Darden Nicks, the director of agronomy at Wildhorse Golf Club, is celebrating 25 years working to keep golf courses green as a member of the GCSAA (Golf Course Superintendents Association of America), the last 17 as a superintendent. He’s also celebrating being named the Superintendent of the year in Southern Nevada, as voted by his peers. –by Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider staff.
In that time, he’s learned a thing or two about numbers and the costs associated with keeping a golf course green. Now in Las Vegas, he’s finding out there’s much more to learn. What the former accounting graduate is now trying to squeeze into the equation is dealing with trying to keep a golf course green given Vegas’ lack of rain. It’s proven to be quite the challenge.
Nicks grew up in Ohio from age eight through high school. Like his father, he went on to get an accounting degree at Elon College in North Carolina.
But that’s where the similarities in their future paths took a different fork in the road.
“My junior year in college I had an advisor that said I could use this degree with anything I wanted to do in life,” Nicks said. “I had already been working in the golf business so I thought ‘Let’s go to turf school.’ I graduated from North Carolina State in 1998 with a degree in agricultural science with a major in turf grass management. I still use the accounting degree all the time…just not at a desk.”
He added with a laugh, “I know how to add and subtract costs for the course and I can tell you how much it costs to water each blade of grass.”
Ah, yes…water. That brings us back to that talk about rain. Nicks said that even a 15-minute shower in Las Vegas–rare throughout the year–is priceless.
“It can save the course thousands of dollars in watering bills over the ensuing few days,” Nicks said. “It’s that simple. There’s just nothing like fresh rain for a golf course.”
He’s worked at golf courses from Ohio to North Carolina to Florida and a couple of other stops before his arrival at Wildhorse a little over two years ago.
“I was in Ohio for five years at a place called Foxfire Golf Club and was introduced to Keith Flatt (of Elite Golf which manages Wildhorse),” Nicks said. “Then this job came open and I thought ‘Why not?’ and I applied. It’s a great opportunity and it’s given me the chance to go somewhere different.”
@sincitygcsa Annual Meeting today @WildhorseGCLV. Congrats to Shadow Creek’s @gregniendorf on being elected President & @Darden96 on being chosen Superintendent of the Year! Special thanks to outgoing President @JamesSymons1! @GCSAA pic.twitter.com/J3EVtU84wC
— Jeff Jensen (@GCSAA_SW) March 22, 2021
He just didn’t realize how different Vegas would be.
“The weather is a definite challenge,” he said. “It just doesn’t rain here and that makes it tough. But like everyone else, we’re doing the best we can to make sure every drop of water counts.”
Nicks added his support team at the course is working hard every day to improve the layout for players. But it’s his behind-the-scenes support staff that he most relies on.
“None of this is possible without my wife, Nancy,” he said. “We’ve been married 25 years…or 9,007 days as I like to look at things on a daily basis. She’s moved around the country with me and always supported me. I just call her “The Angel.’ ”
Now, Nicks is looking to make sure the trust everyone’s put in him pays off.
“The city believes in the course,” he said. “My GM (Jon Waddington) believes in the course and the whole team believes in the course. My job is to make sure the course lives up to everyone’s expectations. Like everyone else, we always want to be No. 1. Dollar for dollar, we want to make sure we give people the best golf course we possibly can.”
Wildhorse is managed by Las Vegas’ Elite Golf.