Golf Course Management

DEC 2018

Golf Course Management magazine is dedicated to advancing the golf course superintendent profession and helping GCSAA members achieve career success.

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Page 35 of 101

32 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 12.18 e City and County of Denver's seven municipal golf courses encompass approxi - mately 1,000 acres, with a rich golf history dating back as far as 1895. One such notable course in Denver's portfolio is Wellshire Golf Course, where golf legend Ben Hogan won the 1948 Denver Open. Not much of Wellshire's layout has changed since the original 1926 Donald Ross design, and it is a highly sought-after public course, hosting as many as 350 rounds per day. Along with the other Denver golf courses, Wellshire has made great strides to maintain this high volume of play with an eye toward sustainability and has been an Audubon Cer - tified Cooperative Sanctuary since 2012. Wellshire superintendent Scott Ellis has a saying: "Don't just think outside the box. Break the box!" Ellis, a GCSAA Class A su - perintendent and 23-year association member, recently led the course through an irrigation renovation and into the books as Denver's first HDPE Toro decoder system, with 30 percent annual energy savings. Ellis continues to im - prove water efficiencies and is one of the most water-wise superintendents in the region. He has been known to say, "If we can save water, why can't we save the planet?" With this in mind, Ellis and golf horticulturist John Swain embarked on a journey to push the boundaries of conventional sustainability. Beginning with honeybee hives and pollinator gardens, the pair applied their talents to food-crop produc - tion with Denver Golf 's first pumpkin patch. Wellshire's parkland style of golf does not lend itself to promoting vast amounts of natu - ral areas and has about 10 acres set aside for conservation. A half-acre of this space caught Ellis' attention as a perfect area to convert to a garden. In 2017, Ellis established a pump - kin patch in the area. Proceeds from the sale of pumpkins that year went to e First Tee of Denver. While an errant golf shot into the patch might be unplayable, the patch is viewed as an enhancement to the course rather than a hazard. In 2018, Swain diversified the patch with a variety of pumpkins and wildflowers. Grow - ing organic pumpkins is certainly not low- maintenance. Swain and his assistant Tom Emory devoted long hours to hand-weeding and straw-mulching the patch. Swain has transitioned other Denver Golf landscapes from purely aesthetic plant materials into veg - etable gardens. Approximately 500 pounds of organic vegetables from the Harvard Gulch Golf Course garden are donated annually to a local nonprofit restaurant providing free and reduced-cost meals. anks to Swain's horti - cultural expertise, this landscape is as beauti- ful as it is delicious. Fall of 2018 marked a milestone for the Wellshire pumpkin patch, with a yield of more than 300 pumpkins — pie, jack-o'-lan - tern, giant and a ghostly blue variety. In the past, Wellshire has donated its pumpkins di - rectly to Denver recreation centers. is year, Wellshire partnered with My Denver — a taxpayer-supported program hat provides free access for kids ages 5-18 to Denver's recre - ation centers, pools and cultural facilities — to bring the kids to the pumpkins. Golf staff staged the pumpkins throughout the conser - vation area surrounding the junior course (the pumpkin patch was still too deep for children Denver golf: growing community through gardens (environment) Pamela C. Smith, CGCS Denver Golf horticulturist John Swain (left) and Wellshire Golf Course superintendent Scott Ellis show off some of the spoils of the course's pumpkin patch. Ellis, a GCSAA Class A superintendent, is a 23-year association member. Photo by Tanner Gibas to navigate). e youngsters ventured into the tall grass to hunt, pick and take home any pumpkin they could carry. Many of these kids might not otherwise have had an opportunity to pick a pumpkin from a field. On that day … at a golf course … in the heart of the city … they were able to experience a fall pumpkin harvest. e First Tee of Denver supported the event by providing the young visitors an in - troduction to golf at the junior course. Ad- ditional pumpkins were shared with Denver recreation centers, and extras were placed for sale at the Denver courses. Funds will chan - nel back into the golf environmental programs so that Ellis and Swain can grow their project and reach more children. A few of the pump - kins met a different fate, as Ellis turns them into delicious pies for his staff to enjoy. It is critical that metropolitan areas like Denver diversify green space and lend their ex - perts from all disciplines to share the art and science of agriculture with future generations. Just as conservation areas can be carved out of a golf course, small experiential gardens can be set aside for little hands to get dirty and young minds to grow. Superintendents and horticulturists like Ellis and Swain can apply their skills in unconventional ways and make a difference in their community and in the en - vironment. Pamela C. Smith, CGCS, is an attorney and director of agronomy for a large city. She is a 27-year member of GCSAA.

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