Front nine about to open at Briarbrook

Trees to the right of the No. 2 teebox are among the 180 damaged at the Briarbrook Golf Course by an EF3 tornado on May 22. Work began last Monday on removing trees from the course, and the front nine could be open for play as soon as this Monday.GLOBE | JIM HENRY

CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — Golfers likely will return to Briarbrook Golf Course early this week.

The golf course has been closed for play since an EF3 tornado with winds up to 140 mph struck the area on May 22. Work to remove downed trees on the course began last Monday, and the front nine could be ready for play as soon as this Monday.

"The first phase is the front nine, and probably 90 percent of the damage is focused around 7, 8 and 9," Briarbrook Community Improvement District board president Jim Hackney said last Thursday. "We hope to get the front nine open by Monday. The tree service we hired has several trucks and employees, and once they get going, they thought it would be four or five days, barring any rain.

"Then they will go to the back nine and said it would be another week for that. There's more damage there, and it's more spread out. It's four or five holes back there, not one small area."

Approximately 180 trees were toppled in the storm. The two biggest areas of damage are on the back nine in the areas between the No. 12 and No. 15 fairways and 13th and 14th fairways. The biggest visual changes are the seventh and 14th greens where trees to the left, right and behind the green are gone, leaving no aid in locating the pin.

For some trees, it's good riddance through the eyes of Briarbrook golfers.

"We've had several members say, 'I'm glad that tree got taken out. I hated that tree,' " Hackney said.

The CID board, which manages the golf course so property values remain stable, intentionally did not start clearing the golf course immediately.

"The first thing was to see if there was anybody hurt and how much damage it did to the Briarbrook community," Hackney said. "It would not have been fair to say we are going to work on (the golf course) first and to heck with the properties. We put our loss on hold until they got started (on damage to properties). Since work on the housing is getting done, now we are able to start ours."

Other than trees, course damage appears minimal. None of the greens were damaged.

"We had a couple of doors from a maintenance shed blown out but no equipment damage," Hackney said. "We had a few spots on the (clubhouse) roof damaged. The pool house roof was damaged, and there was a lot of debris in the pool.

"That's been taken care of. We opened the pool as quick as we could for the residents. Parents say it gives our kids release from the stress. We've probably had 100 or more every day, and we have parents coming up and saying thanks."

Area golf courses have opened their doors to Briarbrook members.

"Twin Hills, Carthage, Crestwood (in Pittsburg, Kansas) and Schifferdecker have let our members go there and play at a reduced rate," Hackney said. "That's helped our members, the golf-aholics who have to get their golf in. We really appreciate that. We'll remember that if it ever happens to them."

The men's Briarbrook Invitational scheduled for this weekend obviously had to be postponed. The hope is to reschedule it later this summer, likely for two days instead of three. The women's Nutcracker Scramble was scheduled for the day after the tornado and has not been rescheduled.

The first tournament at new-look Briarbrook is the Tri-State Contractors on June 21.

"We told them the course will be ready, which it will be," Hackney said. "There might be some tree trunks laying in the rough, but all the fairways will be available.

"It's going to be a new course. We're all anxious. It is going to be more wide open. I don't know how long it's going to take to get the trees going again. It's going to be years. It will never look the same."