Road Holes — 10 January 2013 by Jim Street
Top Five: New Mexico

Where’s the best place to play golf on the West Coast? We’ll give you hundreds of choices. continues its annual assessment of the Top Five courses to play within 12 West Coast states and British Columbia. Today, the 25-part series focuses on: New Mexico.


LOCATION: Albuquerque

DIRECTIONS: From Albuquerque Airport, take I-25 north for 60 miles to US-84 NUS-285 N via exit 282B-A toward Los Alamos/Taos/Santa Fe-Plaza. Turn left onto NM-399 S. Destination is just past Road 1133.

PHONE: 505 747-8946

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site:

OPENED: 2002 (Architect: Robert Baxter Spann)

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,307 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: The environment at Black Mesa is pure, absent of any man-made distractions. As you enter the site, your first glimpse of the course gives you a taste of the vast property.

Designed by architect Baxter Spann, Black Mesa has a wild Irish links look to it, particularly in the spring after a wet winter when the native grasses are leafy and blowing in the breeze.

The course plays through dramatic sandstone ridges with Black Mesa visible from several locations. Each hole features characteristics that make them both strategic and memorable in its own unique way. The layout showcases distinctive bunkering, native arroyos as hazards, and green contouring in keeping with the scale of the natural landforms.

A great course tests both the mind and the body, and this statement holds true for Black Mesa. From the first tee shot, you realize that mental strategy is essential, while the course’s expansive fairways and greens allow it to be played more easily than it appears.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 16, par 5, 536 yards. This hole has been dubbed ‘Stairway to Seven.’ It measures 366 yards from the forward tee to 536 yards from the championship tee that also offers a stunning view of the hole. The entire hole unfolds before your very eyes with the lush green fairway contrasting with the stark hills and arroyo that surrounds it. The picturesque 16th presents many options on every shot. Once you decide to go for the green on either the second, third or fourth shot, you must be a problem solver to score well.

Paa Ko


LOCATION: Albuquerque

DIRECTIONS: From Albuquerque Airport, take I-25 north to I-40 east. Go through the mountains to milepost No. 175. Take Hwy 14 west for almost 10 miles. Take a left on Paa-ko Golf Dr. Take second entrance to the course.

PHONE: 505 281-6000

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site:

OPENED: 2000 (Architect: Ken Dye)

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,562 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: The 27-hole course is situated on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, at elevations ranging from 6,500 to 7,000 feet. The layout of the course features landing areas and greens separated by arroyos, native vegetation, and rock outcroppings. Each hole in the upscale course has five sets of tees allowing play from 5,702 to 7,562 yards, and many of the holes play downhill through ponderosa, pinon and juniper. Pro tips for each hole can be found on the virtual tour.

All holes feature spectacular high-desert and mountain views, strong golf-shot values and a serenity not often found anymore. It is one of the most award-winning public access courses ever to open in the U.S. The golf is stimulating, the views breathtaking and the experience unforgettable.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 17, par-4, 419 yards. One of the most scenic holes on the course, it has an elevated tee. There is a 70-foot drop to the fairway and another 10-foot drop to the green. Regardless of your score, you won’t soon forget the beauty of this hole.


LOCATION: Albuquerque


DIRECTIONS: From Albuquerque Airport, take I-25 north to exit 234. Head East on Tramway. The golf club is located on east side of the Resort & Casino.

PHONE: 505 798-3990

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site:

OPENED: 2005 (Architect: Scott Miller)

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,755 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Stretching from 5,113 yards to 7,772 yards, the par 72 championship course will challenge golfers with a layout routed through the rugged high desert landscape featuring 48 bunkers and panoramic views of the Sandia Mountains and greater Albuquerque area.

The facility also features a full size practice range with a double-tiered teeing area, a 10,000-square foot practice putting green, a practice chipping green with bunker, and a small putting green next to the No. 1 tee.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 5, par 5, 662 yards. This definitely is a three-shot-to-the-green hole. Forget about an eagle and be satisfied with a birdie or par. No. 5 is the longest hole on the course and there is trouble on both sides of the fairway. As always, do not stray onto the vast desert areas.



LOCATION: Albuquerque

DIRECTIONS: From Albuquerque Airport, take I-25 south to Exit 220. Turn slight right on NM-500/Rio Bravo Blvd. SE. Turn left onto NM-47/Broadway Blvd. SE.

PHONE: 505 848-1900

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site:

OPENED: 1996 (Architect: Bill Phillips)

LAYOUT: (Lakes Nine) 3,745 yards; (Arroyo Nine) 3,345 yards; (Mesa Nine) 3,793 yards. (Four tee positions each)

LOWDOWN: The Isleta Eagle golf course is, arguably, one of New Mexico’s finest public golf courses. It is a 27-hole layout that hugs the shores of the Rio Grande and meanders from one picturesque lake to the next.

Each of Isleta’s three different nine-hole courses is designed around its main topographical feature and includes the Lakes Nine, Arroyo Nine, and Mesa Nine; all provide sweeping views of the broad Rio Grande Valley and rugged mountains.

It’s a classic desert tract located on native New Mexico Indian land close to the Pueblo of Isleta, centrally located in the Río Grande Valley, 13 miles south of Albuquerque. The Isleta Eagle golf course features stunning panoramic views of the Rio Grande Valley and Mount Taylor. The courses are rated four stars by Golf Digest’s ‘Best Places to Play.’

SIGNATURE HOLE: (Mesa Nine): No. 1, par-4, 500 yards. The hole faces westward and heads downhill toward the Rio Grande; (Arroyo Nine) No. 3, par-3, 227 yards. This hole is relatively short, but exceedingly hard to hit because of prevailing winds; (Lakes Nine) No. 8, par-5, 638 yards. A huge valley guarding a green features a lot of contours and three distinct plateaus. Land on the wrong side of the plateau where the pin is placed makes it extremely difficult to two-putt.


Santa Ana

LOCATION: Albuquerque

DIRECTIONS: From Albuquerque International Airport: Take Sunport Blvd. west to I-25. Go north on I-25 to Exit 242 (Hyy 550). Go west (left) on Hwy 550 to Tamaya Blvd. (approx. 2.5 miles). Go north (right) on Tamaya Blvd. to Tuyuna Trail.

PHONE: 505 867-9464

GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site:

OPENED: 1991 (Architect: Ken Killian)

LAYOUT: (Tamaya Nine), 3,670 yards; (Star Nine), 3,517 yards; (Cheena Nine), 3,628 yards. (four tee positions).

LOWDOWN: Santa Ana Golf Club is the award winning sister course to Twin Warriors Golf Club. The course is ranked in the top 100 in the country by both Golf Digest and Golfweek. The Santa Ana Golf Club is a daily fee golf course – only one fee for the entire day.

The golf course offers the natural splendor of the Santa Ana Pueblo. Located north of Albuquerque, NM, and woven through the desert along the Rio Grande, it 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.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 9 (Cheena course), No. 4, 468 yards. Each of the three courses has its own personality, but the finishing hole on the Cheena course is recognized as a favorite. Besides being picturesque, a bunker on the left side of the fairway and three more on the right closer to the green tests a golfer’s accuracy. But with water on the left side of the green, it is better to aim for the right-side bunkers than risk putting a ball or two in the pond.

– Jim Street


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About Author

Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, made his first and only hole-in-one on March 12, 2018 at Sand Point Country Club in Seattle and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick, Gleneagles and Castle Stuart in Scotland, and numerous gems in Hawaii are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League Baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and has an 8-year-old grandson, Andrew, who is the club's current junior champion at his home course (Oakmont CC) in Glendale, Calif.

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