Post-Hurricane Ian Restorations Nearly Complete

The aqua range at Heritage Oaks Golf & Country Club in Sarasota, Fla., shortly after Hurricane Ian struck last fall (top), and nearly five months later in February 2023 (below)

By Dave Allen

On September 28th of last year, Hurricane Ian made landfall just northwest of Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach, Fla., as a high-end Category 4 storm, packing winds up to 160 miles per hour. Within 48 hours, Aqua Greens’ owner Matt Gault’s cell phone was ringing constantly. Gault didn’t need to see the area code to know where the calls were coming from.

Since purchasing the company in 2002 from his brother-in-law, Jason Beane, Aqua Greens has built and installed more than 50 aqua ranges in the region. Gault knew that the floating target greens he constructed, despite weighing between 1,000 and 3,000 pounds apiece, were no match for Ian, the fifth-strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States.

“These things are built really well and they can take an incredible beating,” said Gault shortly after Ian’s historic landfall. “To think there’s a wind strong enough to tear them apart is really humbling.”

Three weeks after Ian, Gault and his team visited nearly 30 aqua ranges in Southwest Florida, from Naples to Sarasota, to assess the damage Ian left behind. He found pieces of his greens everywhere. Some greens had been torn apart, others were floating upside down in the water or beached along the shoreline (see photo above, from Heritage Oaks G&CC in Sarasota, Fla.), often missing pieces of the large floatation underneath.

In January, they made a second trip to the region to repair those aqua ranges that could be saved. They visited about a dozen sites, flipping over greens, welding sections of green back together, replacing and re-attaching anchors snapped off by the high winds, and towing greens back to their original place.

A month later, they returned, this time visiting five aqua ranges that were total losses. One of those locations was Legends Golf & Country Club, just to the east of Fort Myers Beach and U.S. Highway 41. The original aqua range was installed back in 1999, and had survived three previous major hurricanes to make landfall in Southwest Florida—hurricanes Charley (2004), Wilma (2005) and Irma (2017). Legends G&CC was far enough inland to avoid the catastrophic storm surge and water damage that occurred along the coast, but they still got pummeled by 100-plus mph winds for hours. The four 10-foot-circle target greens in their aqua range were battered around so much that the anchors snapped and greens were tossed ashore. All of the birdwire had been blown off, too.

“They couldn’t withstand the wind because of how old they were,” says Ben Pittman, the Head Golf Professional at Legends. “They were really due to get some repairs done anyways, so it was a no-brainer to have them replaced.”

On the evening of Feb. 23rd, Matt and his team arrived and four newly built target greens were unloaded off the truck and moved to the banks of the aqua range for prepping. The next day they were floated out to their previous locations—approximately 85, 110, 140 and 185 yards from the tee line—and anchored in place.

Legends Golf & Country Club is a bundled community with approximately 840 golf members. They do about 55,000 rounds of golf per year. Understandably, the members were longing to get their target greens back. For four-and-a-half months, they had nothing to aim at besides a water fountain.

“People kept asking me, ‘What’s the story with the greens? Are we replacing them or are we floating them out them back out there? What are we doing?’ ” said Pittman. “I was like, ‘Be patient. We’ve got one guy who basically does all of the aqua ranges in Southwest Florida. He’s building the replacements and he’ll get here as soon as he can.’ ”

Another one of the complete restorations Gault and his team did was for Lexington Country Club, also in Fort Myers. While just a few miles west of Legends, Lexington backs up to the bay that surrounds Fort Myers Beach, and the course took on as much as 12 feet of storm surge from Ian. All that water charged in and displaced the water from the aqua range, pushing some of the greens several hundred yards away. The Lexington community had to dip into their reserve funds to finance the new target greens, which included three 10-foot circles, two eight-foot circles and two five-foot circles.

“Once we rounded up all of those greens, it was obvious it wasn’t worth spending thousands of dollars to repair them,” said Joe Burden, Lexington CC’s General Manager and COO, also noting that the original greens were about 20 years old.

More than half of the nearly 1,500 homes in the community were impacted by the flood waters, Burden said. Some of the ground floor units had as much as five feet of water in them, forcing many of the homeowners out so the drywall, cabinets and floors could be replaced. During the height of the storm, cars were floating down the road because the surge was so strong. More than 350 automobiles had to be towed off the property.

Life still isn’t quite back to normal for the Lexington community, said Burden. Many of the flooded homes are still being repaired, and due to the course being closed for more than a month after Ian for cleanup (many of the ponds had to be replenished with reclaimed water after being inundated by so much salt water), normal in-season rounds are down about 15 percent, from an average of 300 to 325 rounds per day to 240 per day.

But thanks to Gault and his team and their tireless efforts to repair and replace Lexington’s target greens and hundreds of others in the region, they have their aqua range back again.

“For those that are here, they want to get out and golf,” said Burden. “It’s four hours that they don’t have to think about the hurricane.”    

Gault and his team aren’t done yet. They have a fourth trip to Southwest Florida scheduled for June to finish a complete renovation of the aqua range at Heritage Palms Golf & Country Club, also in Fort Myers. Among the hardware they have to replace are three 10’ x 15’ ovals and three 16’ x 24’ kidney-shaped target greens. That’s a lot of welding. Aqua Greens is also currently in the process of building customized island greens for the LPGA Tour’s Chevron Championship, a Vermont Airbnb and an Indianapolis lakefront office park and entertainment venue. Aqua Greens is building all of these greens outdoors in Vermont while their main indoor production facility is under renovation.

“It has been extremely busy and stressful here for the last five months,” said Gault. “It’s difficult to build aluminum frames outdoors, especially during the winter months in Vermont. But fortunately, we were in a position to help many of our clients in Southwest Florida very quickly. We recognized the importance of keeping those aqua ranges open and getting them operating again as quickly as possible, and worked as fast as we could to bring some semblance of normalcy back to those clubs.”

For more information about Aqua Greens and its custom-designed target and island greens, and how to add one or more to your waterfront property, visit Aqua Greens also has greens available for rent. For more details, please call 800-884-4882 or email