The large and strong typhoon No. 19 hit the Kanto region on the night of Saturday, October 12. Record-breaking heavy rain fell over a wide area from the Tokai region to the Tohoku region, causing major damage on the archipelago, including landslides and flooding of rivers.
There was also flooding and landslides in many places throughout Daihakone Country Club, the venue for the CAT Ladies Tournament. The Hayakawa River, which runs through the course, overflowed its banks. As the rain continued to fall in the surrounding mountains, it became a torrent that ran through the valley, rushed onto the course, and damaged some of the turf.
Rain gauges installed on the golf course indicated that rainfall on the 12th reached 892.5 mm. According to a survey by the Japan Meteorological Agency, the precipitation in Hakone on the same day reached 922.5 mm, the greatest amount on record and breaking the previous record by a significant margin. Since the average annual rainfall in Hakone is 3538.5 mm, one-fourth of the annual precipitation fell on this single day.
"A downpour of about 80 mm of rain per hour started on the afternoon of the 12th, and continued for several hours," recalls Tomomi Sakiyama, Greenkeeper and Chief Course Manager at Daihakone Country Club. "Low-lying areas became submerged in an instant, and turned into ponds that reached our waists."
Mr. Sakiyama has managed the golf courses at Daihakone Country Club for more than 30 years, but he says this is the first time he had ever witnessed such a scene.
Recovery work and normal course management work every day
October to November is a busy tourist season with many beautiful autumn leaves in Hakone. The golf courses are crowded with players, and everywhere is booked with reservations on the weekends.
Daihakone Country Club wanted to reopen as soon as possible, both for the golfers who had made reservation and to contribute to recovery for the town of Hakone.
However, when Mr. Sakiyama inspected the course after the typhoon passed, he first realized the full extent of the damage caused by the fury of nature. (See image.)
"My mind just went blank. I couldn't think of anything." The greenkeeper was at a complete loss.
Although preparations for recovery work started immediately, there were only so many people and they had limited access to heavy machinery. And of course, they could not ask others in the area for assistance. Everyone else nearby was also struggling with the same limited resources.
And yet, the front nine were opened four days later on October 16. They welcomed players, and had them play holes 1 through 9 twice.
However, once they re-opened for business, they had to struggle with landslides on the back nine while still taking care of daily maintenance such as mowing on the front nine.
This difficult work continued for many days.
And then, two weeks later on the 26th, the back nine were finally re-opened.
However, the damage left behind by the heavy rain and landslides is still visible in various locations throughout the course. Complete and total restoration simply was not possible.
Every year, this is an important time of preparation for the renewal work that will be performed on the greens in the spring. There is a lot of management work to be completed before winter sets in, so only so much time and manpower can be devoted to restoration work.
Mr. Sakiyama wished desperately for "a larger staff and more heavy equipment."
Emergency transport of hydraulic excavators from Niigata
Caterpillar Japan contacted Mr. Sakiyama as soon as they heard about his struggle.
Once the company confirmed the situation at Daihakone Country Club and what heavy machinery would be useful to them, they searched for heavy machinery in the Kanto area that could be sent there.
However, more than two weeks after the disaster, there was still no heavy equipment nearby that was available to send.
Finally, they found a 308SR hydraulic excavator that was reserved for development work in Niigata.
Although Niigata is very far away, Caterpillar Japan did not hesitate, because they knew what difficulty the golf course was facing. They arranged to have the excavator transported as quickly as possible.
In early November, the long-awaited 308SR hydraulic excavator was delivered to Mr. Sakiyama.
"I was so grateful, because it improved our work efficiency dramatically," says Mr. Sakiyama.
During the off-season, about four of the 11 members of the management staff are normally dispatched to another golf course of the same group. However, this winter they will all stay at Daihakone Country Club, where seven will focus on normal maintenance while the remaining four will be busy with restoration work.
"Thanks to the 308SR on loan from CAT, the restoration work is likely to be completed by March, when the turf update work begins," Mr. Sakiyama says with a smile.
The original idea behind the Cat Ladies Tournament was to promote the local community.
Any delay in the restoration of Daihakone Country Club could cast a dark shadow not only on the golf course and the CAT Ladies Tournament in August, but also for contribution to and promotion of restoration in the town of Hakone.
Therefore, Caterpillar Japan is happy and very proud to have made a big contribution to this restoration by responding to Mr. Sakiyama's request, and arranging the urgent transport of heavy equipment.