Collapsed culvert handicaps golf course future

Town considering options as course could be facing a half-million-dollar repair job

The walkway spanning the gorge between tee box and green on the seventh hole of the Ladysmith golf course is gone.

The walkway spanning the gorge between tee box and green on the seventh hole of the Ladysmith golf course is gone.

The Ladysmith Golf Course is in the rough.

And it’s not the kind of trap you can just fight your way out of with the swing of a good pitching wedge.

The December collapse of a culvert has resulted in the elimination of the crossing over the seventh hole gorge and it could take an investment of up to $500,000 to restore the hole to what it was.

The course has been declared safe by the Town of Ladysmith, and the Ladysmith Golf Club remains in operation, but no one is really sure when, or how the damage should be fixed.

“We met with the club (March 16),” Ladysmith Parks and Recreation director Clayton Postings said. “We were basically walking them through possible solutions. We haven’t really started discussions in terms of long-term plans.

“The town is working with the golf club in keeping it open and operating at this time.”

Here’s the situation.

The northern edge of the little par-three nine-hole course is bisected by a deep creek gully notorious for swallowing golf balls. Players hit across the gully to hole five, cross a small footbridge at the gully’s shallow end to play hole six, then hit back across the gully’s deep end to play hole seven.

Heavy rains the week of Dec. 8 eroded the banks around the gully at hole seven and collapsed the culvert, blocking the passage of the waters of Golf Course Creek. It also rendered the back-filled path over the culvert from tee to green — routinely used by golfers and greenskeeping crews — unusable.

The town authorized $75,000 worth of emergency repairs. It excavated the collapsed soil that once formed the path over the creek, moved it to a huge mound adjacent the Holland Creek ballfield and laid reams of plastic liners on either side of the slope to protect the creek’s environmental integrity from run-off.

As a result of that work, the gap spanning the seventh hole now looks like something more suited to an Evel Knievel stunt than a stretch designed to appeal to the casual golfer.

With golf season just starting to arrive along with the sunshine, it is unclear how the situation will affect use of the course. The course is operating with a reduced number of holes. The past few years have been difficult for the Ladysmith Golf Club financially, and the collapse is expected to exacerbate that situation.

The club is s non-profit volunteer-run society, basically dedicated to keeping the greens open and operating. It is in no position to afford the type of  capital needed for this kind of major repair job, and, at this point, it appears no one is expecting it to foot this bill.

The land is owned by the Town of Ladysmith, which does have the means. What still needs to be determined is whether it has the political will to make an investment, and, if so, what will happen, and when.

The town already knew the culvert was failing due to earlier studies. Preliminary work had been done investigating either installing  a replacement culvert, or a bridge, but the project was abandoned due to insufficient funds.

December’s culvert failure sent about 30 per cent of the embankment soil downstream into Holland Lake and destabilized the Rotary pedestrian walkway on the Holland Creek Trail. An additional $75,000 is the estimated cost of downstream mitigation, and another $40,000 will be needed to remove the soil mound from the ballfield areas.

With the province not likely to approve another culvert, three other options are being considered.

The first would be a high bridge across the lip of the gully, allowing passage of mowing equipment. That would cost an estimated $450,000.

The second is a lower bridge crossing at a cost of $250,000 to $350,000. This option would require an upgrade of the upstream footbridge to accommodate mowing equipment, at an additional cost of $30,000.

The third is investigating a revamp of the course, that would see all nine holes on the south side of the gorge.

Traditionally the town has helped the golf club out with support in a variety of small ways, but basically left it alone to manage the course as it sees fit. This situation has forced both sides to examine their roles and responsibilities a little more closely.

“This is kind of a different case,” Posting said. We’re all kind of learning as we go. This is going to take some time.”