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Hurricane Irma

Naples took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma on Sunday, September 10th. Hurricane Irma was hopefully a once in a lifetime storm of epic proportions which no one will have to endure in the future.  Majority of the crew evacuated north for safety with their families and loved ones.  As soon as Collier County lifted curfew Monday morning, I returned to Royal Wood along with our mechanic Edvin.  The two of us working diligently clearing Royal Wood Blvd. to allow residents and emergency personnel access into and out of Royal Wood.  Meanwhile, we assisted residents who were unable to leave their homes.  Gasoline was a commodity and the highways were packed wtih returning evacuees, making returning home a slow process, unsure of what they would encounter once home.  Despite obstacles and issues at their personal homes, the crew started returning on Tuesday and by Friday we were fully staffed.  Combined with foresight, leadership, compassion, resilience and persistence to forge ahead defines the perfect example of service to others before self, which I believe defines our entire team.

Once the damage on the golf course was fully assessed, it was at that point we realized cleanup would take weeks, while full restoration would take months.  The hardscape of Royal Wood will forever be changed, when we lost approximately 221 trees, 131 scrubs and 512 ficus hedging along maintenance, holes eleven and fourteen, totaling in all 864 plants.  To date, we have removed 60 semi-trucks, loaded with debris, that has been taken to a FEMA horticultural dump out in Ave Maria with many more to go.  We have also planted 116 new trees of various species which respresents half of the trees lost.

The generator was essential during the power outage, allowing us to pump gasoline from fuel tanks to keep the equipment operational, lights for visibility within the shop during early and late days, the refrigerator for cold water to keep the crew hydrated during the + 90 degree days with high humidity.  We were truly grateful to those that brought us snacks and lunches, as we often did not have time to scout for open grocery stores, as our primary focus has been Royal Wood.  We are fortunate to have loyal vendors that have always been fair and reliable to us in the past showed their didication and priority to Royal Wood to keep us operational when supplies would get low, fuel deliveries and assistance with tree removal.  Our maintenance crew has been working long days, some have even chose to not take their days off to assist in making the course playable.  This is a true reflection of their dedication to Royal Wood and its residents.  The first week we hit the ground running and worked close to 80 hours.  Since, we have been working around 60 hours per week to make sure those returning home would be able to golf and enjoy preplanned tournaments.  To clarify, overtime was strictly optional for the team and it was their choice to stay late and work extra days to assist with the workload.  

While being forever changed, the golf course once again holds the beauty each member became accustomed to.  Some changes noted areas follows: complete replacement of bunker sand, gold screenings in the waste areas, fresh pine straw, mulch and trees replaced in critical areas, sod installed where the trees were not needed to be replaced to allow for better playability, new fishtail palms and flowering trees were installed on number 11 and number 14 for screening.  Heavy equipment was used to remove the large root balls from overturned trees.  The bridge to number 11 was repaired and all heavy equipment trails leveled and sod installed.

We were in disbelief when we discovered approimately 4,000 fish ranging from grass carp, bass, snook, brim and many other varieties that died during the hurricane.  South West Florida Fish and Wildlife explained that during the hurricane the lake water temperature fluctuated and the water turned over due to all the flow movement, allowing oxygen levels to dip to critical levels killing the fish.  Throughout 2018 we plan on restocking the lakes with fish, make a healthy living environment for them, and for the health of the lake as populations increase.  This is a process that will take time due to permitting and fish availability.

Whether you were here for Irma and witnessed the devastation first hand, or just returning to enjoy a season of golfing, you will notice many changes to the property.  Rest assured, through time Royal Wood will supersede the Royal Wood you remember pre-hurricane.

In reflection, the maintenance department went above and beyond the call of duty.  I cannot express enough my gratitude of each individual crew member and his dedication to Royal Wood.  A direct result of a team who executed a plan allowing Royal Wood Golf Club to open before majority of its competitors within Naples.  Astonishingly, the maintenance crew was able to open the front 9 holes in unprecedented nine days; and within two weeks all 18 holes were playable.

Kevin Ackerman, Superintendent

Video of Hole between 10 & 11