have a little more of an opening than before,” Phares said. “And shots left on No. 12 have a little more opening, but you still have to hit a sharp hook to get around them.”
The Coeur d’Alene Golf Club lost a significant number of trees on No. 1, No. 11 and the area around the seventh green near the No. 8 tee box. Approaches from the right rough on the par-4 10th won’t have to contend with a tall, thin tree that came down in January.
Hayden Lake’s third hole, a 293-yard par 4, lost a tree that protected the left side of the green.
“That’s kind of open now,” Bunn said. “We were fortunate with clean-up because we have a couple of expert chainsaw guys, lumber guys.”
Area pros have heard mixed reactions from customers. Some are pleased, some displeased and some barely noticed that so many trees were gone.
“It’s kind of funny,” Conner said. “Like anything, you know how people are, they’ll complain about it when it’s there, but once it’s gone it’s like, ‘What happened?’ “
Or, as Phares put it, “We have plenty of trees left.”