Volcano Golf & Country Club narrowly avoids lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island

Volcano Golf & Country Club narrowly avoids lava flow on Hawaii’s Big Island

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Manfred Koh

Given the news out of Hawaii in recent days, the name alone was cause for worry: Volcano Golf & Country Club, on the eastern side of the Big Island, just miles from where molten orange rivers have been consuming homes, forcing more than 1,700 residents to flee.

Might the course be under threat from the catastrophic lava flow?

“Nope, we’re fine,” Sanae Gathwright, vice president of golf course operations, said Monday afternoon. She was speaking on the phone from the pro shop, about 20 miles from the danger zone.

That danger first raised its fiery head on Thursday, when Kilauea volcano, one of five volcanoes on the island, began to cough and spasm, sending lava skyward and spilling down its slopes. Though no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, dozens of homes and buildings have been destroyed.

True to its name, Volcano Golf & Country Club, an 18-hole facility built in 1921, is located within Volcanoes National Park. But its tees and greens lie safely to the north of this latest eruption, which is spewing from a vent in the Pu’o O’o cone, one of Kilauea’s volatile craters.

No golf courses lie in the current lava flow.

Which isn’t to say the island’s layouts aren’t susceptible to nature’s fury. Volcano G&CC is located less than two miles from another of Kilauea’s craters, on the volcano’s summit, which, when it erupted in 2008, forced an evacuation of the golf course. No one was injured in that event and the course wasn’t damaged, Gathwright said.

Currently, Gathwright said, the summit crater is “only smoking, not erupting,” so she and her staff have been staying put. But she’s on alert for messages from Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency, which she said would let her know if the situation changed.

“If something happens, we’ll be out of here in minutes,” Gathwright said. “Believe me, I won’t be picking up the phone.”