No way would what turned into a nationally recognized golf facility be called the winter-related “Snow Creek” if he had anything to say about it, even if the proposed name merely stemmed from the water running through the property.
Pettingill retired in 2008 after stamping every aspect of Valley View GC’s construction and operation for its first 35 years, including the venue’s name and the clubhouse’s location overlooking the Great Salt Lake that made “Valley View” seem so natural.
Originally a partnership of Layton City and Davis County, Valley View opened in 1974 with $1.50 green fees for nine holes. The course was the county’s follow-up project, capitalizing on the success of Davis Park GC, which opened 10 years earlier along U.S. 89. A U.S. government grant funded half of the course’s construction, while ensuring that the property would always be used for golf.
Even in that setting, Valley View took awhile to catch on. It eventually became a haven for many of northern Utah’s top amateur golfers and a destination for tourists who marveled about the challenge, setting, conditioning and affordability of a public venue. They would ask, “How do you do this for the green fee you’re charging?”
“I can’t tell you how many times that would happen in a year,” Pettingill said. “Just dozens and dozens of times.”
That’s what multiple Golf Digest awards will do for you, along with the drive of a PGA Professional who earned his job by supervising the construction and following through as the manager of the golf course superintendents for more than three decades. “I demanded the maximum,” Pettingill said of operating Valley View, with high standards that he applied to himself.
Greg Sandberg has followed in the tradition of Valley View superintendents that started with Charles Cook and continued with Pettingill’s hand-picked Scott Starkey, Mel Duke and Steve Bennett.
Pettingill is a big part of the origin story. Having worked at Davis Park from the start, the graduate of Davis High School and Weber State was a logical choice to help launch Valley View. Pettingill’s role expanded when golf course architect Joe Williams, who designed Fox Hollow GC in American Fork at about the same time, died in the early phase of Valley View’s construction.
Williams’ basic routing remained intact, but “we changed every hole,” Pettingill said.
Grant Carlson of the Bountiful-based Foss Lewis & Sons Construction did the course shaping, working closely with Pettingill. William Hull, who formerly worked for Robert Trent Trent Sr., was hired to specifically design the bunkers and greens, although newspaper accounts credited him as the course architect.
“You can see a lot of Robert Trent Jones in Valley View’s greens and bunker complexes,” Pettingill said. “The green complexes (Hull) did were phenomenal.”
Pettingill remembers thinking that with Hull’s touches, “Wow, this is going to be a great golf course.”
Golf Digest’s endorsements of two Top 75 Public Course designations in the 1980s gave Valley View a national name and “really validated us in the golf community in Utah,” Pettingill said. The course’s success justified Davis County’s investment (Layton City dissolved the original partnership, accepting a property trade), while building a following of outstanding golfers.
The plaque in the clubhouse listing men’s club champions is a remarkable piece of Utah golf history, featuring names such as Todd Barker, Kirk Bowler, Brandon Kida, Kurt Owen, David Jennings, Reed Nielsen and Rand Sargent.
“Valley View became ‘the test’ for really good players,” Pettingill said.
The course became more broadly accepted and now has more than 400 men’s association members, although it initially was a bit jarring to the average golfer, especially those accustomed to the walkable, relatively wide-open nature of Davis Park. Golf carts were not standard equipment in the ‘70s; Pettingill’s initial fleet of 12 carts was a major advancement.
That’s just one of the contrasts between Valley View’s founding a half-century ago and the modern look. Other than the iconic tree on No. 17, the property was basically barren. Pettingill and his superintendents planted the fast-growing poplars that would come to define Valley View’s fairways, while annually targeting upgrades to the layout.
Pettingill’s approach: “Build it, change it, tweak it, improve it.” That explains how a great golf course kept getting better.