by Julie Hayden
Merriam-Webster Dictionary has myriad definitions for the word “common” including that the word means “falling below ordinary standards,” “lacking refinement,” and “characterized by lack of privilege or special status.” Undoubtedly, the Colorado Golf Association intended, when it named the golf course it owns and operates, that the complex met the main definition of the word that it “relates to the community at large.”
But what is happening at CommonGround Golf Course is in fact “extraordinary” and “phenomenal.” For $45 you can play one of the great golf courses in the Denver area designed by world class golf architect Tom Doak. The course is located off Havana Street between Alameda Avenue and East First Avenue. But that is not all. The CGA will give you your own free personal caddie for 18 holes.
You, of course, would want to tip your caddie as you would a waiter at a restaurant, but that is up to you. You already belong to the CGA if you have a Colorado golf handicap. Joining the CGA only costs $35 and it will allow you to obtain a handicap along with other privileges of membership. For non-CGA members the round costs $54.
How can such an incredible bargain possibly exist?
The Colorado Golf Association was founded in 1915 and had always wanted to have its own golf course. In 2005, in partnership with the Colorado Women’s Golf Association, it was able to acquire the old Mira Vista Golf Course from the Lowry Redevelopment Authority. The course was part of the former Lowry Air Force Base. Tom Doak agreed to design a new course for a nominal fee. Doak is one of the most admired golf architects in the world having designed such top ranked courses as Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Barnhougle Dunes in Australia, and Pacific Dunes in Bandon, Oregon. He also designed at CommonGround a separate nine-hole short course for junior golf and player development.
Since the CGA is a non-profit it is not trying to make money off the golf course but rather further the development of golf in Colorado. In fact kids play for free on the nine-hole golf course.
In 2012 oil and gas magnate George Solich and his wife Carol seeded the Colorado Golf Foundation with a donation of $ 2 million. In the early ’70s, George’s brother Geoff got him a job as a caddie at Cherry Hills Country Club. The brothers’ family had modest means and the caddie job resulted in George receiving an Evans Scholarship at the University of Colorado. Evans Scholarships are limited to kids who caddie for a minimum of two years, plus other requirements. Tuition-free housing at the Evans Scholars Scholarship House, which recently went through a $5 million renovation, is part of the scholarship.
The Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy provides a two-year caddie training program in which 14 and 15-year-olds develop leadership skills and enhance character through a foundation built around caddieing.
The executive director of the CGA Ed Mate was as a teenager a caddie at the Denver Country Club and an Evans Scholar at CU. “Caddieing taught me work skills, how to be responsible and how to deal with adults,” states Mate.
Chuck Bonniwell, Publisher of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle, was also a caddie in his teenage years and he declared, “Caddieing was the first job I ever had and I probably learned more from it about people and human nature than virtually any other job I have ever had.”
The caddies are given a $1,200 scholarship by the Academy to be used for college provided they caddie 36 rounds, attend a leadership conference once a week, volunteer for six hours of work (which can be at a kids’ development program at CommonGround) and keep a monthly work log. The leadership sessions are based around the “Cowboy Code of Ethics.” See below.
In order to be accepted into the Solich Academy you must have completed 8th grade, show academic excellence, demonstrate financial need (family income should be around $80,000 or less) and show a positive attitude and work ethic.
After completion of the two-year program the graduates are recommended to top clubs in the Denver area including Cherry Hills Golf Club and the Denver Country Club, which are thrilled to have already trained caddies ready to go. All such caddies become eligible to be Evans Scholars at the University of Colorado.
Surprisingly there are far more teenagers who want to go to the Solich Academy and are fully qualified than there are spots available at CommonGround. Mate indicates “A lot of golfers think a caddie is only for the rich or low handicap players. Caddies make the golfing experience incredibly more enjoyable and having a caddie usually results in you having a lower score. Once a person takes out a caddie at CommonGround they seldom want to go back to a cart especially since a cart costs a significant amount of money and the caddies are free.”
“The CommonGround caddies do not care that you are not Tiger Woods,” added Mate. “They are working on a college scholarship. They want you to have an enjoyable experience and thereby earn a good tip. They are there to help you in any manner they can.”
In order to reserve a tee time at CommonGround and sign up for a free caddie, call 303-340-1520. Caddies are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For information about the course, visit www.commongroundgc.com and Facebook @CommonGroundGC. Follow them on Twitter @CommonGroundGC.