4 November 2022

Detective work silver lining to flooded golf course

| John Thistleton
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Matt Casey and fellow volunteer Rob Croker who has been helping drain water from accumulated ponds on the Goulburn Golf Course. Photo: John Thistleton.

Flooded throughout 2021 and 2022, Goulburn Golf Club has found a silver lining, thanks to one of its volunteers.

Matt Casey drew on his days as a detective inspector preparing briefs of evidence for a large insurance claim for damage to the local course, which has been flooded 13 times in 21 months.

The course is on a Crown Reserve, one of 34,000 across the state used for showgrounds, sports venues, public halls and the like. Previously neither anyone at the golf club or land managers had realised insurance was available for damage to improvements to the land.

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A member of the Reserve Land Managers Board, Matt was preparing a damages report when he became aware that the reserve was insured for flood damage.

He began thinking about what evidence he could gather to prove the golf club’s assets – fairways, tees, about 22 bunkers, drains, 14 greens, footpaths and a carpark – had been damaged by major flooding in 2021. Drainage on one fairway was damaged beyond repair.

He gathered quotes for earthworks to repair drainage systems, renovate bunkers, pathways and the carpark and for herbicide and fungicide treatments for weeds and pests across the course. “The guys from the Crown Land Insurance Team were fantastic, and so was the loss adjuster, with all the information they provided,” he said.

Volunteers (left) watch as 100 mm poly pipe is connected to a Bunker Dry unit in one of the bunkers at Goulburn Golf Course. Photo: Supplied.

The final submission supporting the claim was successful, attracting a payout of $450,000 – the largest single injection of funds into the Reserve since its inception.

Not only did the club get a much-needed payout, Matt won the NSW Government’s Individual Excellence in Crown Land Management Award. He says the award belongs to all the volunteers at the club who turn up every time there is a flood and work tirelessly to restore the course and equipment.

Club president Barry Christoff and fellow volunteers Gail Moroney and Michael Deegan nominated Matt.

The course is on a floodplain, so the work was aimed at minimising damage from future floods. A damaged and clogged drainage network on the tenth fairway was upgraded and drains on two other fairways were cleaned out.

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Project managing the repairs and installation of new infrastructure, Matt has worked closely with Barry, the two grounds staff, volunteers and contractors.

Over the months they have learned from working alongside consultants and their own observations much new information on easement discharges during heavy rain, and water behaviour above and below the ground’s surface. They are firming up strategies to better protect the course against all but the most severe downpours.

Spending up to 20 hours a week overseeing the project, Matt adopted best practice in golf course renovation and design, getting advice from qualified consultants through Golf NSW. As each bunker was shelled and their drains upgraded, fabric lining was replaced with more up-to-date bunker mat and sand was replaced with USGA standard sand, the industry standard for bunker sand. A damaged and clogged drainage network on the tenth fairway was upgraded and drains on two other fairways were cleaned out.

Matt Casey near a bunker draining away floodwater on the course. Photo: John Thistleton.

“Barry Christoff’s research came across the Bunker Dry units, a great solution,” Matt said.

“We installed about 60 Bunker Dry units, mainly in bunkers and a couple of low spots. Each unit will drain now at 800 millilitres of water a second,” Matt said.

More floods have delayed the work, but the new mats have retained the integrity of the bunkers which can be restored much more quickly than before the work was done. Players are back on the course faster than previously, because much of the area drains faster.

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