Rain brings ‘tough season’ for city golf courses


JASPER — Heavy rains in May and June turned farmers’ crop fields into swamps, pushed the Patoka Lake dam over its spillway and flooded local roads for extended periods of time.

John Bertges, Jasper’s director of golf, had a front row seat to the negative effects of the excess water. Ruxer Golf Course — a nine-hole location maintained by the city and used for youth development — struggled to open until mid-July.

“It’s been a tough season,” said Bertges, who has been in the golf industry for more than three decades. “July’s going real good for us because we’ve had good weather.”

Things are trending in the right direction. Buffalo Trace Golf Course, Jasper’s other municipal golf course, has pulled in $7,000 more this month than it did at this point in July 2018.

In May, Buffalo Trace generated about $17,500 less than it did during the fifth month of the year last year. The course was closed seven full days due to rain, and on about five days, 20 golfers or fewer used the facility.

In June, Buffalo Trace was closed for roughly a week, and brought in about $1,000 less than June 2018.

It makes sense. When the golf courses are closed, they aren’t pulling in any revenue.

Bertges has worked for the city for six years, and he said this year was the wettest start to summer he’s seen in that timeframe. Ruxer opened on Friday, July 12 — the latest it has during Bertges’ time as director.

Bertges said the past few months have been “one of the most challenging seasons because we got such a late start. All the golf courses did.”

Both city courses have faced their own problems. A creek from Patoka Lake runs through Ruxer and leaves parts of the course saturated and underwater. Trees have fallen on the front nine at Buffalo Trace and blocked cart paths, and course flooding has reached never-before-seen extremes.

“We’ve had water in areas we had not seen it before,” Bertges said. “In some aspects, that’s good, because we now know where to pile and put in more drainage and stuff like that for [the] future. But at the time when it happened, you have to shut down the course, [the] maintenance crew has to work twice as hard to get it up, that kind of thing.”

Bertges said Ruxer is extremely important because unlike the other courses in town, it’s ideal for education and golfer development. Buffalo Trace and Sultan’s Run are great courses, he said, but rookies picking up the game at them is like novice skiers trying to learn on a black diamond hill.

“This is a much needed course in Dubois County,” Bertges said of Ruxer. “Because we use this course to train the kids and beginner golfers. So, when it is opened, it’s utilized quite a bit. People love to come out here because they’re able to work on their game.”

The next closest par 3 training course is in Evansville, Bertges said, making Ruxer integral to the development and growth of golf in the area.

So, for now, he’s hoping the rain stays away.

“Just like Paoli Peaks is dependent on snow, farmers are dependent on the weather, golf courses are depending on the weather quite a bit,” Bertges said. “It’s just been one of those seasons. It’s just one of those things, you put your hands up in the air and you shake your head, and just hope for the best coming into fall.”

He continued: “We could have a really strong fall, and that would make a big difference.”

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