Time to head to the high country of New Mexico

Black Mesa Golf Club is a timeless masterpiece

Awe-inspiring, visually intimating, an Irish-links course set in the vistas of the mountains.

by Nancy Howard

New Mexico’s high country offers one of the greatest golf venues you could possibly encounter…Black Mesa Golf Club. It’s awe-inspiring, visually intimating, an Irish-links course set in the vistas of the mountains surrounded by the history of the Puye Pueblo Indians. Named for the Black Mesa plateau, which is a sacred burial ground for the (Puye) Pueblo Indians, ancestors to today’s Santa Clara people, and preserved from the Spanish takeover and occupation of the area, the course is environmentally sensitive to its surrounding history.

My suggestion is to take a quick flight to Albuquerque from Phoenix Sky Harbour and hire Star Limo for a short ride (approximately 89 miles) through the history of this land to your destination. It prepares you for what you are about to experience. And, what an experience it is.

Referred to as the “Hub to northern New Mexico”, Espanola  is a perfect place to stake your claim in the Santa Claran Hotel & Casino. The property offers the outstanding Black Mesa Steak House, Big Rock Sports Bar & Grill, Santa Claran Café, The “O” Bar & Tapas, Coffee Bar and all the gaming you could want.  And, it’s minutes away from your main destination…Black Mesa Golf Club, as well as Santa Fe and Taos.

Black Mesa Golf Club will call you over and over again! From the moment you arrive you are in awe of the surroundings. The air is crisp and clean, the blue birds are the bluest imaginable, and the song birds have lungs the size of elephants (must be from the clean air), they’re about the only sounds you’ll hear while on the course. Black Mesa is truly high country golf!

Don’t attempt a round without picking up “Tom’s Tips to Taming Black Mesa” by Tom Velarde, Director of Golf. It’s a must to make your way through the course on your first round. And, oh yes, you’ll definitely need a second round with these tips, as well. This is a thinking man’s course, for sure. And one you’ll want to accept the challenge on several times, not just once.

No country club golf here! Black Mesa feels more like you are in Ireland on a links course with no frills, just pure golf! Well paved dirt cart paths wind you through arroyos, cliffs, rolling terrain, canyons and the most colorful wild flowers and vegetation. Undulating large greens in box canyons and beneath rocky ridges offer up the challenge of the century. And, yes, even in May there are snowcapped mountain vistas in the distance.

Designed by architect Baxter Spann, Black Mesa showcases distinctive bunkering, native arroyos as hazards, and green contouring in keeping with the scale of the natural landforms.

Playing 7,307 yards from the tips with a Slope/Rating 73.9/141, Black Mesa has received accolades from Golf Digest “Top 100 Courses”; Golfweek “100 Best Modern”; Golf Magazine “Top 100 You Can Play”; Links Magazine “Top 10 Most Spectacular in the World” as well as America’s Best New Courses in 2003 by Golf Digest.

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, at least during your second go ‘round. Wind is a major influence on this site, and the course was designed to be fun and challenging in calm conditions, yet not impossibly difficult on the days it is blowing, which if often. Incorporated in the design are some hidden target areas and semi-blind uphill shots. When asked which of the holes were their favorite, our group couldn’t pick between them. Each hole is so incredibly distinct in its design that it’s impossible to pick between them. We loved each and every one of them, along with the challenges they presented.

The greens…oh yes, the greens were in perfect condition and slowed to a 9 on the stimp meter (per Tom Verlarde, “If they were faster you’d never finish your round”). can make you or break you. There’s truly no pro tip to give you an advantage. You are totally on your own when it comes to reading them. Needless to say, our group, more often than not, was totally amazed at how some broke, of course not the way we predicted.

Yes ladies, this is a woman friendly course and comments were that the ladies tee boxes didn’t take away from the natural beauty or challenge of the course. They were well thought through and we completely appreciated their design with the course layout.

For breakfast, when you make the turn or after your round, enjoy the excellent food and full service bar libations with the friendliest staff ever in the Mesa Grill or on their patio located adjacent to the well-appointed pro shop. They offer catering for tournaments or outings of any size. Note: When asked if you wish to have green or red sauce, ask for Christmas on the side. You’ll feel just like one of the locals.

Located within minutes of the golf club are the Puye Cliffs Dwellings, home to 1,500 Pueblo Indians from the 900s to 1580, A.D., who relocated into the Rio Grande River valley. They became the ancestors of today’s Santa Clara people. The tour is a walk through ancient history. Visit www.puyecliffs.com to reserve  your tour prior or inbetween rounds of golf at Black Mesa.

It’s difficult to describe the majestic beauty and history in such a short space for all the sights and challenges Black Mesa Golf Club, Espanola, Santa Fe and Taos have to offer. However, I can say that I’ve come to love New Mexico from this excursion and this publisher’s choice of description for the state is “The Gentle and Friendly State”. Best I’ve even had the pleasure of exploring. It’s definitely on my list for more exploration in the very near future and of course, another chance at the “Must Play” Black Mesa Golf Club,.

For more information on Black Mesa Golf Club or for Stay ‘n Play packages, visit www.blackmesagolf.com, call 505.747.8946, www.facebook.com/blackmesagolfclub; http://twitter.com/blackmesagc or http://www.youtube.com/user/backmesagolfclub.