Santa Fe Trail Series – Part 1

The hardest part is getting started. That’s what I tell myself every time I sit down to write something. Just get a few words down and let the juices start flowing. In reality, I could use that same logic for a lot of other things in life. Surely, once things get rolling, it’ll all be fine. Right? 

Maybe that’s what Matt in Santana said to himself too. He approached us with an idea earlier this summer saying he wanted to grow stroke play at some of the small town courses in his area of the state. There was only one issue: the getting something started part. 

After a conversation about his idea, we knew that we could help. After all, that’s what we wanted out of this venture all along: to help the places in this state where we like to play. Matt’s idea was easy to get behind too. Six courses, six communities, seven tournaments, spread out over several months this fall and wrapping into next spring. The ball was rolling from that initial conversation which made this past weekend when the first tournament was held at Matt’s home course, Cimarron Valley Golf Club, so great.

Cimarron Valley Golf Club sits right off the highway west of town. It sits on a piece of property that would only be good for two things: cattle ranching and golf. After you visit the place and see how much this land moves, you’ll be thanking yourself that they made the right choice and kicked the cows to the other side of the fence. Nearly every hole has some distinct land feature that makes each unique. There are few nine hole courses in the entire state that I’ve seen that can boast the variety of shots needed to make it around, based solely on the landforms. 

The land and the native areas on the edges of the fairway will certainly draw your eye and attention, but don’t be fooled. The real challenge at CVGC is the wind. It is Kansas, after all. Depending on the direction and speed of the wind, the course will play entirely differently. The three par fives (you’re reading that right) play pretty tough with a south wind, but you get a break on the three par threes (you’re reading that right too). If the wind switches from the north, the par threes might be some of the hardest of any course I’ve ever played.

Cimarron Valley has all the charm and quirks that just speak to me too. Any course that has a bell that you ring to let the group behind you know that you’ve cleared the green automatically vaults a course up my personal standings. CVGC might have the biggest bell I’ve ever seen near the green on hole four. It’s cool. But not near as cool as the submarine periscope on the seventh tee box to make sure the fairway is clear in front of you. That’s super cool. 

I picked up my dad on my way west and we had a great conversation, and a pretty decent gas station sandwich, on our way west. We could see the superintendent, Vance Marlin, out tuning up the course for the first Santa Fe Trail Series tournament as we came around the corner and got our first glimpse. Each hole on the course looked like an oasis carved through the sage and yucca covered hills and gullies. 

I met up with Matt in the clubhouse but there wasn’t much time for chit-chat. Players started to roll in and we were getting them registered, paid (you know if we’re involved you can pay online right?), paired, and set up on carts. We didn’t even get a chance to warm up. I figured it would be fine. All I have to do is get started and it’ll all work out. Right?

Guess in some ways the “just get it started and it will all work out” doesn’t work all the time because it only took me three holes to get thoroughly ejected on the par five, fourth hole, that turned straight into the teeth of the famous, or infamous, western Kansas south wind. Unfortunately for me, turning with the wind on the par three, fifth hole, didn’t help much either. It didn’t help that my chip shot landed directly on Matt’s ball, launching my ball back off the green while propelling his ball toward the hole. Going to really stink for him when I win our bet for the SFT Series on an assessed penalty for not marking his ball… : )

There were just no breaks on that front nine. Vance and Matt’s friend Cody played well and led our little fivesome while Matt, my dad, and myself, grinded our way around to halftime scores a little higher than any of us hoped we would shoot. As we stood on the tenth tee and got a view of the property sprawled out to the east and south, I couldn’t help but smile a little. Seeing all of those golfers from all these different communities in the area dealing with the same wind and challenging course that we were was reassuring. We couldn’t all be crazy. That’d be too big of a coincidence. All it took was getting it started. To me, it was looking like it was working out just fine, no matter how poorly I played. 

There were some highlights on the back nine. Unfortunately, there were more lowlights too. I limped into the clubhouse with one of my worst scores of the year. And all I could think about was getting to play this course again later next year for the Santa Fe Trail Series finale and getting some measure of revenge. Hearing all of the players talk in the clubhouse while we entered the scores and sorted out the flights was all the proof that I needed that Matt’s idea worked. Despite the wind, heat, and challenge, everyone seemed to be in great spirits, especially those that took home some cash for placing in one of the four flights. I could hear plans for the next event scheduled in September at the course in Plains.

When we started the Middle Pin a couple years ago, we didn’t do it to make friends. We did it to help the places where we like to play. I hope that we’ve done that and helped in some way. But, along the way, I also think we’ve made a lot of friends that want the same things that we do. People like Matt and Vance, people like the guys from Plains who carpooled in a limo/bus/RV (I didn’t actually see what they drove but heard references to all three words in the clubhouse afterward), all the other guys who traveled from all over the area (including at least one from Oklahoma) just to play this course, not to mention all the others we’ve met from all over the state. We didn’t do this to make memories or friends but it sure seems like we’re stacking both all over Kansas. And that’s pretty cool. 

There isn’t much more I can say other than it was a pretty damn fun day and something that I’m proud to be a part of. This was the first step. There will be more to come and I’m hopeful that as this thing moves on, more people will get out there to enjoy a day like this with us this fall and next spring. The hardest part is that first step by deciding which SFT Series event you want to join in on. But, getting started has never been easier. Hit the link below to register and play on September 19. I promise, once you get started, the rest will all work out just fine. 

Until next time,


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