Trinitas just sits there, a completed golf course with its gates locked, in the Gold Country near Valley Springs.
It was featured in the Northern California Golf Association magazine as early as the spring of 2007. The few who have played it rave about the sidewalk-fast bentgrass greens. Its unique template -- open to the public only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays -- should have been put to the test long ago.
"It's a trial," admitted Mike Nemee, the Stockton-raised owner and architect of Trinitas, "but we're in it for the long haul and are still chasing the dream."
Nemee, wife Michelle and 3-year-old son Samuel live in modest quarters adjacent to the Trinitas maintenance shed. She's expecting the family's second child, which trumps any golf course in importance.
Then again, Nemee has thrown every cent and every ounce of energy into his vision -- a nationally-recognized golf course built on an old cattle ranch framed by oak trees and olive orchards.
Trinitas can't open due to an unfinished environmental impact report not yet accepted by the Calaveras County Board of Supervisors. Environmentalists have lodged a predictable protest, and the issue has dragged on for over two years.
"The county voted for two additional studies, on ground water and a biological assessment of the land, to add to the environmental impact report. It won't be until June when it comes again to the board," Nemee said. "It looks like I wildcatted the deal and ran ahead of the county. It was our consultants' idea that we file an EIR, but the county at first wanted a negative declaration (which doesn't require an EIR). I've followed the lead of the county for 6½ years. Now we just have to ride the process out."
Meanwhile, Ripon's Don Winter -- Trinitas' head professional -- mows fairways and greens and, yes, shovels bunker sand after rainstorms.
"I'm not really happy when it rains," he said.
Winter, hired last February, can't believe a course this good is mired in the mud of county bureaucracy.
"We're basically in a holding pattern," he said. "We will open. We're just waiting for the county to give us the green light."
Trinitas has caused a buzz in the golf industry since Day 1, first for the top-tier names Nemee contracted for the job, second for the robust course itself, and third for its concept.
Only 13 homes will surround the property. The membership will be limited to only 80 -- 50 founding members and 30 corporate. Nemee anticipates only about 18,000 rounds a year to be played at Trinitas.
Trinitas is routed through oak trees and meanders between creeks and more open country. The fast greens, Bermuda fairways and rye-fescue rough give the course a unique look, which was Nemee's goal all along.
Simply, he seeks a special golf hideaway for members, guests and tournament play.
THE SHAG BAG -- Officials of Fox Hills reportedly will meet in two weeks to decide the future of the 18-hole course and housing development that brackets Interstate 5 southwest of Los Banos. The course remains unopened and unfinished though ground was broken in 2003. It appeared to be on schedule for an opening in late 2005. ... The Course At Wente Vineyards, the Greg Norman-designed layout near Livermore that hosts a Nationwide Tour stop each spring, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Those who play the course 10 times this year through May 31 will receive a complimentary berth in the 10th-anniversary celebration tournament on June 22. Call 925-456-2475.
HOLES-IN-ONE -- Jim Sciascia, Modesto, 86-yard 16th at River Oaks, Ceres, sand wedge. ... Bill Rich, Waterford, 16th at River Oaks, pitching wedge. ... Brian Merrell, Ceres, 95-yard fifth at River Oaks, pitching wedge. ... Pam Wright, Oakdale, 115-yard 11th at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 5-hybrid. ... Jerry Lindstedt, Copperopolis, 185-yard 14th at Saddle Creek, Copperopolis, driver.
Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2302.