New Mexico's Best Public Courses

Thursday November 8th, 2007
The 403-yard, par-4 12th hole at Black Mesa
John and Jeannie Henebry

Not long ago New Mexico was better known for space aliens landing at Roswell and the birth of the atomic bomb than for golf. Nowadays, travelers come to the Land of Enchantment for cheap greens fees, not little green men. The Albuquerque/Santa Fe corridor may be no match for Phoenix/Scottsdale as a desert golf mecca, but it's a refreshing alternative, thanks to uncrowded championship courses at bargain prices.

Black Mesa Golf Club
La Mesilla
7,307 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $35-$82; 505-747-8946, blackmesagolfclub.com
Architect: Baxter Spann, 2003

Pay heed to the clubhouse sign: "Big course, big Medicine — it will kick your butt." Carved from prehistoric sandstone bluffs, this course opens with a blind tee shot over a ravine, a lake and a hill cloaked in inhospitable sagebrush — and things only get more interesting from there. Some back-nine holes plunge in and out of canyons, such as the par-3 11th and the par-4 12th, which yields an otherworldly view from its elevated tee. With its severe slopes, wildly undulating greens and scary-looking fringed bunkers, Black Mesa might be too much golf for some, but you'll never regret coming here once.

Paa-ko Ridge Golf Club
Sandia Park
7,562 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $44-$99;
505-281-6000, paakoridge.com
Architect: Ken Dye, 2000

High on the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains 25 minutes from Albuquerque, Paa-ko dishes out a series of holes that tumble through junipers, cedars and pines which form a green backdrop. Rock outcroppings, sagebrush and arroyos remind you that you're still in the desert. Make the effort to ascend the back tee of the par-4 17th for the view.

Twin Warriors Golf Club
Santa Ana Pueblo
7,736 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $80-$145;
505-771-6155, twinwarriorsgolf.com
Architect: Gary Panks, 2001

Twin Warriors is a muscular layout next to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, 10 miles north of Albuquerque. It's framed by dense native brush on most holes and routed around 20 ancient cultural sites. Even at this altitude (5,000-5,200 feet), Twin Warriors is a long stretch, but wide fairways and soft contouring around the greens help rescue misguided shots.

University of New Mexico (Championship Course)
Albuquerque
7,272 yards, par 72
Greens fee: $27-$67;
505-277-4546, unmgolf.com
Architect: Red Lawrence, 1966

From the opening tee shot, with its commanding view of the Albuquerque skyline, this layout is a rollicking ride over undulating terrain. The sprawling, topsy turvy greens place a premium on approach shots and lag putting.

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