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Wild week hits the west - Fires, drought-breaking rains and a Covid-19 lockdown

Friday 05, Feb 2021

It has been a wild ride over in Western Australia this past week, with Perth having to contend with bushfires in addition to a COVID-enforced lockdown, while up north and inland drought-breaking rains have caused headaches of their own.  Last Sunday, WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that the Perth metropolitan area and the Peel and South West regions would enter a five-day lockdown due to a positive COVID-19 case detected in a hotel quarantine worker.  The following day, on 1 February, bushfires sparked in Perth’s outer north east and fanned by strong easterly winds and high temperatures quickly took hold, burning through 10,000 hectares and coming to within a kilometre of the 36-hole Vines Resort (pictured right) and residences.


“It has been a tough week,” sums up GCSAWA president and Mosman Park superintendent Shane Baker.  “From what I’ve heard most course staff are still working but all courses are closed and we now have to wear masks.  Last year courses were still allowed to open for social golf and we didn’t have to wear masks, so things are a bit stricter than last time.  It has allowed us to get ahead of things on the course, with a few guys taking the opportunity for fairway renovations and bunker work without golfers around.


“The ‘strict’ lockdown ends tonight (Friday) at 6pm barring any cases today.  From 6pm lesser restrictions come into place, such as one person per four square metres, which I think may hinder golf clubs reopening fully.  I know my committee are meeting this morning to discuss the week ahead and whether competition golf will resume.  Masks will have to be worn when playing golf it seems.  These restrictions are in place until next Sunday morning (14 February), again barring any new cases.


“On top of this we have had the fires to contend with.  There has been smoke covering all of Perth all week and ash raining down as far away as the coast.  The Vines Resort and Chequers Golf Club were in the danger zone, especially The Vines with the suburb needing to evacuate.  We are hanging out for some rain.  It has been the toughest summer for a number of years with no rain for over two months now. Sunday is looking promising as the north of the state is getting hammered with rain and hopefully we get some remnants of that.”


As Baker mentions, with the lockdown enforced a number of superintendents have taken the opportunity to undertake a host of work that would otherwise be difficult with golfers around. Idris Evans at the Western Australian Golf Club has vertidrained all fairways as well as caught up on his spraying programmes.  And if there’s no golf on the weekend he will be giving the greens a heavy dusting with the rain forecast.


Similarly, Darren Wilson at the 36-hole Wembley Golf Complex has been “smashing out” fairway renovations, with 26 completed in addition to turfing on greens and a heavy dust across all 45 greens.  “We dusted them and didn’t mow for four days and they have they loved it,” notes Wilson.  Tony McFadyean at Nedlands Golf Club also posted on Twitter that his course was loving the break, especially given they had just completed greens renovations.


While Perth supers will be hoping for some rain this weekend, over at Kalgoorlie Golf Course their counterpart Patrick Casey has been celebrating to a degree after a fall of 99mm earlier in the week effectively doubled his rainfall tally for the past 11 months!  Casey tipped out a very welcome 99mm from the rain gauge, the first decent rains since last February.  Since the start of last March, Kalgoorlie’s Bureau of Meteorology station had recorded just 100.2mm for the 11 months to the start of February 2021!


“This week has been the best rain we’ve had in two years,” says Casey.  “Our last biggest fall was February last year where we recorded 22mm in one event.  This week’s rains have made a mess of the bunkers and all the desert roughs have eroded.  There’s also a fair bit of red ‘sludge’ or clay that has been washed onto the turf surfaces, so heaps for us to clean up.”