John Morton surveyed the devastation at his beloved Hororata Golf Club and took a philosophical view:
“I went ‘Oh yes, OK. Well, we just have to deal with it’.”
The beautifully-kept 18-hole course was swamped by a raging Selwyn River when floodwaters inundated mid-Canterbury in May. Fairways and green were buried under tonnes of silt and shingle. Fencing and bridges, installed over decades by diligent club volunteers, were destroyed.
Morton, a former president, and his wife Meg have been heavily involved with the club for about 40 years.
“I said to Meg, we’ve been here before. When the water drops we can put it back together again. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work.”
“I just could not believe what was going on in our little golf course,” she said.
“The river, obviously, is a part of our course. But the damage that was done…we just couldn’t imagine it getting back to normality. It was just beyond belief.”
Important community club
Muir and the Mortons are among a community of devout member-volunteers who take pride in their course at the foot of the Southern Alps, about an hour’s drive west of Christchurch.
“It’s like a very large garden, really,” Morton said.
But more than that, the club and its café provided the social “glue” for the community.
“I have a lot of good, long-term friends at the club,” Morton, 70, said.
“It’s a very important part of our lives, really.”
Hard work, and huge support from the wider golfing community, had allowed the club to re-open the course but it could be another 6 to 18 months before all 18 holes were fully repaired.
“We decided as a club it was important that we did get things under way, got everybody back out here,” Muir said.
“At the moment, it’s playable.”
Hororata Community Trust executive director Cindy Driscoll said the golf club was an integral part of the farming community and considered one of the best courses in Canterbury.
The community was left “devastated” by its destruction, she said.
“It wasn’t just a side stream, it was the full force of the river. It took out fences, bridges the volunteers had built. It deposited a huge amount of shingle and silt all over the course and that in itself does a huge amount of damage.”
Fixing it was hard, physical work, Driscoll said.
Within a couple of weeks volunteers started with the clean-up. One day, up to 70 people from the flood-hit community arrived at the course with wheelbarrows and shovels.
“They all pitched in shoulder to shoulder,” Driscoll said.
“A lot of it was manual labour scraping that shingle off the fairways…you couldn’t put heavy machinery on it because it would have made more of a mess.”
A happy place
Many in the community were dealing with flooding on their farms and properties, but still turned up to save their golf course, she said.
“A lot of people had personally been affected by the floods and so, on top of that, their relief, their happy place – which is the golf course – was also damaged and that’s a double-whammy.
“The drive to get that course back was quite evident, and I guess that’s what it means to the community.”
Driscoll and the trust got to work to raise money for the restoration, turning to a brand-new initiative of Sport NZ, BoostedSport.
The crowdfunding platform was designed to help clubs and local groups fundraise for community projects. Hororata Golf Club was among the first to try it out.
Within a week, it had raised more than $10,000 through the site.
Driscoll said the nearly 100-year-old golf course had been affected by flooding in the past, but never as bad as this year.
She said the Selwyn District Council had done some flood-protection work, but more was needed.
We keep hearing these events are going to happen more,” she said.
“We’ve got a golf course on the side of a river…so how do we protect the golf course and the river?”