The challenges and advantages of hosting The Ascendant at TPC Colorado

By |  July 11, 2024 0 Comments

TPC Colorado is more than meets the eye. Standing out from the typical Korn Ferry Tour stop, TPC Colorado carves a unique path through the Colorado landscape.

This 18-hole championship course, designed by Arthur Schaupeter and situated just 40 miles north of Denver, boasts breathtaking Rocky Mountain vistas as a dramatic backdrop. Opened less than a decade ago, TPC Colorado throws a curveball at golfers accustomed to the traditional parkland courses that dominate the Tour.

Instead, it presents a challenging links-style layout, more commonly found along the coasts.

“This is not a typical course for this area of the world,” says Kevin Malloy, director of golf course maintenance at TPC Colorado, which hosts The Ascendant from July 11-14. “And it’s not typical for the Korn Ferry Tour, which plays on a lot of old-school, parkland-style country clubs.”

TPC Colorado’s newness brings both challenges and advantages. While the surrounding area undergoes significant residential development, Malloy’s team demonstrates remarkable flexibility in “buffing out” construction zones that might disrupt play on some holes.

Conversely, the course itself remains free of major renovation needs. Beyond standard maintenance like bunker repairs and tee area adjustments, TPC Colorado benefits from the modern infrastructure of a young course.

“It’s fantastic to have a new facility because all of the infrastructure is new,” he says. “There’s very little chance of having a random mainline blowout on the irrigation system on Wednesday during the tournament.”

The Ascendant at TPC Colorado is a two-time winner of the Korn Ferry’s Tournament of the Year Award in 2021 and again in 2023. (Photo: Kevin Malloy)

The Ascendant at TPC Colorado is a two-time winner of the Korn Ferry’s Tournament of the Year Award in 2021 and again in 2023. (Photo: Kevin Malloy)

One surprising element of TPC Colorado is the ability to play golf year-round, defying expectations of a mountainous climate. Malloy and his crew put in significant effort during the winter months.

“We spend a lot of time in the winter managing the turf and keeping it alive through its dormancy stage so that it’s vibrant going into the spring,” Malloy says.

While TPC Colorado boasts stunning scenery and a unique layout, the Berthoud climate constantly challenges Malloy and his team. The region has a mid-latitude steppe climate, which means TPC Colorado can experience scorching, arid summers and frigid, snowy winters with little rain. Historically, the forecast around mid-July’s The Ascendant can be hot and dry.

TPC Colorado’s sweeping vistas aren’t just beautiful — they’re strategically important. The course boasts 100 acres of native grasses that extend beyond the course’s manicured playing areas. These seemingly decorative zones are, in fact, essential for maintaining a challenging and competitive course.

“They may not necessarily be in what you’d call the playing corridor, but they are wildly important for the success of the golf course,” he says. “Without them flourishing, it becomes a pretty simple golf course.”

While the concept of native grasses seemed ideal for TPC Colorado, their establishment proved to be a work in progress for Malloy and his team. “Northern Colorado is typically in your cool-season grass zone,” he says. “And from day one, (the native grasses) have always been a point that needed to be improved. We’ve spent a lot of time improving the biodiversity in the natives and looking at grasses that are a little bit more acclimated to the (region) to be self-sustainable.”

The vision for TPC Colorado’s native areas drew inspiration from the rolling hills of the Scottish Isles. Fine fescue, a grass blend known for its resilience, was chosen to create this aesthetic. However, this vision clashed with the harsh realities of Colorado’s summer.

“As tough as fine fescue is, only a couple of the varieties in that blend survived the 110-degree summer days and 60 days with no rain,” Malloy says.

As the only recurring PGA Tour-associated event in Colorado, The Ascendant has no shortage of volunteers. (Photo: Kevin Malloy)

As the only recurring PGA Tour-associated event in Colorado, The Ascendant has no shortage of volunteers. (Photo: Kevin Malloy)

Malloy and his team went to work to find suitable native alternatives, exploring different pasture mixes and DOT roadside mixes. “Ultimately, we didn’t want to have to pump a lot of water and nutrients into the natives over the long term,” he says. “(The natives) had to be self-sustainable.”

The search for a more suitable solution led Malloy and his team to a blend of native grasses better acclimated to the region. This new mix incorporated bromegrass (Bromus inermis), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and various bluestem varieties, all commonly found roughly 40 miles east of TPC Colorado.

“We were fortunate to get a lot of moisture (last summer) that helped us with seed establishment,” he says. We’ve received a lot of good feedback from the tour players and from our membership, especially when we went through a hot, dry stretch and (the grasses) didn’t shrink or fall back.”

Beyond their ecological importance, the mature native grasses at TPC Colorado enhance the course’s aesthetics with a touch of strategic beauty.

“We only have homes on one side of our holes,” Malloy says. “So, having those native grasses really frames each hole — especially around Nos. 4, 11 and 13 — and really creates that frame for your eye to play that hole. They really give the course definition, and the fairway really pops — like Palm Springs in the spring.”

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