Stories about rain anywhere from Eden to Gympie this month need to be tempered with a heartfelt acknowledgement of the grief and torment confronting thousands of Aussies.
With that firmly in mind, spare a moment to consider the work done by the brilliant and diligent grounds crew at Concord Golf Club to get this week’s Golf Challenge New South Wales Open up and running.
Just as for countless other places along the eastern seaboard, the rainfall numbers in this western Sydney enclave make for frightening reading for superintendents.
But when they come on the eve of the time-honoured state championship, they are next level.
When you watch the TV coverage of this week’s event, you’ll notice a few sodden patches and the players using preferred lies, at least for the first round.
But before you groan, consider this …
Concord has taken a total of 850mm of rain already in 2022, approximately 80 per cent of the course’s annual average.
As a result of the “east-coast low” that decimated so much of eastern Australia, 600mm of that figure has fallen in the past fortnight, including 50mm since Sunday.
If you’re a golf tragic, you might recall the images of Concord from 2021 when 4.5 days of torrential rain provided more than 300mm of rain and a headache for superintendent Chris Howe and his team.
This year, it’s more of a migraine induced by an extraordinary 15 consecutive days of rain up to last Wednesday, including 150mm on Tuesday alone.
And no fewer than 22 days in February had rain incidents before that.
“So yeah, it’s taken a fair hit,” said Howe, as ever remarkably calm in the crisis.
“As opposed to last year, the water table is saturated, the dams (on the mountainous western side) are full and capping the problem in the past week or so is that we’ve had king tides pushing at us (from the ocean side), so it all just mitigates water drainage.
“It’s deflating, but we can’t beat it. I’ve been around long enough to know you’ll never beat the weather.
“It was pretty amazing that (recent TPS events at) Bonnie Doon and Cypress Lakes got away, which is incredibly well done to those boys.
“We were starting to dry out, but the evening before the (Wednesday) pro-am, we copped 15mm and that was all that was needed for the surface water to reform.
“We cut every blade of grass on the course, but I don’t know when we’ll get a mower back out this week.
“Hopefully we will, but I can’t be sure at the moment.”
The most affected areas on the course are the low-lying areas across the 17th, 5th and 15th fairways.
But such has been the efforts of the ground staff that the only proposed changes to the course – other than preferred lies – will be a tee moved forward on the par-5 15th to ensure the landing zone for drivers is advanced past the waterlogged area.
Howe said their workload had been “phenomenal”.
“The morale is so high among the team and especially on the back of Covid, it’s remarkable,” he said.
“They’ve been troopers, maintained their enthusiasm and we’re really happy to present course the way it is because at least it hasn’t been windy so by and large it’s clean and looks appropriate. (This) presentation is absolutely a testament to their resilience.
“There are a couple of sodden patches, but we’re confident it will play well.
“The problematic areas of the course are largely out of play for the way these professionals play the course.
“About half of the (69) bunkers were damaged because of the intensity of the rain events, but they didn’t hold water and it took less than a day to restore them to tournament standard.
“The greens (built to a USGA profile – 300mm of sand on a 100mm gravel layer) are still really good and we’ll focus on getting them absolutely true rather than super fast this weekend.”