The superintendent family team of Kevin Nettles (left) and his late father, Clyde, have been a staple of Dallas Athletic Club for 50 years.Photos courtesy of Kevin Nettles
Dallas Athletic Club recently ended a historic father-and-son legacy with the retirement of head golf course superintendent Kevin Nettles, concluding a 50-year tenure of him and his father, Clyde, both longtime GCSAA members, overseeing the 36-hole facility.
Kevin first stepped foot on the property at DAC in 1971, when his father became the head superintendent at the Jack Nicklaus-designed championship courses. Kevin was 6 years old. He worked with his father, learning the profession and the course, until
the pair switched roles in 1999 when Clyde retired. Clyde continued to spend time at Dallas Athletic Club, providing assistance and advice, until he died in 2020.
Dallas Athletic Club played host to the 1963 PGA Championship, won by Nicklaus, along with the 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and the father-son combination spotlighted the family culture at the private North Texas facility.
“This course has been my life since I was 6, living behind the maintenance barn, following my dad, building, shaping and maintaining things year by year,” says Kevin, a 36-year GCSAA member. “It hurts me to take credit for our golf course,
but I hope the members feel like they got their money’s worth out of us here.”
The answer for those who have worked with him over the decades is that DAC got more than he would ever be paid.
Clyde Nettles (right) launched his era at Dallas Athletic Club in 1971. In 1963, Jack Nicklaus won the PGA Championship there. In 1986, Nicklaus Design renovated the Blue Course.
Nettles said while other fathers and sons are certainly involved in golf course management work in the state of Texas, he and his father were the only ones to spend that length of time at the same club together.
For his years of golf course work at Dallas Athletic Club and his service to North Texas golf in general, Kevin was awarded the 2021 North Texas GCSA Distinguished Service Award.
“I can’t tell you how much I’m going to miss Kevin and his wisdom and help around the club,” says Dallas Athletic Club General Manager Brent Burkhart. “He has literally saved the club tens of thousands of dollars with the
work he has done in-house.”
“His history with the club is amazing. He knows more about the property than anybody,” adds Lance Patterson, the club’s head golf professional. “When I first came as head pro 13 years ago, he was invaluable to me with why things
happened the way they did and what everything meant.”
Kevin Nettles is a 36-year GCSAA member who has been around Dallas Athletic Club since he was 6 years old.
Nicklaus, who has involved plenty of his own family members in his golf course construction work, said having Kevin and Clyde working together on the job at Dallas Athletic Club always gave him an extra level of comfort.
“When my team from Nicklaus Design and I redid the Blue Course at Dallas Athletic Club in 1986, father and son were right there to make sure the golf course was nurtured and protected for generations of members to come,” Nicklaus says. “I
was there in 2019 to help the club celebrate its centennial, and I could see that the golf course was (still) in good hands.”
Burkhart said having a trusted superintendent as part of a club’s overall management team is key to any organization but especially to a family-oriented private club like his.
He said both Nettleses were always willing to help, but never acted as if they were superior to others.
“He (Kevin) was almost always the smartest person in the room. He was always there to help out, but never bragged about what he could do,” Burkhart says. “He would just say, ‘Do you want me to look at it?’ And then he would
have the answer. He worked with our team so well. He could just carry the load and wouldn’t compare himself to anyone else.”
Keeping it in-house
In an era when many clubs bring in consultants to help plan renovation projects and then spend thousands to hire a crew to get it done, The Nettleses would do the majority of that kind of work in-house for many years, along with their talented club maintenance
crew. “That’s something they don’t teach you in school or any superintendent-training program. They just do the work and get it done,” says Patterson.
Nettles says the idea of doing projects in-house instead of contracting them out to others came from early members. Several of those members, Herschel Brown and others, owned local construction companies and would actually bring their company’s
equipment to the grounds in the early 1970s.
“He (Brown) would bring a bulldozer out here, and that’s how we got started doing our own work,” Kevin recalls. “I think the question was, ‘Do you have confidence to take on a big job?’ And we always did.”
Longtime Nicklaus associate Chet Williams, who now has his own firm and has worked with the Nettleses for years, says seeing them in action was a throwback to earlier days of the superintendent profession.
“As a golf course designer, I cannot imagine having a better golf course superintendent to work with,” he says. “Kevin and I have worked closely together at Dallas Athletic Club for more than a decade, and I can say with confidence that
he has been an integral part of the improvements that have been made. I consider Kevin a trusted collaborator and also a great friend.”
Kevin Nettles took over as superintendent from his father, Clyde, in 1999 when Clyde retired, though the father stuck around to provide advice and assistance.
Leaving a legacy
Nettles says the 50-year tenure between him and his father overseeing the same golf course is unmatched anywhere in Texas — or elsewhere, as far as he knows. For him, it was a labor of love.
“It’s just so amazing to see what the club has become over the last 50 years and what has happened,” Nettles says. “The club has grown, but now I think it’s sitting on a gold mine for the future. The industry has really grown,
and everything has gotten much bigger. The standards are so much higher than when I first started.
“2020 was really a tough year for me with my father passing away and getting sick (myself), but the club rallied to my aid and helped me as the family they are.”
Kevin said he will remain at the famed club and is looking forward to helping the new, non-Nettles-named course superintendent at the facility: GCSAA Class A superintendent Travis Moore, a 17-year association member. Moore has his own family ties in golf
course management as the son of Jim Moore, longtime director of education and outreach for the USGA Green Section (see “Texas’ first family of turf” in the August 2020 issue of GCM, https://bit.ly/387P6W5). Kevin looks forward to
cheering on the continued improvements that build on his family legacy that has made the Dallas Athletic Club so successful.
“Our legacy?” he says. “I just hope we were a good value to DAC.”
“This era may be ending,” Burkhart adds, “but our team appreciates him beyond belief. He is just that type of people. There’s really a family feeling with Kevin and the club, which will continue to make DAC so special.”
Nicklaus says the unique Nettles course bond may be ending, but what the North Texas club has meant to him and countless others will continue.
“Dallas Athletic Club has always had a special place in my heart,” Nicklaus says, “and I know that for many years to come, it will have a special place in Kevin’s heart.”
Art Stricklin is a freelance golf writer based in Plano, Texas, and a frequent contributor to GCM.