City Park Golf Clubhouse: A New Gathering Place in Heart of Denver’s Largest Park

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a west-facing back patio allow patrons to fully enjoy City Park’s views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains.


Introduced in 1886 when the notion of a public park was considered a novel idea, City Park is one of Denver’s oldest gems. Sprawling over nearly 320 acres, the original design was inspired by Frederick Law Olmstead’s Central Park in New York, with looping carriageways, walking lanes and lakes with picturesque views across bucolic meadows. When the park first opened, it was a grassy, open plain without any trees. Denver school children started planting trees in the park each Arbor Day. By 1890, the park had 600 shade trees.

James G. Johnson, AIA
Founder, Johnson Nathan Strohe

Today, City Park is embarking on a new chapter with the design and construction of a new golf course and clubhouse. Todd Schoeder, a renowned golf course architect, approached our firm to design the new clubhouse to complement the golf course he and Hale Irwin, PGA, Colorado’s most decorated professional golfer, were designing. With Saunders Construction as the design-build leader, the team won a public competition for the project.

After four years of design, construction and grow-in, the golf course and buildings are set to open in 2020. The new City Park Golf Clubhouse features a design that maximizes versatility and capitalizes on City Park’s vistas. From the building and its west-facing patio is one of the most panoramic views in Denver.

The $45 million, 136-acre project provides flood prevention and improved water quality in Park Hill. To resolve flooding issues in nearby neighborhoods while maintaining its original purpose, the team is delivering an updated golf course with a full driving range and four shorter holes for the “First Tee” program, a nonprofit that teaches core values and life skills through the game of golf to nearly 7,500 children annually. The project re-graded over 300,000 cubic yards of earth for storm- water detention, preserved over 250 trees and planted 750 new trees.

Building on City Park’s History

From the beginning, the park was designed to reflect a sense of community. When renowned architect Charles M. Robinson arrived in Denver in 1906 to prepare a comprehensive plan for the city’s parks and parkways, he referred to City Park as the “people’s park” – a popular destination for recreation and relaxation with varied passive and active uses.

Redesign of the historic Tom Bendelow course was a collaborative process with Denver Parks and Recreation, the public, neighborhood, the city of Denver and the golf community to provide a new par 70, 18-hole course capturing the best features of the original 1913 design by retaining the traditional Parkland style look and feel of City Park Golf Course.

In a contemporary manner, the architecture of the new golf clubhouse complements the historic park structures.

For the City Park Golf Clubhouse and Maintenance Building, we studied the historic park architecture for design intent. The existing public buildings share common traits of architectural excellence from the late 1800s to the present. In a contemporary manner, the architecture of the new golf clubhouse complements the historic park structures. Recalling early 20th century golf club construction, the architecture combines raw steel and cross-laminated timber. Large expanses of energy-efficient curtainwall, broad timber overhangs and intricate detailing provide a holistic indoor-outdoor experience grounded in the landscape.

The new clubhouse is a radial plan with a curvilinear form, siting public functions toward the stunning westerly views of the golf course, cityscape and mountains. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a west-facing back patio allow patrons to fully enjoy City Park’s views of downtown Denver and the Rocky Mountains. Designed to complement the natural landscape, the clubhouse is purposely timeless in its simplicity, with stone, wood, steel and glass as its primary materials. A low-profile entry approach expands broadly into the curving curtainwall expression.

A stepping series of shed roofs with broad overhangs nest majestically within the stone-clad radial walls.

Expression of the structure, in cross-laminated and glue-laminated timber, is unencumbered by the more typical clutter of mechanical ductwork, electrical minutia or fire sprinklers. In fact, the design purposely submerges these systems in the basement, which houses 80 golf carts, electrical chargers, wash stations and maintenance services. The design allows for golf carts to effortlessly appear from their garage below for awaiting players via a subterranean ramp.

Designed for multiple purposes, the clubhouse offers various gathering spaces to appeal to a wide range of people. Movable walls maximize flexibility, enabling the clubhouse to serve functions up to 200 people, including holiday parties, community, social or business meetings, weddings, reunions or to just meet a friend in the new restaurant, with space for 40 people inside and 60 on the patio.

The clubhouse is designed for LEED Gold certification and incorporates multiple sustainability strategies with energy conservation, photovoltaic solar panels and locally sourced materials. With a highly refined design and deep respect for its historical context, the new City Park Golf Clubhouse is a significant architectural addition to Denver, helping to catalyze locals’ and visitors’ experience and savor Denver’s “people’s park” through a new lens.

Published in the December 2019 issue of Building Dialogue.

Edited by Building Dialogue