A hot tub on Sanibel's The Dunes 18th green? Thanks Ian

Mark H. Bickel
Fort Myers News-Press

Mike Dopslaff visited the golf course he operates on Sanibel on Wednesday. It was the first time he'd been there since Hurricane Ian pummeled the island on Sept. 28.

He was straightforward when asked about what he witnessed.

"Well, the island is still there ... a lot of homes are still standing," Dopslaff said. "In our case, we took a pretty devastating hit."

A hot tub ended up on the 18th green at The Dunes on Sanibel Island.

Sanibel is the home of The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club at The Inns of Sanibel. Dopslaff, a Bonita Springs resident, has served as the PGA head professional there for two years. He and his staff have a lot of work ahead of them.

The list is long and includes everything from replacing a damaged fleet of golf carts to understanding what the long-term impact is from the surge of salt water that covered the greens and Bermuda grass fairways.

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There's a good chance it will all need to be replaced.

Damage assessments ongoing

Assessments of the damage will be ongoing, Dopslaff said. He and other members of The Dunes will be returning, by boat, to Sanibel on Friday. There is no access to the island by car or truck after Ian caused five breaches to the Sanibel Causeway.

"Some of our members have docks behind homes and we walked to the club," said Dopslaff, who is 62. "Ten of us were walking down the street carrying supplies. We just wanted to get a look at what we need to do."

Golf clubs and bags are strewn about in a storage room at The Dunes Golf Club on Sanibel Island.

Besides the potential saltwater damage to the grass, Dopslaff said there are numerous "big beautiful" trees that have been uprooted, similar to what happened during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Clubhouse, pro shop still stand

The clubhouse still stands.

"To the extent there are walls and a roof still there. We will start tearing out carpet tomorrow," he said.

The pro shop is located on the south side of the clubhouse and is where the storm came in from. About eight inches of water came inside.

"And would you believe not a shirt was knocked off of a hanger," Dopslaff said. "We have some total losses and nice surprises. Our pavilion is still standing."

Dopslaff said there are approximately 400 members (about 200 play golf) at The Dunes, which also has tennis courts and a swimming pool. The par-70 golf course is 18 holes and measures 5,600 yards from the back tees.

The Dunes is located on the northeast side of the island and strangely enough, based on Ian's path this was good news. The damage could have been worse.

The Dunes is one of three golf courses on Sanibel. The Sanibel Island Golf Club and The Sanctuary are the others. Dopslaff has not heard about the damage to those courses.

Eyes on recovery

Dopslaff understands golf is not something many people are thinking about right now. He said he and his staff and The Dunes organization is committed to helping the island recover as quickly as possible.

"My heart goes out to the residents out there," he said. "Businesses we rebuild but there are full-time residents with no place to live."

When the day comes that Sanibel is returned to its pre-Ian state, if that is even possible, Dopslaff is looking forward to that day and especially the good feelings it will bring to him and countless others.

"Once the shock wears off, and the inspiration I will get from bringing it back and overcoming the challenges ... it will feel good when we open the doors and have someone teeing off that first tee again," he said.