Renovation protects hole from flash flooding

CAVE CREEK, Arizona – It was 16 months ago when a microburst dumped six inches of rain in three hours on the beautiful surrounds of Cave Creek, Arizona, sending a flood of water crashing down the mountainside and onto Rancho Manana Golf Club’s 16th hole. The white-capped rush of water ripped apart cart paths, shredded mounds, uprooted trees and brush, and pretty much destroyed the par 5.

PTI Golf, LLC, the Las Vegas-based golf course maintenance, construction and landscaping company, was hired to do a quick fix on the property, which was pulled off masterfully in five days. But earlier this year, General Manager Andy Short and the Allred Family owners decided enough was enough.

 “It was a nightmare that we did not want to live through again,” said Short. “A hydrology engineer said it was a 50-year flood. It carried 13,500 pounds per square inch in strength. So we wanted to be as prepared as possible in case it turns out to be more like a five-year flood. And we decided PTI was the right choice to help us do that. They are a great company, Kip (Wolfe) is awesome and he has an unbelievable crew. They just come in and get the job done.”

The 16th hole renewed

Prior to PTI’s arrival, Short brought in a hydrologist and hired another company to excavate the wash, which over the years had risen about 20 feet with washout material and trees. This was hindering the water flow, adding to the problem. 

PTI was very familiar with Rancho Manana, having successfully completed two previous projects there. PTI Principal Kip Wolfe knew it would be a challenging job.

“There were several elements that comprised this job, starting with a redesign of the hole,” said Wolfe, whose crew began work this past June and finished in October. “The hole and in particular the green had to be routed away from the big wash, and it needed to be raised about five feet.  We did the design in-house with the help of Andy and his team. We mined all the material from the wash and used it to raise the fairway and green complex. We moved a lot of dirt.”

After rebuilding the irrigation and drainage systems, raising the fairway, cutting in the green complex and rebuilding the bunkers, the next element was mounding.

“Moving the hole and routing the cart path to the left and further away from the wash allowed us to provide even bigger and more substantial mounding to help prevent this from happening again,” said Wolfe. “We had to build the mounding so it would be maintainable and playable. Those mounds are tied into a new two-tiered wall system they had built to further protect from microburst rains. This wall has gabion baskets (full of rocks) buried in them. It is one heck of a wall. If that gets washed out, I’m not sure this problem can be circumvented.”

After all the work, golfers are now left with a beautiful risk/reward par 5 that hopefully can stand strong if another surprise flood comes cascading down the mountain.

“I’m really pleased with PTI’s effort. It is now a really nice golf hole,” said Short. “The excavated wash, the gabion wall, which has 3 to 4 feet of give unlike a concrete wall, and the mounding should protect the hole if we get another massive rain like that. But hopefully we won’t have to find that out.”

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