Wellshire GC, Denver. Donald Ross, 1926.

The Ross name is here and the logo nods to him, but the course doesn’t feel like it has much Ross left. The routing is still his, beyond the re-ordering of a few holes and there are a few push-up green sites that look similar to the plans you can view on the Tufts Archive site, but that’s about it.

The greens have shrunk and don’t have a tremendous amount of interest. The plans call for some 68 bunkers—to be fair I don’t know for sure if all of those were built—and the current course has just 36. Most of what’s missing are fairway bunkers. The existing course has just six fairway bunkers and somehow five of those are on the sixth hole. The bunkers are also quite plain and pretty shallow.

Based on the earliest aerials I can find, all that was true by the mid-60s. But some strange choices were made more recently. In the mid-90s, for example, they added a small pond in the middle of the 10th fairway, meaning you couldn’t hit your drive more than 225 yards. I can only guess they were trying to keep the hole playing as a par 5, but why not just make the hole a par 4 instead? Happily, they’ve come to their sense in recent years and the pond in gone. (And the hole is a par 4.)

#10 before the small pond in the fairway was removed (Credit: City of Denver)

A few years after the pond on the 10th, someone got itchy on the bulldozer again and they built a water feature left of the 17th green. This is a Castle Pines-like cascading series of creeks and ponds. It’s entirely out of place with the Ross style the rest of the course seems to strive for, but it’s not a terrible feature otherwise.

If all this sounds like I’ve got nothing good to say about Wellshire, please don’t take it that way. This remains a perfectly lovely muni, on a gently hilly piece of land. It is not and never was a great site, but Ross did well to route the holes and keep them interesting and varied. The 18th, a short par 5 with a drive over the canal and a second shot that plays back toward the handsome clubhouse, is a real standout hole.

But for all the pleasures of this course it’s simply impossible not to look at it and think how it could have been—and may once have been—quite a bit more.

Colorado 5th Decile [1995]

#8 green (Credit: City of Denver)