Steppin Out Magazine Article

March 08, 2007

By Tom Treser, RMGWA Member Contributing Writer From a duffer's prospective, if you don't have a sense of humor, stop here.

So there I was in my favorite little watering hole, peacefully enjoying a nice cold beverage, when suddenly my cell phone brings all my tranquility crashing down.

"Tom," says the voice on the other end, it's Steve, my editor, "hey, they are opening a new Nicholas Design course in Trinidad called Cougar Canyon Golf Resort, and we've been invited to play a round prior to their opening. Wanna go?" he asks.

Well, I'm not the smoothest ball mark on the putting surface, but I've seen "new" courses before and have not been impressed. "Sure, Steve," I said. "Lets do, I can't think of anything I would rather do than get my raggedy ole behind out of my warm little basket at 4:00 in the morning, drive half a day to Trinidad, where, if you make a wrong turn, you come back singing soprano, play a course that is at least a year away from being ready for play. I'm sure that we'll have to hit from the back tees so that I'll look like more of a putz than I already am. Not to mention having to dodge wild animals all day.

"Good," he says. "I'll call and tell them we'll be there; see ya later" Click.

Now I don't know if you could feel it, but I was sure that absolutely every word out of my mouth was sarcastic. You'd think he would've picked up on a couple of things anyway! So, the big day arrives and off we go on our golf outing. I'm all ready to go, I washed off almost all the rust off my clubs and packed my bag with as many golf balls as it would hold (and hoped he had a good supply in case I ran out).

The fellas I play with call me a scratch golfer. I think that is because on most of my shots, as we watch my ball sail off into the rough, one of them will inevitably say, "Scratch that one." But I did take a lesson once, a few years ago. After the pro watched me swing for a while, he said to me, "about the only thing you do right is pay the green fees!"

Our tee times are after 11:00, so we didn't leave the Springs until 9:00. This is beginning better than I imagined it would. It's a nice little drive to Trinidad, which seems like a nice little town (I was kidd'in about that soprano thing). It took us about an hour and a half, and we found the course right away!

When we checked in, all the folks in the pro shop greeted us like we just won the lottery. There were writers from all over Colorado, and all were pretty cool!

I was paired off with two guys from Denver, and of course the Course Superintendent, (who else?) Now I'm thinking "Has somebody seen me play and ratted me out to the pro?"

Time came for some golf, so they drove us down to the driving range. When we see It, we both couldn't believe our eyes.

"This thing is gorgeous," Steve says. "I hope the course is in half as good a shape as the range."

After I flail away at a few range balls, it's off to the course we go. We get to the first tee box, and I look over the first hole, expecting the worst; I'm amazed at what I'm looking at. An absolutely pristine, beautiful golf course.

I stroll over to the Course Superintendent and ask, "How in the world did you guys get this thing in this kind of shape in such a short time?"

"We didn't," was his reply. "We seeded the course over two years ago. The owners were bound and determined that we wouldn't open until it was ready for play."

Boy did they wait! All of a sudden, I felt like I was ready to play this links course that the Nicholas family has designed and the ownership has nurtured to perfection. The two other writers tee up and get off a pretty good drive, and I jump up there and plug one just over the rough right in front of us. Oh well, it'll get better, and hey, I'm in the short stuff, ha.!!

The course super, who stands about 5' 7", tees one up and strikes an arrow straight down the middle, about 340 yards away. Smart alec!

My second shot is straight and true, (well at least I think so ‘cause I'm following this huge chunk of grass that I just lifted out of the divot I just took). This would make a backhoe operator proud, and I hardly felt it. I go pick it up; and I'm standing there thinking, "I could start a backyard with this thing!" Of course the Super is eye-ballin' me, so I gotta put it back.

In the interest of space, I'm just going to cover a half a dozen holes, but believe me, they are all worth writing about.

Hole #1 - Par 4
As a starting hole, number one is a relatively simple and straightforward par four. A slight dogleg to the right, the strategy invites players to hit their tee shots down the left side to avoid a well placed fairway bunker on the right. The second shot plays to an elevated but inviting green with a deep bunker short left to catch an errant shot. If played correctly, number one offers the opportunity to get off to a good start. I didn't quite make par here. Alright, so I came closer to making two pars!

Hole #3 - Par 5
The course begins at number three. This is an uphill par five, where decision making will dictate the score. Longer hitters will be tempted to go for this green in two, but the risk/reward is evident. The prudent play would be to lay up to a favorite yardage for a third shot into this small and isolated green. Anything short of the green will wind up in trouble, and there is very little margin for error on either side or long of the green. Plan your attack and choose your strategy wisely as par is a very good score. I love par fives. I love par fives. I love par fives.

Hole #6 - Par 5
Again, it is decision making time. This hole features a split fairway and forces a decision off the tee. The right side boasts a wider fairway, but the narrower left fairway shortens the hole. After the tee shot, the hole has only begun. The second shot requires both accuracy and distance to negotiate mounds on the left. Play over them and you are left with a relatively short pitch to the green and a chance for birdie. Hole location will determine how aggressive you should be. Wow! what a beautiful view from the green--back across the fairway--toward the mountains. That's it! I was distracted by all that beauty.

Hole #12 - Par 5
This par five is very straightforward, and the strategy is not in doubt. A slight dogleg to the right, this hole demands a reasonable tee shot, a well played second over or around the "mesa" mounds on the left, and a precise third to a generous green. While longer than most par fives, distance isn't the only measure of success. Almost got my par, and the Super finally stopped trailing me with that infernal sand container.

Hole #16 - Par 3
Intimidation, intimidation, intimidation! This picturesque par three is very short, simple and straightforward, save for the fact that there is a tee, a green, and nothing else in between. This is destined to be one of the more photographed holes in Colorado, and if you can bring your heart rate down to a manageable level, you will do just fine. On in one. Ya just gotta believe. Naturally, I brag to my golf partners about walking up to the green with only one club in my hand! Putted like a champion. All three of'um were championship putts. Darn.

Hole #18 - Par 4
A spectacular and dramatic finish to the day. The tee shot must be played across the water to just short of three well placed fairway bunkers. The second shot must be played well to a generous green, avoiding the bunkers and water that continues along the entire right side of the hole. The green is very gentle and generous, yielding birdies to a well played approach. Last chance for that elusive par… Eat your heart out Cougar Canyon. You haven't seen the last of me!

Wow! what a course. I can't wait to go back. I did my best not to mess it up with all my flailing around, but all turned out well, and they didn't make me play from the back tees, and somehow I came home with most of my golf balls (and at least an inkling of pride).

You gotta play this course, and take your camera with you. Some of the views are awe -inspiring.

For only $59.00 a round, plus cart, it's more than worth the trip.

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