Yampa Valley Golf Course director stepping down
Craig — Chuck Cobb leans back in his chair and a smile as wide as the Yampa River that cuts through his golf course spreads across his face.
“There was that hole-in-one,” he says.
“And the time I was 10 and had to soap up the gaskets for the irrigation system in muddy trenches, because I was the only one who could fit.”
You’ll have to excuse Chuck for reminiscing about the past during a work hour Wednesday morning.
If anyone has earned a break and a trip down memory lane, it’s Cobb.
He’s spent more than 30 years as director of golf for the Yampa Valley Golf Course, a place that has become his second home.
Soon though, he’s calling it quits.
“I’m not retiring,” he says. “Retirement means you are quitting work. I just want a change of venue. I want to try something different.”
Cobb was born and raised in Craig and born and raised into golf. His father played. His grandfather played. It was only natural that at age 9, golf was on his mind.
“I remember traveling to Rifle with my dad,” he said. “There was no course here in Craig. I would mess around with a 5-iron while he played, and that’s how I learned.”
Cobb’s family got tired of the commute and the result would prove beneficial to golfers in Craig and the surrounding area for years to come.
“My father started this course,” he said. “I was picking up stones and branches, clearing out what would become the original nine-hole course.”
In 1972, Cobb started to get paid for his work. Then in high school, he spent his summers picking up range balls – by hand – and washing golf carts.
“We didn’t have the fancy machines,” he said. “You actually had to work.”
After high school, Cobb enrolled at Northeastern Junior College, majoring in a turf grass program.
“My goal was to transfer after two years to Colorado State University,” he said, “but a blonde got in my way.”
He ended up marrying that blonde – Sari – and coming back home.
“We ran the course together – just the two of us – for almost 20 years.” Cobb said.
Cobb said the position literally fell into his lap when he was 20 years old.
“I started as the greens superintendent in 1977 for the nine-hole course,” he said. “Two years later, the head pro left and the job was mine.”
At the time, working at a small course made it difficult financially to survive with a pro and a superintendent, Cobb said. So, he meshed the two positions together and the director of golf was created.
“Sari worked the pro shop and I took care of the rest,” he said. “Now, we have a staff of more than 15.”
In the early 1980s, the energy boom – and the many more residents who came with it – beckoned the expansion of Cobb’s playground.
“I remember going out to the Trapper Mine asking around if anyone was interested in helping out,” he said. “Bob Dietrich stepped up and shortly thereafter we were moving 200,000 yards of material into this course, creating the 18 holes we now have.”
Cobb was 25 years old, in charge of creating an 18-hole layout that would be challenging and picturesque at the same time.
He said that was his biggest learning experience.
“I learned a lot about what I didn’t know,” he said. “I had to start from the ground – or underground – up.
“We had just finished seeding the course in 1983 and the big flood of ’84 washed everything away. We were watering the ninth green out of a rowboat with a pump in it.
“We had to keep the greens irrigated.”
Cobb learned a valuable lesson – the course is now equipped with secured flood control.
Cobb credits Joe Russo – the previous superintendent – with teaching him the most of all he has absorbed.
“He taught me so much,” he said. “He showed me how to be a ‘hands on’ greens keeper. It’s something that will live with me forever.”
Cobb said there is no better feeling than to wake up early, head to the course, smell the fresh cut grass and watch the sun sparkle off of the dew drops in the fairways.
A close second is the relationships forged throughout his career.
“I have such a close bond with so many golfers that have played here,” he said. “I have people who have been here since I have. I will miss them the most.”
A director after 30-plus years, Cobb is looking for life’s next challenge. He doesn’t yet know where he will end up, but he does know that he won’t miss working every weekend and holiday like he has for the last 30 years.
“Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t wait to wake up and get out to the golf course,” he said. “Now, I just want to sleep in on Saturdays.”
In an effort to make coal more competitive against natural gas and renewable energy sources, two of the nation’s largest coal companies, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have announced that they plan to combine assets in Colorado and Wyoming. Routt County’s Twentymile Mine would be managed under the new joint venture.