Dinosaur Fossils and Golf Preserving History and the Land

By Jay FlemmaSeptember 10, 2008, 4:00 pm

fossil trace
An aerial view of No.12 shows the sandstone monuments that pepper the fairway as well as the muscle bunkers.
 
In building Fossil Trace Golf Club, architect Jim Engh had to face incredibly stringent environmental restrictions, four different ecosystems on-site, the looming alternative use plan for the site of a detention center and ' with 64 million year old fossils on the property ' twelve years of battles with archaeologists, environmentalists, nay-sayers and meddlers.
 
The result? One of the best municipal courses in America and a national golf masterpiece the town of Golden now celebrates as a Colorado treasure.
 
Engh's assistance in the recovery, research and preservation of Triceratops, Hadrasaur (a relative of the Velociraptor) and vegetative palm frond fossils is the greatest achievement at Fossil Trace, augmented by the genius in designing a routing of eighteen holes around not only the fossils, but the tricky topography in the rest of the site.
 
The land sits shoe-horned into a mere 130-140 acres within the Golden city limits and Rocky Mountain front range. The course features four completely different environments: open prairie (holes 6-9); an old clay mine (holes 11-15); a wetlands area (holes 1-5); a lowland pond areas (holes 10, and 16-18).
 
The land on which the fossils resided was owned by the Parfet family who had mined clay on the property for five generations. Fossils were known to be there since 1877 when the family began mining, but since the land was private, no amount of public outcry could influence the Parfet's use of the land. Mining went on continuously until 2001, although the family took great care to preserve all the archaeological treasures they found.
 
In 2001 the Parfet family donated to the city of Golden the 52 acres upon which holes 11-15 now sit. The land became public and well organized resistance to building the course erupted.
 
Skeptical that a golf course architect could ever be respectful of the ultra-sensitive environment and claiming that development of Fossil Trace would exploit the precious remnants of history, paleontologists and environmentalists united with a neighboring housing community in a determined effort to convince the Golden city council to scuttle the project.
 
But Engh knew the first duty of a golf architect is to be respectful of both the land and the history of the property and to preserve and promote both at all costs. Turning lemons into lemonade, he convinced the Golden city council, the well-meaning researchers and the fervent environmentalists that golf course architecture is not merely an exercise in land development and money grabbing.
 
To their credit, despite years of fervent battles, the course's opponents proved not merely 'loud for loud's sake' and blindly political to their agenda.
 
Perhaps showing deference to Engh's prior successes at beautifully natural sites like Redlands Mesa and Sanctuary, perhaps heartened that a fellow Coloradan was the architect chosen to promote and protect a state geological marvel and perhaps buoyed by the thought that Engh could work productively with Dr. Martin Lockley from the University of Denver and archaeologist T. Canner on the site, foes became friends and dream ultimately became reality to the golf world's inestimable delight.
 
Fossil Trace contains many of the trademark features Engh's fans have come to embrace. 'Muscle bunkers' (as the Engh design team calls them), i.e. deep, rolling bunkers lined with bumpy hills that resemble a flexed muscular bicep, are turned perpendicular to the line of play, often with their axis pointed directly back down the fairway. They can be as much as ten feet deep.
 
Believing that undulation is the unsung soul of the game, Engh designed greens and fairways surrounded by high, pronounced sidewalls which rebound approaches, chips and even putts back onto the green and closer to hole locations. As a result, there are a lot of muni-friendly good bounces at Fossil Trace.
 
Finally, Engh takes full advantage of the stunning natural settings the site enjoys. Elevated tee boxes showcase stunning panoramas and green backdrops. Native grasses serenely line the edges of the sidewalls adding color and texture to the canvas.
 
Fossil Trace is a triumph on more levels than most golf courses can even imagine. With the forces that conspired to scuttle the effort from its inception, it's a miracle the course exists at all, let alone as the strategic and historic tour de force that into which it has evolved. Although he moved about 400,000 cubic yards of earth ' a goodly amount ' Engh still made the course flow naturally with the landscape. It won second place for best new public course in 2003 and deservedly so. At 6,500 feet above sea level, the 6,400 plus yards play shorter, but still present plenty of challenge. For a muni, it's downright stellar and a steal at $60.
 

Jay Flemma
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.
 
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.