Trinidad Municipal Golf Course: Cadillac Conditions at Colorado’s Best 9-Holer

By David R. Holland, Contributor

TRINIDAD, CO -- Situated in a historic mining town on the Santa Fe Trail there's a unique hidden gem of a golf course that few know about. Trinidad Municipal Golf Course is located on I-25, the first stop in Colorado, just 13 miles over the border from New Mexico and towering Raton Pass.

If you ever slow down to stop here, you might make it a habit.

Trinidad Municipal Golf Course's trademark is a "bell" hole -- No. 2, a 326-yard par-four with a blind tee shot. You will see a sign on the tee telling you to wait for the bell signal. Then hit your blind shot down the left fairway boundary. When the tee shot lands it will kick right big-time, following the slope that's hard from left to right. If you are down in the neighborhood of the bell, you have approximately 125 yards to an elevated green. It's all carry with a false front -- don't hope to roll one on.

It's not glamour golf, but that's what Trinidad locals like most about it. This is a Cadillac course at Chevrolet prices. Voted the best nine-hole course in the state by writers and pros, the Trinidad Municipal Golf Course is fun and peerless. It is beautifully manicured. It has great views of Trinidad's Fisher's Peak, the Sangre de Cristos and the Spanish Peaks. All this for $20.

Trinidad Muny is one of the best buys in Colorado golf.

Ring a bell? What other ways do you know of to alert players when it is safe to tee off on a blind shot? At Pacific Grove Municipal next door to Pebble Beach in Monterey, CA, there's a blind tee shot that uses a suspended, large slanting mirror. On the tee you strain your neck, look up and the mirror enables you to look far down the fairway. Mike Dixon, a local Trinidad low-handicapper, says he's played another bell hole on a par-three at Cruden Bay, Scotland.

Trinidad Municipal is a relatively short course (6,160 for the men) that low-handicappers could scorch, but that's not to say it isn't a challenge. Keep it on the fairways because there's all kinds of trouble when you hit it crooked. Greens are excellent, but most are also sloping from back to front -- there aren't too many flat, straight putts to be had. And the elevated greens will frustrate you, because some have false fronts.

The par-fives are the easiest, but the par-threes are tough. The 181-yard No. 7 is one of those tee shots that plays almost like an island. Missing the green means you are probably in trouble, but hitting the green is no bargain either. If you have a long putt most likely it's going to have a lot of break, and if you are above the hole just pray for a two-putt. The tee box for the second nine makes this hole a little longer and gives it a completely different look. You can hit the tee shot dead on the pin, think it is a winner, and if it doesn't carry 10 feet on, the false front will slide your ball back off the green.

The other par-three, only 135 yards as No. 5, has a sloped green from back to front and takes proper placement to remain on the green or get near the pin. You have to hit it on the right side of the green to stay on, and if you miss just a little bit right of the green collar the ball will just bounce straight and down a slope to the right. Hit it within the green boundary and the ball will take the slope to the left.

The "second" nine has different tee boxes, most lengthening each hole.

Dixon, who grew up in Trinidad, said the course actually influenced his decision to move back home. "I was working at a national accounting firm in Tulsa thinking about shelling out $2,500 for a club membership," Dixon said. "I just kept thinking about the course back home. I think it is by far the best maintained public facility I've ever played.

"It is playable for all levels. It's not brutal for a beginner and it's challenging for the experts. And when you reach that third tee box and look out over the Sangre de Cristos it's an awesome sight," Dixon said.

This golf course dates so far back (1915) that the architect is unknown. "There has been a lot of speculation that it was designed by Donald Ross," said Guido Pachelli, course superintendent. Ross, of course, designed Pinehurst, and in 1918 Ross completed the Broadmoor East Course.

On May 30, 1940 the course "re-opened" as a "grass" course after a WPA project sponsored by the city and interested local golfers. The WPA planted the elm trees that line most fairways. Native trees on the course are piñons. Wildlife is abundant -- from time to time even a bear has been spotted.

Dixon has heard a Donald Ross story, too, but it concerns Trinidad seeking the advice of a guy who was on Ross' construction crew at the Broadmoor East. "I heard this guy gave the people working on the Trinidad course some assistance on redoing the green banks and rerouting some holes. Lots of people have said that the course does have some Ross characteristics," Dixon said.

Needless to say the local golfers have hoped for an expansion to 18 holes for many years. There have been talks from time to time and more discussions happen each season.

One scenario is to expand on property just south and adjacent to the course. This property is owned by three different families. Another option is land on the west side of I-25 (the existing course is on the east side of I-25), where one landowner actually has drawn up plans for an 18-hole course. Another site being considered is on the river closer to downtown.

Currently in Trinidad, a housing development named Stone Ridge has been approved by the city, and it has an 18-hole golf course on its master plan.

Trinidad Municipal hosts a busy summer schedule (Memorial Day through Labor Day) of weekend and holiday tournaments, so call before you make the drive. Take the Sante Fe Trail exit off I-25 and go east one block (road curves) to find the golf course.

Trinidad Municipal Golf Course
1417 Nolan Dr.
Trinidad, CO 81082
Telephone: 719-846-4015.

Green Fees: $20 for 18 holes and $15 for nine. Cart fees are $20 for 18 and $15 for nine. Adult membership is $275 per year. You can also play all day for $35.

Long-Running Tournaments: Ron Brillhart, President of the Trinidad Golf Association, says golfers come from 12 different states, including as far away as California, Minnesota and Florida for its Labor Day Tournament.

"We called the Colorado Golf Association and they said our tournament is the second longest running tournament in the state at 62 years," Brillhart said. "Only Sterling (CO) has a longer one at 75 years. We think the match-play format is a real drawing card. Our Memorial Day Tournament has been hosted for 36 years."

Trinidad History: Trinidad was a rowdy old west town of saloons and a red-light district prior to 1900 when Marshall Bat Masterson (1882) and other lawmen arrived to tame this historic coal mining town. Doc Holliday also hung out here in this scenic town situated on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail.

Coal was discovered in 1876 and folks from all over the world came here to give Trinidad its culturally diverse population that includes Northern Europeans, Hispanic, Italian, Greek, Polish, Irish, Lebanese and Slavic families.

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Conditions: A
Layout: A
Service: A
Pace of Play: A
Scenery: A
Value: A+
Overall Rating: A

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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