Colorado Golf News
Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend: The Fitzsimons Story is Coming to an End...
By Dennis Lyon, CGCS
DIVOT Contributing Writer
It was recently announced by the Aurora Golf Division; the Fitzsimons Golf Course will close by the end of 2017. Aurora Golf has managed the 18-hole former army golf course since November 1998. The government determined Fitzsimons Army Hospital Post would be closed effective 1999. As a part of the hospital closing, the federal government made plans for disposal of the military property. The land not dedicated to the Colorado University Hospital Complex was to be developed by the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority (FRA). Aurora Golf was selected to manage the Fitzsimons Course by the FRA, starting in November 1998, until the property was developed. The life expectancy of the course, at that time, was projected at about 5 years.
HISTORY OF FITZSIMONS
The Fitzsimons Army Hospital Post was named after Lt. William T. Fitzsimons, the first army medical officer killed in WWI. The medical facility opened in 1918 and was originally slated for use to treat tuberculosis and injured soldiers from WWI. Golf first appeared at Fitzsimons Medical Facility, as a 3-hole sand green course, most likely in the early 1920’s. By the mid-1930’s the Fitzsimons Facility had grown to the point an army 18-hole course was deemed necessary for the health and welfare of the staff and hospital patients. The New Deal, Civilian Construction Corps, was engaged to build Fitzsimons Golf Course, as designed by the Army Corps of Engineers. The course opened in 1939 for use by the military and their dependents. The Fitzsimons Golf Course design reflected the austerity of the time. The greens were mostly small and fairly flat. There was not a lot of grading worked into the design and the course had a minimal number of sand bunkers. However, as imperfect as the golf course was, it was adored by those who played it.
President Ike Eisenhower, during his presidency, often made Denver his Summer White House, home of his wife Mamie’s parents. An avid golfer, Ike most often played Cherry Hills but was known to play Fitzsimons from time to time as seen in a local photograph. In September of 1955, President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in Denver and recuperated at Fitzsimons Army Hospital.
Another interesting military connection with Fitzsimons was Orville Moody, whose nickname was “Sarge.” Orville Moody spent 14 years as an army sargent heading maintenance supervision of all army golf courses including Fitzsimons. There is a plaque in the golf shop at Fitzsimons which indicates Orville Moody set a course competitive record 63 in August 1958. He shot this score in the first round of the All Army Golf Tournament held at Fitzsimons. Moody went on to win the US Open in 1968, as the last Open Champion in the 20th century to win through local and regional qualifying.
For the past 18 years, the course has played about 35,000 rounds per year and has been a great asset to the community. Fitzsimons may epitomize the best of public golf; affordable, fun and available to all regardless of status and ability. The only requirement was respect; respect for the game, the course and fellow golfers.
THE FUTURE OF FITZSIMONS
In 2016 a revised General Development Plan for the area including the golf course was approved by the City of Aurora. In conformance with the approved Development Plan, the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority has indicated a building and parking lot are planned for construction in the areas of the 1st and 18th holes in 2018. It is also assumed a major storm drainage project will soon follow, along with the development of future streets.
With the closure of the Fitzsimons Golf Course in sight, the next several months may feel a lot like, a “last call for golf.” So why not head over to Fitzsimons, at the intersection of Montview and Peoria, and tee it up at least one more time. And after your round of golf, if you decide a cool one is in order at the clubhouse, why not lift a glass and pay tribute to General Ike, “The Sarge” and the thousands of military men and women who teed it up at Fitzsimons and experienced golf’s great game while serving their country.
In closing let me say, “Fitzsimons, you will be missed. You were what you were, not great, but always there, and you were loved by many. Cheers.”
Dennis Lyon is a certified golf course superintendent and freelance golf writer. He retired as Manager of Golf for the City of Aurora after over 35 years in 2010.