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Too much to contain

Bruce Ruppert, left, greenskeeper, and Todd Lee, club professional, are well known to Minot and area golfers. Both were working for the Minot Country Club during the historic 2011 flood and are now fixtures at the Vardon Golf Club at the same location. Kim Fundingsland/MDN

After several weeks of raising dikes and filling sandbags, the water of the Souris River finally became too much to contain. It overflowed barriers designed to protect the Minot Country Club, carrying muddy water into the picturesque clubhouse and inundating the course that was christened in 1929. The day was June 23, 2011.

Located west of Minot and situated along the Souris River, the Country Club essentially experienced what the entire Souris River Valley would soon know all too well – there was no stopping the rising water of the Souris River.

The Souris overtopped dikes covered with Visqueen. There was simply too much water. Exhausted workers and tired volunteers could only watch as weeks of shoring up defenses against a possible flood gave way to the rising water.

The club’s tennis courts, located in a low area, went under water quickly. So too did the outdoor swimming pool and lounge area. Muddy water snaked its way onto the green course, traversing through the low areas. It took only a few hours for greens and fairways and tee boxes to disappear under the brown onslaught that was soon to ravage the heart of the City of Minot. It was the sad beginning of the historic flood of 2011.

Homes and businesses were flooded all along the path of the Souris, the single costliest event in the history of the valley. While the flooding of a golf layout takes a back seat to hundreds of personal tragedies brought on by the flood, it nevertheless provides a snapshot of the impact of such a major event.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN The clubhouse, including the formal dining area, was completely ravaged from flood waters in 2011. Damage was so severe that the building was razed.

“In May we kind of thought we had it beat,” said Todd Lee, club professional. “Still, I remember the back four or five holes when the water was so high we couldn’t have any golf carts back there. Then, the day that it broke over, it was the nicest day we had all summer. It was 75 degrees and the water was running through our parking lot.”

The greenskeeper at the club, Bruce Ruppert, had spent countless hours trying to protect the course from flooding. On June 23, 2011, he knew there was little more that could be done.

“Absolutely I knew it was trouble,” recalled Ruppert. “I was standing in the parking lot and the water was creeping over the top of a temporary dike that was built. I don’t want to go through it again.”

“I think on a Tuesday we were told we had to be evacuated at noon the next day,” said Lee. “I thought we’d maybe get five or six inches of water in the pro shop and a foot or so in the clubhouse which is a little lower. Then we went from getting six inches to five feet.”

Lee had removed some merchandise from the pro shop, but not all. Some items were moved to countertop height, a level that was reached with ease as floodwaters continued to pour in. At the nearby clubhouse the current was so strong that tables and chairs were swept around the room. Even a piano was overturned.

Kim Fundingsland/MDN When water began flowing over the dikes and onto the manicured grass of the Minot Country Club it became very apparent that the flood of 2011 would be unlike any other in the history of the Souris River.

The large windows that offered a view of the course was plastered with mud and debris. Some windows broke due to the pressure. The extent of the damage to the buildings at the Country Club was enormous, and similar to what had happened to countless structures throughout the river valley.

“I was just a disaster area,” recalled Lee. “Personally, I was fortunate my house wasn’t involved. I was living on North Hill.”

Thousands of people were not so lucky. Many had both homes and businesses flooded. And, after the water began to recede came the lengthy and seemingly impossible job of cleaning up and rebuilding.

“I remember walking around after the water went down,” said Lee. “Once it got inside the dike system you had to pump it back out. What was left underneath wasn’t real pretty.”

“We had moved most of the golf carts and equipment out of the way,” added Ruppert. “But some of the stuff we didn’t get out.”

With the clubhouse destroyed, the pro shop soaked, and the entire course covered in mud and silt, everyone knew it would take a massive rebuilding effort to get the course playable again. Members of the Country Club eventually decided to vacate the property and a build another course.

In time, new owners purchased the flooded property. Lee and Ruppert joined them.

“We had a couple of rough years but stayed in contact with the new owners and was thrilled to be back,” said Lee. “I never imagined the flood could happen like it did.”

Ruppert was called upon to oversee the rebuilding of the course.

“It took a lot of work to even start rebuilding, with all the trees and stuff,” remarked Ruppert. “Not too many courses get to rebuild either.”

The rebuilding included removal of 700 or more trees, some that were aging and others that were dead or dying, many due to flooding. A new grass mixture was seeded on the fairways, and a new irrigation system was installed.

“That was a big and expensive project,” said Ruppert. “The irrigation system was brand new in 2012, all new pipes and watering heads and control system.”

In addition all of the greens were redone. The clubhouse was razed and the pro shop renovated and expanded to include a new restaurant. The course had a new name too, the Vardon Club, and opened for play on Aug. 4, 2013.

“We’ve been growing every year with membership and the number of rounds played,” said Lee. “We’re open to the public.”

The Vardon Golf Club is located at 7101 County Road 15 West, Minot.

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