Glenwood Springs’ hilly golf history
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. According to records from the Frontier Historical Museum, it was October of 1927 when Dr. Frank Margetts came to Glenwood Springs to present a lecture at the Presbyterian Church on Cooper Avenue. His topic had nothing to do with religion, though. Instead, Margetts spoke about the health benefits derived from playing the game of golf. Not only was it beneficial to be out in the fresh air and sunshine, but according to the doctor, “Golf, in a peculiarly profitable way, exercises the discs between the vertebrae of the spine and the swing of the club gives flexibility to the muscles of the back.” Margetts also noted that, “Exercising produces perspiration, which eliminates poisons from the body.”The game of golf was introduced to Glenwood in the late 1890s by Hotel Colorado manager E.A. Thayer who was searching for additional recreation opportunities for his guests.The hotel’s recreational center was located just south of the city limits, directly across Grand Avenue from where Sayre Park is today.
By 1906, the center offered lawn tennis, polo, croquet, and horseback riding as well as a popular nine-hole golfing links known as the Polo Grounds.The multi-faceted facility thrived until the early 1950s when the development of the South Park Subdivision turned the original golf course into housing.With the game having developed a passionate following in the area, but with no course to play on, a group of locals led by real estate agent Pat Bell, Alex Benzel, C.W. “Doc” McFadden, and Kohler McGinnis decided to purchase a parcel of land in West Glenwood, which was the site of the Rakich family ranch. These investors then sold 50 original land memberships at $500 apiece, and when architect Henry Hughes put the final touches to the nine-hole design, work began on Glenwood’s new course.”It was a community effort getting the new course going,” said John Benzel who served as head golf professional from 1967-1986 at the course popularly known as “The Hill.”With the newly acquired land nowhere near resembling a golf course and a tight budget to work with, many of the original members found themselves on tractors moving dirt, setting pipes for irrigation purposes, and removing rocks from would-be fairways.Jere (Bell) Bolitho and her husband Bill recall the course members getting together and having “rock parties,” where they would spend an entire afternoon putting rocks into buckets and toting them off the course.
“No. 5 fairway especially was so rocky, you were allowed to tee your ball up right in the middle of it,” recalls Jere.Many of the trees that now line the fairways were donated to the course by the Colorado State University agriculture office and planted as seedlings by Bill Bolitho and Bill Crutcher.,Maybe the biggest obstacle the new course faced was getting enough irrigation water from Oasis Creek to get the grass to grow in sufficiently. This problem was alleviated in the mid-seventies when Dick Gilstrap donated water rights from the Mitchell Creek Ditch to the golf course.With water now readily available and course superintendent Hank Snook driving his pickup truck to and from Silt each day to bring back horse manure to cover the fairways and greens, things began to resemble the well-manicured layout golfers enjoy today.Design-wise, the Glenwood Golf Course has remained relatively unchanged through the years, providing a challenge for golfers of all abilities yet being user friendly enough to attract families and those just taking up the sport.
According to current pro Greg Gortsema and superintendent Jim Richmond, the course’s focus is on the public. “We try to keep our operational costs low so that we can keep things affordable for the golfers,” said Richmond, whose course was voted the best nine-hole course in the state by Colorado Golfer Magazine in 2001.The Hill also hosts its share of summer tournaments for those who are more competitive in nature. July’s Glenwood Open draws golfers from throughout the state, and the Soda Pop Open in early August has been a longtime tradition for area junior golfers.The course also provides sponsorship for the Glenwood High School boys and girls golf teams, as well as hosting high school tournaments during the golf season, keeping in tune with the community-first theme.So whether you are a beginner just learning the basics of the game, or a seasoned veteran wanting to challenge the course record, the quaint course in West Glenwood puts to rest Mark Twain’s notion that golf is ‘A good walk spoiled.’And if he were alive today, wouldn’t Dr. Margetts be pleased with all of the exercise and fresh air being taken in on the Glenwood Springs golf course?
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The Rifle and Glenwood Springs girls tangled on Tuesday night at Glenwood’s Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium in a 4A Western Slope League contest that carried major implications in the conference standings.