Golf near Florida's Panama City still on the mend

Hurricane Michael devastated parts of the Panhandle, including several golf courses.

Ryan Mulvey and his staff got to enjoy the pristine new look of the Nicklaus course at the Baypoint Golf Club in Panama City Beach, Fla., for only a few days after the course's grand reopening Oct. 6.

Then Hurricane Michael hit Oct. 10, changing the landscape of the Florida Panhandle forever. The third-largest hurricane to make landfall, Michael ripped a hole through mostly Bay County, killing 43 people and causing billions of dollars in damage, leaving thousands homeless for Thanksgiving, according to this report from PBS.

While courses outside the landing zone came away mostly unscathed, Bay Point and the private Panama Country Club in Lynn Haven remain closed with no certain timetable for reopening following extensive tree damage. The Hombre Golf Club, once a proud 27-hole facility that had shrunk to 18 holes, has announced that it will not reopen at all. Only the Holiday Golf Club in Panama City Beach is available for tee times.

Mulvey, the general manager at Baypoint, a KemperSports-managed facility, said he will know more about a potential reopening date once a a tree cleanup project starts. The timing of the Nicklaus course renovation is what stings the most. It was closed for more than 107 days while TifEagle Bermuda grass was being installed on the greens.

"I played it twice and it was spectacular," Mulvey said. "I've played Pine Valley and other great courses, and it was really good. It will be back. Once the power was back on, our staff did a great job of at least keeping the Nicklaus course in shape, spraying chemicals to keep it preserved until the reopening date."

Golf Advisor's Matt Ginella toured parts of the region during a recent visit to film at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in nearby Miramar Beach. Ginella will host a Golf Advisor Round trip at Sandestin Sept. 19-22 next fall.

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“Not very far from here, they have it a lot worse than we do.”~Ms. Donna, a resident of Panama City, Fla. But before we get to that, let’s go back a month. My crew and I were on site at @sandestin filming another @golfadvisor Round Trip when we received an alert on our phone: “Mandatory evacuation.” Hurricane Michael was gaining strength and time was running out. Needless to say, we evacuated. Sandestin was a few miles west of the eye, which was critical to the destination’s future. Being a few miles east, which was the case for Panama City, there was almost total destruction. (At least 60 deaths and $15 billion in damage.) A few days ago, my crew and I were back to finish our story on Sandestin. And as we made the drive to our next assignment, we felt like we should tour the area, get a sense of the situation and some perspective on life and humanity in the wake of a category 5 hurricane. We were there for a few hours, walking the streets and talking to locals. It was a Monday morning and it was eerie. Not a lot of people to be seen. A select group of trucks and crews hauling piles of priceless belongings, memories and in some cases, places people once called home. “We’re completely crushed,” said Warren, who regretfully endured the storm, and now he’s getting ready to leave town for good. “The place where I work got relocated 10 feet. The whole building,” said Scott, who’s leaving with Warren. “We should’ve evacuated before the storm.” According to all the locals we spoke to, Red Cross has had the most impact, setting up in the middle of the destruction, providing meals, water and essentials, such as diapers for babies. Now it’s locals like Joseph Doll of Uncle Pete’s Caribbean Shack that’s back up and running and feeding people during their work breaks. “I’m a military man and I’ve spent about 900 days in Iraq. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot worse.” Doll was remarkably optimistic and believes there will be a day when Panama City is back and better than ever. But they only get there with a lot of help. To make a donation to the Red Cross, click the link in my bio, or call 850-432-7601, ext. 13. #ginellasjourneys

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There's no doubt that golf will play a part in the community's comeback. An outing at Windswept Dunes Golf Club in Freeport has already raised $20,000 for Hope Panhandle, a non-profit collecting money for hurricane victims.

"It is pretty spectacular the amount of fundraising being done," Mulvey said. "It is a small county with about 150,000 people. A lot of these people lost everything, but they are still helping out. As with a lot of disasters, good can come from it."

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Man, I hate to hear that the Hombre is closed for good. Fun course, tight in spots, and one of the most underrated hot dogs at the turn of anywhere I have played (I think the toasted bun is what made it).

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Golf near Florida's Panama City still on the mend