Deep into January’s frigid weather, all’s quiet on the 12th green at the Kansas City Country Club’s golf course in Mission Hills.
Then there was last summer. The golf fans were just too much for Gary Mathews, whose backyard overlooks the 12th green.
“I’ve lived right on the 12th green for 27 years, and they’ve never had ... a fan until this last summer,” Mathews complained. “They’re horribly loud. They’re like living next to an airport.”
And they’re facing a trial date this summer.
These fans were not cheering onlookers. Mathews sued to stop the big rotating blades powered by electric motors and gasoline engines at many of the course’s manicured greens.
Kansas City Country Club uses them — on the advice of the United States Golf Association — to fight fungus and otherwise maintain those putting surfaces during the hot, muggy months of the year.
“Airport” may exaggerate the extent of the noise, at least according to decibel readings presented by the course’s groundskeeper and cited in Mathews’ filings in Johnson County District Court.
The groundskeeper, Mathews’ filing said, claimed the gas-powered fans hit 77 decibels from 50 feet and the electric fans 60 decibels.
It’s a dramatic difference, with 70 decibels being twice as loud as 60. An equivalent noise for the gasoline-powered fan would be standing 50 feet from a highway at 10 a.m., according to figures cited by Purdue University. The electric fans are closer to the noise levels from restaurant conversations.
In its answer, the country club notes that these noises are not enough to silence the fans based on legal tests that court rulings from other noise disputes have provided.
“While Mr. Mathews might think that sound is annoying, the alleged interference with his use of his property is not both substantial and unreasonable,” the club’s reply in the lawsuit said.
The club runs the fans between the first week of June and Labor Day and then “only on days when it is anticipated that ground temperatures will exceed 80 degrees, the air temperature will exceed 85 degrees or there is an excessive amount of moisture,” its filing said.
Fans have been suggested by the USGA as a way to improve conditions of greens, especially in “pocketed” areas, but the group also has acknowledged that the noise can be a nuisance to some golfers.
The Kansas City Country Club’s filing said its fans run only from sunup to sunset, per Mission Hills’ noise ordinance.
And, it continues, the club plans to get a city permit to run permanent electrical power to the 12th green and replace the noisier gasoline-powered portable fan with a quieter electric one. It already has electric fans at 16 of its greens.
“Since the electric fans are quieter than the mobile gas-powered fan, when the new electric fan is installed on #12 green its sound will certainly have less effect on plaintiff (Mathews) and may not even be heard from his deck or travel inside his home,” the filing said.
The Kansas City Country Club tried previously to install an electric fan on No. 12, but Mathews and others fought its pursuit of permits at the city’s Architectural Review Board, and the club pulled its request, according to Mathews’ filings.
In those proceedings, according to Mathews’ filing, one resident described the situation as like having a diesel truck in the driveway, and another who works often at night said it disrupted daytime sleep. One resident said the noise “causes mental stress and frustration and impairs the use of his property.”
Trial is set for June 18, and the residents have hired their own acoustics expert.