I don't remember what I scored the first time I played City Park Golf Course some two years ago. But I do remember looking west from the front nine and seeing my first clear view of Denver's skyline. The unexpected sight caught me by surprise, and would wind up being infinitely more memorable than the sad number at the end of my score card that day.
The course is neither the city's prettiest nor the most accommodating. The clubhouse is only accessible from holes one and eighteen, and the driving range doesn't allow drivers. But like an old, comfortable sweater, it has become my go-to course.
Starting today, November 1, City Park Golf Course will be closed for two years to accommodate a stormwater detention area that the city says will mitigate heavy rainfall from surrounding neighborhoods into the South Platte River. Opponents are adamant that the Platte to Park Hill plan is connected to the ever-controversial Interstate 70 reconstruction and that the large project violates the city's rules about park usage (last week a judge ruled against plaintiffs in a lawsuit that argued the latter).
Until City Park reopens, I'll carry on, find a different go-to course, but it won't keep me from playing a game I learned to love some fifteen years ago.
My turn at high school athlete was fraught with failure. My tenure as first baseman on the JV softball team lasted about ten minutes (maybe it's my imagination, but I think that my coach laughed at me at one point), and my knobby knees couldn't handle the constant pounding of my too-large feet on the basketball court. Even more masochistic, that all came after years of painful rejection on the dodgeball court and kickball field in elementary and middle school. I wasn't just picked last. Sometimes I wasn't picked at all.
But I still kept trying to play sports. After aching knees forced me out of high-impact athletics, I threw all dignity out the window and picked up the nerdiest sport on the planet. My junior year of high school, I became a golfer.
After years of being berated by coaches, being told I wasn't fast enough or strong enough, a balding, middle-aged, foul-mouthed smoker named Adrian changed everything for me. Sometimes when I picked up a club, I'd hear his raspy voice that carried across at least nine holes, yelling that I was a "fuckin' natural." Admittedly, those kind of comments were rare; he mostly laughed when I missed balls and taunted my short game. But he was the first coach I ever had who cared enough to help me fix my mistakes.
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I love golf to this day. I love that, no matter the course, every clubhouse feels like it's stuck in 1985. I love the "thwack" that comes from making perfect contact with a ball, and I love crouching down and reading a green. I'm not really any good, but I love that I can still surprise myself and bogey a par 4 (I said I wasn't really any good).
Maybe I don't remember the first time I played City Park Golf Course because it isn't a particularly memorable course. But I've always liked it, because the wide fairways are kind to my wild balls and the putting greens are never too challenging.
Some good might come from the renovations to the course, whose plans include relocating the clubhouse to the middle of the course for better access, extending the course's yardage, and accommodating a full driving range that will allow every club. I'm holding out hope that City Park will come back better. But for all its faults, I have yet to find a better view of downtown.
Mourn the end of the park as we know it at 6 p.m. tonight, November 1, as City Park Friends and Neighbors and Ditch the I70 Ditch hold a candlelight vigil to honor the 261 trees that are to be removed from the park for the project. The two groups will meet in front of the clubhouse, at the corner of 26th Avenue and York Street.