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Tuncurry course on the fire front line

Friday 01, Nov 2019

It has been a nervous past week for ASTMA member and course superintendent Mark Spraggs, with bushfires coming to within a couple of hundred metres of Tuncurry Golf Course on the NSW mid-North Coast.

Bushfires have ravaged NSW in recent weeks, with two fires burning in and around the Forster-Tuncurry area affecting upwards of 7000 hectares according to the NSW Rural Fire Service website.

One of those fires is located north of the golf course in the Darawank Nature Reserve (currently measuring 2966 hectares), while the second one is inland at Minimbar (affected area approx. 3949ha). Both fires are currently listed as under control.

“We had the Rural Fire Service and police utilising our hoses and sat themselves on the boundary while I ran irrigation on the boundary holes all night last Saturday,” explains Spraggs, who started at the Tuncurry course midway through the year after arriving from Club Taree.

“The fire came to within a couple of hundred metres, however, the racetrack next door caught fire Tuesday when the winds picked up. Fourteen streets in Tuncurry were evacuated and spot fires even made it to Forster from flying embers.

“Like many areas, we are very dry at present. Year-to-date we are sitting at just 300mm with less than 50mm falling throughout the whole of winter. There has been a lot of smoke haze every morning this week with visibility down to just 50m at times. The winds are expected to pick up again today (Friday) and Saturday so we may be on ‘watch and act’ alert again.”

While Spraggs was doing his bit from his side of the golf course boundary fence, on the other sidxe fellow ASTMA member Brian Worboys was literally on the front line. The Maitland City Council coordinator has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 20 years and is captain of the local Bolwarra-Largs RFS brigade who were called in to help contain the Tuncurry fires. It has been a busy week for Worboys and his team who were also been part of efforts to contain fires further north at Harrington and Lake Cathie.

For Spraggs, the threatening fires arrived just a few days after the club had officially opened its new par three 9th hole. The Tuncurry course forms part of the two-course Forster-Tuncurry Golf Club (the Forster course is located south in the township of Forster and his home to superintendent Peter Blain) and will play host to the 2021 NSW Women’s Open.

To facilitate that, the Tuncurry course is currently undergoing a number of course and clubhouse improvement works. In recent months all bunkers on the course have been reshaped back to their original design, while a lot of vegetation has also been removed to create better air movement and eliminate shade. The big focus, however, has been the works on the new 9th hole which has been reduced to 150m to accommodate a new clubhouse which will start construction in February.

Photos courtesy of Mark Spraggs and Brian Worboys