New Golf Program Director Dan Dent tees it up with a robust plan for Salt Lake City’s courses
Dan Dent lived his first seven years with a view of Salt Lake City’s Rose Park Golf Course. But it would be eight more years before he actually picked up a club during his sophomore year in high school.
He found the sport of his dreams. By his senior year at Alta High, Dan had a 3 handicap and was the school’s top golfer.
And now everything has come full-circle, as Dan takes his spot as the city’s new golf program director. He will oversee an $8-million annual budget, operations, maintenance, and management of six courses that function under the city’s golf fund – Bonneville, Forest Dale, Glendale, Mountain Dell, Nibley, and Rose Park.
“Golf is an activity that requires strategy and analysis. It is inclusive, competitive, and instills a sense of achievement. Inherently, these are the qualities that motivate me in my life, too,” Dan said. “Golf just made a lot of sense.”
Dan was appointed after a lengthy search. He comes with a 28-year career focused on real estate and construction; energy, utilities and sustainability; customer relations; management; and golf operations.
The 50-year-old married father of two has held an active real estate license since 1994. He is responsible for developing and launching the Questar Gas ThermWise energy efficiency program over a 6-month period in 2006, and has served on several boards and commissions related to energy conservation, sustainability and green building practices. He was president and a board member of the Alpine Country Club from 2011 to 2015.
“We look forward to Dan’s leadership,” said Mayor Jackie Biskupski, “and I know the golf program will benefit from his broad background in business, marketing, environmental issues, and athletics.”
Added Lisa Shaffer, Interim Director of the Public Services Department: “It’s exciting to have Dan at the helm for the next chapter in Salt Lake City golf’s storied history. Dan comes to us with a wealth of business knowledge, and a passion for golf that is infectious. He brings the kind of experience and energy to guide the golf program into a bright future.”
Salt Lake City golf has a passionate fan base and has steadily evolved and expanded since Nibley’s 9-hole course opened in 1922. Under Dan’s supervision the next era will require wiser use of resources—the natural and financial kind. With Utah’s booming outdoors opportunities, there is more competition than ever for the recreation dollar, so marketing city courses as a value to consumers will matter. And there is the challenge of how to expand courses for additional uses, such as cross-country skiing, bicycling, and social events.
Certain courses, such as Glendale and Rose Park, lend themselves to expanding junior golf programs and even college team sport practice centers, Dan said.
Glendale, Rose Park, and Bonneville courses have been selected as water conservation sites. Rose Park uses secondary water on its greens, and Glendale this summer is making the switch from culinary to secondary water. Bonneville recently switched from a manual watering system to automatic irrigation, a move expected to save employment and maintenance costs.
Natural resource management for the courses falls under a category Dan calls “operational optimization,” and it is among his top four priorities for the golf program.
“We need to look for the lowest costs we can, while doing the best we can for the environment,” he said. In addition to water savings, he’ll be looking for ways to minimize fertilizers and expensive and time-consuming greens maintenance.
“There is an optimal way to approach each course for its strengths,” Dan said. “I look at a course like Rose Park and start thinking of how we might put cheat grass down on the secondary rough. Make it more of a traditional ‘links’ course, and cut back on some water and maintenance.”
The golf program could use a serious branding effort, too, he said. “We have six courses within 15 minutes of downtown,” he said. “Our layouts, architecture, and conditions will compete with any course in Salt Lake County and beyond.”
And of course, there’s revenue enhancement. He sees building a wider golf fan base as key to increasing the golf fund. He wants to add junior golf clinics and communicate more widely with the coveted target group of Millennials—busy multi-taskers whose video games and electronic devices are often quicker and easier diversions than sports.
“I really feel we need to, and can change the narrative around Salt Lake golf,” Dan said. “The open space and the recreational opportunities we provide are unmatched. The more isolated people become at work and in life, the more something like golf provides a sense of belonging, inclusion, fun, and achievement.”
Not bad for a guy who thought football, basketball, or baseball would be his life’s passion.
“My family wasn’t wealthy. I borrowed my mom’s beat-up clubs from the ‘50s when I first tried out for golf at Alta High (his family eventually moved from Rose Park to Sandy),” Dan said. “But I wasn’t very big, and football wasn’t going to be kind to me.”
Golf, it turns out, would be kinder. He has maintained a +1.5 to 3 handicap since 1989.