The Four Corners is a region of the United States consisting of the southwestern corner of Colorado, northwestern corner of New Mexico, northeastern corner of Arizona and southeastern corner of Utah. The Four Corners Monument is located at the quadripoint where the boundaries of the four states meet. Prior to this trip, my only visit consisted of my right foot stepping into the state of New Mexico at the Four Corners Monument (my left foot was busy visiting Arizona while my hands were touching down in Utah and Colorado). I was prepared to change that shortly.
Julie’s broken foot did cause us to make some adjustments on this trip. We stayed overnight on the property at the Ballyneal Golf & Hunt Club in Colorado, enabling Julie to relax in the room while I played golf. We had a few more hotel choices in New Mexico given my choice to play the Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, located in a suburb of Albuquerque. We opted to book a room at the Hard Rock Casino & Resort. The Hard Rock offered Julie the opportunity to relax in the room, choose from a selection of restaurants for in-house dining or entertain herself at the slot machines if boredom set in. With her needs taken care of, I was off to play golf.
In addition to it’s rank as the #1 course in New Mexico, Paa-Ko Ridge was highly recommended to me several times over the past year by other golfers. Designed by Kenneth Dye, Jr., the course is situated on the east side of the Sandia Mountains, at elevations ranging from 6,500 to 7,000 feet (note: the higher elevation will cause a golf ball to travel 10% further than the same shot would in Iowa). The layout of the course features landing areas and greens separated by arroyos, native vegetation, and rock outcroppings. Many of the holes play downhill through ponderosa, piñon and juniper. All of the holes feature spectacular high-desert and mountain views.
Location: Sandia Park, NM
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #1
Date: 27 Sep, tee off at 11:10 AM
Conditions: partly cloudy, 10 MPH wind, 78 degrees
Lost balls: 2
Score: 85 on a par 72
There was no shortage of potential playing partners for me to be paired up with. I shared a golf cart with was Gary Blake, a 51-year old from Shreveport, Louisiana. Gary has had a very interesting career path: he is a retired Navy man who pursued a 2nd career with MCI WorldCom and GTE. The hectic pace of a career in the telecom industry led him to his 3rd career in golf. He worked 3-years for the Golf Channel while pursuing a degree in Golf Management before moving into his current position as the Head Golf Professional at the Fox Run golf course on the Barksdale Air Force base in Bossier, Louisiana. Gary’s wife of 24-years is also retired from the Navy; she is currently employed by General Dynamics as a Senior Program Analyst providing oversight on new contract quotes.
A father & son team accompanied us on the round of golf. Harold Gonzales retired 17-years ago from a management position with the U.S. Postal Service after a 36-year career. He did not sit around for long - - - he began working as a real estate broker the day following his retirement. The 72-year old man can trace his ancestry back 7-generations in the Albuquerque area; his ancestors were given rights to the eastern half of the valley below Paa-Ko ridge in a land grant but the land was sold off previous to his generation.
Harold was accompanied by his son, Chris. The single, 35-year old earned a BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico. He has been employed by Intel for the past 12-years as a process engineer in a computer chip manufacturing facility.
Gary Blake, Chris & Harold Gonzales
Paa-Ko Ridge has 27-holes of golf; we played the last 18-holes after the starter sent us out to hole #10 (I did circle back to play the first 9-holes after the round was finished). The weather cooperated, providing a beautiful day to be outside enjoying the fresh air on a scenic golf course. I was hitting the ball on target with only a couple of exceptions, which was good considering shots that veered offline where lost forever in the thick underbrush. We did not encounter any snakes on the course but did spot an occasional rabbit and one road runner (a fitting name for the fast running bird that prefers to run at speeds up to 20 mph in stead of taking flight).
400-yard par 4 hole #10
426-yard par 4 hole #11
523-yard par 5 hole #12 (view of the green)
366-yard par 4 hole #13
Hole #13 (view of approach shot from the fairway)
625-yard par 5 hole #15
The course was in great shape with fast greens that made for difficult putting. Club selection was critical given the longer ball flight in the thin mountain air. I scored well with 8-pars on the round but did card 3-double bogeys, 2 of which resulted from balls lost in the underbrush.
405-yard par 4 hole #17
213-yard par 3 hole #22
607-yard par 5 hole #23 (view of the 2nd shot from the fairway)
190-yard par 3 hole #24
238-yard par 3 hole #26
The round of golf at Paa-Ko Ridge brought me to the point of having played golf in 49-states within a 9-month period. My goal of playing in all 50-states within 1-year was much easier than anticipated. Since we were already on the road, I offered to drive straight to Florida and conclude the quest. Julie did not see the wisdom in my suggestion. My 2nd thought was to begin working on the next item in my bucket list.
During the course of the past year I have been thinking of what that goal might be. Originally I was thinking of attempting to play the all of the top 100 courses in the USA. It is clear such a goal can be quite frustrating by attempting to gain entry into a large number of private clubs, many of whom have strict rules requiring that I be invited to play by a club member. That lead me to the goal of playing the top 100 public courses in the USA (I have already played 25 courses on the list). With that in mind, prior to leaving New Mexico we drove to Espanola where I could play the Black Mesa Golf Club. My goal to play in all 50 states during 2012 will not be complete until we visit Florida in December (along with a trip to Disney World with the grandkids), but I was already starting the pursue my next goal. With only 2 of the top 100 courses in New Mexico I would have covered both by playing at Paa-Ko Ridge and Black Mesa.
Location: Espanola, NM
Golf Digest “America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses” Rank: tied for 86th
Date: 28 Sep, tee off at 11:10 AM
Conditions: partly cloudy, 6 MPH wind, 66 degrees
Lost balls: 0
Score: 85 on a par 72
A group of friends from Dallas, Texas joined me on the round. They were traveling to Colorado to spend a long week-end at a condo owned by Brain, who is a dentist back home in Dallas. Dale owns a metal fabrication business and Dave is a contractor.
The boys from Dallas: Dale, Dave & Brian
339-yard par 4 hole #1 (the fairway was across the pond and over the hill)
584-yard par 5 hole #3
Hole #3 (view of the green)
174-yard par 3 hole #4
Although Espanola was less than 100-miles from Albuquerque, the terrain was much more sparse. This made finding wayward golf balls much easier. Luckily, the rattle snakes that inhabit the area did not make any appearances during my invasion of their territory. Some rain clouds threatened to cut the round short but only a few rain drops found their way to the ground in the immediate vicinity. The scenery definitely added to my enjoyment.