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.
 
Related Links:

  • Find Tee Times
  • All Courses & Travel
  • Find Golf Packages
  • Getty Images

    Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer

    By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 7:04 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.

    Bernhard Langer did not.

    The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.

    "You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."

    Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.

    "I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."

    Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.

    As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.

    "I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."

    Getty Images

    Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.

    Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.

    Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    “It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”

    Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.

    “To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”

    Getty Images

    Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open

    By Mercer BaggsJuly 20, 2018, 6:39 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.

    Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.

    Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.

    Getty Images

    Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 4:50 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.

    The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.

    The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.


    Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.

    After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.

    “I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”