Golf's newest darling–as far as course developments are concerned–is the state of New Mexico. As Indian gaming continues to explode in popularity, so, too, has the new cluster of golf courses built on or near several Indian reservations throughout the aptly dubbed "Enchanted State." Aside from casinos and hotels, there are scarce real-estate developments on these reservations (for now), thus providing the golfer with unencumbered views of spectacular desert and mountain landscapes. Course designers are chomping at the bit to work here, hoping to be selected to design future courses on what they consider to be an "open canvas" for their imagination.
The way things are going, these craftsmen will soon get their chance.
As a result, most layouts are true works of art, but that doesn't mean they don't have chops. Places such as Santa Ana Golf Club and the Championship Course at the University of New Mexico have already hosted prestigious tournaments, specifically for the Nationwide Tour and NCAA, respectively. Furthermore, the popularity of New Mexico golf isn't limited to the reservation courses. Off-reservation venues such as Pinon Hills are attracting players from as near as Albuquerque to as far as Tokyo, Japan, eager to challenge these enchanted links.
When To Go Most of New Mexico retains a summertime destination label, as cold winter months can sometimes bring a few inches of snow to the Albuquerque area. Summers are beautiful, usually in the upper 80s, and so, too, in the Four Corners/Farmington region. Fall days can go either way, so pack for the chilly temps and/or occasional warm days.
How To Get There Albuquerque is your best bet for air travel—you'll be surprised at the deals to this Southwest city. Once upon a time, the famous Route 66 swerved through New Mexico en route from Chicago to California, but today commuter travel is reserved for major interstates such as Route 25 and 40, both of which intersect in the middle of town.
Best Places To PlayGT Selects _Ê Black Mesa Golf Club La Mesilla When architect Baxter Spann's Black Mesa Golf Club (located just north of Santa Fe) debuted a few years back, it immediately shot to the top of the Best Course in New Mexico lists. Each visually breathtaking hole, carved out of desert sandstone with awesome views of Black Mesa, is both a treat for the senses and a challenge to your game. If you like your courses wild, untamed and full of twists and turns, rises and falls, then Black Mesa Golf Club shouldn't be missed. Open year-round.
Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club Paa-Ko is an 18-hole (with nine more holes under construction) golf course designed by award-winning architect Ken Dye. The course is situated on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, at elevations ranging from 6,500 to 7,000 feet. Put it this way: It's extraordinarily beautiful and fun to play. Open March through November.
Pinon Hills Golf Course Farmington Accuracy is very important to playing well at Pinon Hills, requiring careful tee shots over the varying fairway terrain. Putting well also requires a deft touch, as Pinon's greens are known for their multi-tiered challenges. Yet the best part of Pinon Hills has nothing to do with the course, rather it's the down-to-earth green fees that hover in the $20 range. At that price, you should be happy just to play the front nine. Open year-round.
www.fmtn.org/pinonhills Inn of the Mountain Gods Mescalero Flanked below the majestic Sierra Blanca Peak, the Ted Robinson-designed Championship Course features a dazzling array of elevation changes, an island fairway and tricky-yet-fair greens. The tall pine trees that encompass the golf present an ambience that's both peaceful and engaging. Open year-round.
_ÊGT Selects (cont.) _Ê Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course Cochiti Lake Not a single man-made structure interrupts this Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, and it's become known as one of the prettiest in the state. Pueblo de Cochiti is a spectacular high-desert course that carves its way delicately through the natural landscape and is surrounded by cedar trees and pinon and ponderosa pines. Prepare for some rollicking changes in elevation. Open year-round.
www.pueblodecochiti.org Sandia Golf Club Albuquerque Stretching from 4,900 yards to over 7,700 yards from the back tees, the Sandia Golf Club will challenge and delight golfers with a memorable layout routed through the rugged high-desert landscape. The course features strategically placed bunkers, challenging green complexes and panoramic views of the Sandia Mountains and greater Albuquerque area. This Scott Miller design ranks right up there with his other well-known efforts at Coeur d'Alene Resort in Idaho and We-Ko-Pa in Scottsdale, Ariz. The course complements the four-star Sandia Resort and Casino. Open year-round (weather permitting).
www.sandiagolf.com Santa Ana Golf Club Santa Ana Pueblo Woven through the desert along the Rio Grande, Santa Ana Golf Club (located 25 minutes north of Albuquerque) is surrounded by the grandeur of the Jemez Mountains to the west, the Sangre de Cristos to the north, and the Sandia Mountains immediately east, offering a spectacular view of the 10,000-foot Sandia Peak. Santa Ana is a hybrid of a links-style design fused with target-style golf for which most desert courses are known. Open year-round.
www.santaanagolf.com Twin Warriors Golf Club At The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa Santa Ana Pueblo Named after the two warriors who led the Santa Ana people to settle on the banks of the Rio Grande, the Gary Panks-designed Twin Warriors Golf Club is 18 holes of stunning high-desert, championship golf routed in and around 20 ancient cultural sites of previous habitation and activity. The course has beautiful grassy knolls and ridges dotted with juniper and pinon pines that define the vast Santa Ana reservation. Recently, Twin Warriors (located 25 minutes north of Albuquerque) was added to the 100 Greatest Public Courses list. Open year-round.
www.twinwarriorsgolf.com University of New Mexico Championship Course (South) Albuquerque The Championship Course boasts fairways that stretch out long and wide, bobbing up and down, right and left—all factors that make it difficult to reach the tricky greens. Stray shots land in the sparse, rough, loose sand, water or sagebrush. Like its name suggests, this place is well known for hosting the 1950, 1976 and 1992 NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships as well as the 1998 NCAA Championships. Open year-round.