When Golf Course Architect Charles Maddox designed the Aberdeen, S.D. course in the 1960s, he built a dike system that’s still working today—keeping the layout and neighboring Prairiewood subdivision dry while nearby areas are under water.
Surrounded by floodwaters, the golf course at Moccasin Creek Country Club and homes within the Prairiewood subdivision of Aberdeen, S.D. remain unscathed thanks to a half-century-old dike system, the Aberdeen News reported.
Dean Zahn, Moccasin Creek head golf professional, surmised that if the course were designed without the dike system, the homes and course would be underwater—just like the land surrounding the course and subdivision, according to the News report.
“In 1969 they started building the golf course and obviously Moccasin Creek ran though here,” Zahn said. “During that time they were having a 100-year flood event. From what I’ve heard, they had as much as 3 feet of water over the entire property all summer. They couldn’t do any work. So how are you going to sell a golf course and housing when the whole piece of property is flooded? The designer of the course, Charles Maddox, out of Chicago—he’s done courses all over and was pretty well known at this time. He said ‘Hey I’ve built golf courses in New Orleans below sea level, you just got to build a dike system to control the flow of water.’ And that’s what they did,” Zahn said.
Zahn said that during flood events, the water comes in on the north side of the golf course property through two different channels before passing over an adjacent road, just as Maddox designed, the News reported. But the system has required collaboration with the Brown County Highway Department over the years to ensure everything goes according to plan.
“Well, throughout the years, when the golf course was originally built, [the adjacent road] was a dirt road,” Zahn said. “Over the years that road has gotten paved and it got higher and higher. In 1997, the big issue was when the water got to that point it was like a giant dam. It can only go through that culvert so fast. It was at the verge of going over the dike system or going over that road,” he told the News, adding that, due to the increased elevation of the road, flood waters did cause some damage to properties.
That’s when course superintendent Ross Santjer was hired and tasked to get the dike system back to its original condition, according to the News report.
“I was hired in August of 1997, and my job was to make sure the dike system was put back to its original intent,” Santjer said.
Santjer told the News that some areas of the course had to be built back up to their original height. He marveled at Maddox’s design plans, which has proven to be solid through the decades.
“The pretty amazing part is they didn’t really change the lay of the golf course, they built it within the original, existing plan for the course,” Santjer said.
The design has also saved Santjer the hassle of having to deal with a flooded course, which would likely have delayed the course’s spring opening date, according to the News report.
“The whole property would have water on it. If you drive north and look at the fields up north of us, we’d be underwater just like them,” Santjer said, noting that he expects the course to be open and ready for play within the next couple weeks.
But the high levels of water rushing through the system did briefly concern Santjer earlier this month, the News reported.
“The night before it happened I was asked whether it would stay within the dike system,” Santjer recalled. “We have a lot of cart paths that are under water, but the next day at 10 a.m., the water was one foot from going over our dike. It rose so quickly and came so fast that I was concerned that the water would come through the dike, so I was worried then. But that didn’t happen.”
Santjer pointed out a couple golf cart crossings that needed to be sandbagged, though none were serious, the News reported.
Zahn has the utmost confidence in Maddox’s design, telling the News, “This isn’t the first time the dike has been tested. In 2009 and 2010 it was pretty high. And it’s always done what it was designed to do.”