By Ken Mink
PINEVILLE, Ky. – Golf courses across America are subjected to one serious obstacle: Weather.
Mother Nature plays no favorites and on February 6, 2020, she landed a tremendous punch to the gut at the Wasioto Winds golf course at Pine Mountain State Park, unleashing a rainstorm of biblical proportion, dropping some eight inches of rain in less than 24 hours.
The result was transformation of what had been one of the most beautiful golf courses in Kentucky into a virtual sea, more fitting for Noah’s Ark than a stroll through a pleasant green valley. The course is a mostly-level 120-acre links-style layout, but in February it was turned into a big lake covered entirely by about twenty-five feet of water. There was no sign there was ever a magnificent 18-hole golf course in the area.
When the water finally receded, the golf course was left covered entirely by mud ranging from a couple inches to eight feet deep. This was ten times the worst flood devastation they have faced.
But instead of wringing their hands and saying woe-is-us the state parks organization headed up by Green Superintendent, Ronnie Caldwell, immediately went to work, using special machinery to scrape tons of mud off the greens and fairways, washing everything down and recovering about 95 per cent of the Bermuda grass playable areas and bent grass greens. It was like Cinderella had fallen into a mud hole and now she was putting on a beautiful new green party dress.
The recovery was not overnight, but the maintenance crew had the golf course back into playing condition in about three months, reopening on May 15, 2020. “My hat goes off to our Golf Maintenance staff. These nine gentlemen accomplished the work of fifty to sixty men. They put their hearts into the cleanup and recovery and the pride in their work is evident in the end product”, said Donnie Caldwell, PGA.
“We got so much rain, it covered the entire golf course; the Cumberland River overflowed — it shut us down completely as we had roughly 75 acres to 100 acres of mud to remove,” said Donnie Caldwell.
“The hardest part of the cleanup was the elements, you know, as soon as we started work there was more rain and snow and temperatures in the 30s,” said Caldwell.
But the ugly duckling was soon gone, replaced by a lovely swan. Happy days were here again.
This was pretty much of a golf miracle and the course certainly deserves the Comeback of the Year Award.
When the course first opened in 2003 it was rated fourth among Best New Affordable Public Golf Courses in January 2003 issue of Golf Digest. The $10 million dollar Michael Hurdzan-designed golf course is “a difficult course but friendly to the high handicapper.”
Visitors will be captivated by the natural beauty of the course. It occupies an undulating valley crisscrossed by a beautiful meandering stream and guarded by majestic mountains. Native rhododendrons and hemlocks ornament the course and make the natural surroundings part of the golfer’s experience. Wasioto (which is Native American Indian for “Valley of the deer.”) includes five par 3 holes and five par 5s, offering lots of scoring opportunities.
True to its links nature, the course is relatively flat, with water coming into play 0n 13 holes from three lakes, a creek and several wetlands areas. Six arching bridges span the water throughout the course. Other course features include wide cart paths, a practice range, and a practice putting green.
A golf scorecard provides distances from various positions on each tee. Five sets of tees let golfers play from five locations, ranging from 7,037 to 4,058 yards (par 72).
The course has a spacious clubhouse, with several large decks providing great views of much of the course. Great place for lunch or a rest stop snack.
Course awards include 2008-09 4-Stars Golf Digest “Best Places to Play, 2007 #3 Golf Week “Best in State,”2002 “Best New Affordable Public Courses”, and ranked #4 Nationally by Golf Digest Magazine.
Pineville is easy to get to, located in Southeastern Kentucky near the Tennessee border, just off U. S. Highway 25E (Highway 190) about halfway between Knoxville and Lexington.
For more information about Wasioto Winds and the Kentucky state parks: (800) 814-8002 Web site Kentucky State Parks, Wasioto Winds.
Contact Pine Mountain’s pro shop at 800-814-8002.