A Great Day in New Mexico

I got up early this morning and hit the road, heading east on the I-40 from Flagstaff on my way to New Mexico. It’s my first time visiting the state, so I was excited about the new adventure. The drive was pretty long and boring. Lots of Native American trading posts and Route 66-related marketing. I did stop at a Navajo shop just inside the NM border to pick up some old school metal sparklers for a friend. They have been outlawed in California for many years now for some reason, so they wanted me to grab some in New Mexico.

My destination today was Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola, NM (just north of Santa Fe). I made good time and got into Albuquerque around 11:00 am. I stopped for some lunch at The Frontier Restaurant, which is just across the street from the University of New Mexico and is definitely a popular place. I had seen it on Man v. Food and it looked like a cool place. Looks like the breakfast food is most popular there, but I got a “fiesta” burger and fries. Burger was excellent with roasted green chiles, which are mandatory on everything in New Mexico I think.

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I then headed north toward Santa Fe. It’s about an hour-and-a-half drive from Albuquerque to Black Mesa. I got there around 1:15. My time was not until 2:30, but I was hoping they could get me out earlier because I had other things I wanted to do this evening (more on that later).

Black Mesa Golf Club • Española, NM • 5/5/12

This course is way out in the middle of nowhere and it embraces that fact. The road to the clubhouse is a long dirt/gravel road and there are no paved cart paths anywhere on the course. It looked like there were plenty of people out there, so I thought I may have to wait. But the guy in the pro shop said I could head out whenever I wanted, so I got out to the first tee quickly.

I can definitively say that Black Mesa was nothing like I expected it to be. I had seen their pictures on the website, which are of course polished and perfect angles/lighting/conditions. When I got there, the course looked and played very different than I envisioned. That’s not a bad thing, though, because I ended up loving the track.

I’ve used the term “rugged” a number of times on this blog, but Black Mesa takes that concept to an entirely new level. Dirt/gravel cart paths. Slow, gas-powered carts. And a course that is as rugged as it gets (but in a good way). It actually reminded me A LOT of the Bandon Dunes courses, which was very surprising. It’s not a full-on links layout like those, but it’s build throughout some desert dunes with mesas and mountains framing the course in the distance. Long native grasses and bushes frame each hole. Bunkers are ragged and gnarly. Greens are full of crazy undulations. There are a lot of blind shots, awkward angles and funky hole layouts.

It really was something unique and I enjoyed every minute of it out there. It’s hard to even explain what a cool course this is. I know my review almost sounds negative, but it’s not.

I ran into a few groups out on the course, but they let me play through. So it was perfect that I was able to finish in just under 3 hours! As far as conditions go, I wouldn’t say the course is in optimal shape. However, it’s meant to be very rough around the edges, so I kind of liked the fact that it didn’t look super-manicured out there. Nothing condition-wise affected play. The fairways were nice to hit out of and so was the rough. The ground was a bit dried out and there were a lot of little flowers (dandelions, etc.) just growing in the fairways and rough and it really just added to the effect for me. The greens were in nice shape. Very soft and a little slow, but ran true.

So if you are looking for a really lush resort course, then Black Mesa is not for you. But if you are looking for a unique course that’s different than most others you will ever play, it’s worth the jaunt to this fairly remote location.

One last thing to mention about Black Mesa is the challenge. It is a tough course, especially for a first-time player with the blind shots and some challenging hole layouts (17th hole is a monster of a dogleg left par-4). From the tips, it measures over 7,300 yards! I played the blue tees, which were plenty for me at over 6,700 yards. Luckily, the wind was down today. Apparently it can get really windy there, so I could only imagine how much tougher it can play when the weather is rough.

Here are some pictures from Black Mesa Golf Club (5/5/12):

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It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly that I was able to get out on the course early and play a quick round. I headed directly from the course back toward Albuquerque, where I am staying for the night. I checked into my room, had a quick shower and then headed over from here to Isotopes Park, home of the Albuquerque Isotopes.

I am a huge baseball fan, so I wanted to check out a minor league game. I am a big Simpsons fan (which is where this team got its name if you are unaware). One of my fantasy baseball teams is even named for the Springfield Isotopes. I am also a Dodgers fan and the Isotopes are the AAA affiliate team for Los Angeles, so it all adds up to a perfect storm of interest for me.

There was a big crowd at the game tonight because of fireworks show after the game. Almost sold out so the only ticket I could get was in the worst possible section. I didn’t even sit in my seat all night. Just walked around taking pictures and checking out the stadium. Pretty cool place and great vibe in a minor league ballpark with a big crowd. I grabbed an Indian Taco at the food stand. Seemed appropriate while I am in New Mexico. It was OK, nothing great.

I left the game in the 7th inning. I saw what I needed to see and wanted to get back to my room so I could get my blog post up. Hope you all enjoy!

A few pictures from Isotopes Park (in case you are interested):

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DAY THREE: 514.8 Miles

Day 2: Troon North (Pinnacle) & Seven Canyons (AZ)

Day 4: Paa-Ko Ridge (NM)

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