Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, NM
Tee Time: April 30, 2017, 3:15, 60 F, sunny, 25mph winds
Designer: Baxter Spann, 2002
Playing Partners: none
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (70.5 rating/136 slope/6,719 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.6 index)
Stats: 89 (49-40); 35 putts; 8/14 fairways; 7/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes
After living in Arizona for five years, I finally made it out to New Mexico for golf. I don’t know why it took so long. Albuquerque is only a six-hour drive, about the same as LA which I’ve done too many times. And New Mexico has some of the prettiest desert scenery in the Southwest. So after a quick visit to Texas to acquire an Adrian Beltre bobblehead, I broke up the flight home by spending a night in Albuquerque and checking two courses off my list that I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, starting with Black Mesa Golf Club.
The first on that list is Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, about 90 minutes north of the airport and half-an-hour from Santa Fe. I timed it just right, because the day before (April 29th!), it was 29 degrees and snowy. The next day it was 60 and windy, but the course was just fine. It was hard to find information on this course. It’s almost in the middle of nowhere with no real internet presence. In fact they have to close down at least a day a week during the peak season to save money, so hopefully business picks up and this fun and scenic course can live on.
The front nine opens with a blind tee shot on a dogleg-left par 4. There are two blind tee shots on the front side, and thankfully the course put up aiming flags atop the hills to guide you. There’s also GPS in the carts, but it’s nice to have a bright orange flag to steer your shot at.
The first nine holes play exposed to the wind, with views of the valley and snow-capped mountains to the east. You can see most of the front nine and your fellow golfers as you make your way around. There are some fun holes here. The 3rd plays as long as 603 yards and slightly uphill and then the 4th is a lengthy par 3 of 174 yards to a green that looks like a tiny patch of grass far away in the rolling rocky hills.
The 6th and 7th, a 530-yard par 5 and 319-yard par 4, provide the best views of the front nine. From the 6th tee you can see the next two holes unfold in front of you, with a high mesa towering to the left and framing the terrain of the golf course nicely. The par-3 8th has the biggest green on the course it feels like. The front nine closes with an uphill par 4 of 407 yards.
The back nine is much different than the front nine in terms of scenery. Set back into the rocky hills, each hole feels isolated and its own challenge, unlike the front nine where every hole rolls into the next.
The par-3 11th is a great example. The shortest par 3 at 155 yards, this small hole is back into the high mesas that tower above the flag. It feels like a natural stadium. One of the prettiest holes from the tee is the dogleg-left, 377-yard 12th. It looks like something you’d see on a calendar with the natural high desert vegetation contrasting the green grass and several jigsaw-piece bunkers.
One of the more fun holes, pending wind, is 340-yard 14th. It plays uphill, but a big tee shot can cut off a huge chunk and leave you 30-40 yards short of the green. The final par 3, #15, would be a good spot for a group picture with a nice blue pond and sweeping views of the mesas on the horizon as a nice background.
The 18th is a dogleg-right par 4 that eases downhill back to the clubhouse and the end of your round.
I really liked Black Mesa. It did feel a lot like Rochelle Ranch in Wyoming. The course had some weeds and patchy spots as it comes back into season after the winter, but nothing terrible. It really follows the natural terrain and feels like you’re playing a course that was just laid on top of the land with very little help from a bulldozer. The back nine is the memorable piece, with several holes that will stay with you and can be played in a couple different ways.
If you’re ever in Santa Fe, make the trip here for a round and enjoy the scenery. It’s too far from Albuquerque to really justify the drive when there are some nice courses that are closer. But I’m happy I made the three-hour round trip drive, even if after the wind-blown afternoon I was exhausted on that trip back.
#16, Par 5, 494 yards, 4-handicap, My Score: 4
Definitely my favorite hole was the 16th. A narrow fairway snakes right and left and right up to the long, skinny green. If you can keep a drive in the fairway, it’s an easy reach in two because there isn’t much trouble by the green aside from a small bunker to the right. But the fairway has so many bottlenecks, especially directly in the landing area, that if you miss and kick off into the bad stuff, you’re losing a great birdie opportunity at the end of your round.
Layout: B; the front nine is nice and open, with some big fairways. The back nine is narrower and features some dramatic high-desert holes.
Amenities: B-, this is definitely the longest gravel road I’ve been on to reach a golf course so far.
Staff: A; friendly and helpful, especially when I left my camera in the cart and it was quickly returned.
Difficulty: B; fast greens and bumpy fairways make shot placement crucial, and if the wind blows that really adds to the challenge
Scenery: B+; with snow still on the mountains, it makes for some nice pictures.
Value: A; just over $45 for your round and cart, this is well worth the greens fee and you get plenty of great golf. But you do need to invest a lot of time to get here.
Overall GPA: 3.3 (B+) Check out the flyover below…