ANGEL FIRE, NM - A Cowboy poet once said: "Heaven is playing golf on the 4th of July without breaking a sweat."
No doubt Angel Fire Resort was heaven-sent for the sake of sweaty Texans. As far back as the Model T, families of dusty Texans looked forward to summer vacations in the cool Rockies. Today, all one has to do is drive through the resort or through nearby Eagle's Nest and every other vehicle has a white license plate (denoting a Texan).
And at the Angel Fire Country Club Golf Course, they claim: "The temperature and par are both a cool 72." It's an 18-hole, 6,660-yard PGA-rated championship course. It has dramatic elevation changes, some very tight challenging holes with Ponderosa pines, spruces and aspens every where at 8,500 feet. And if you enjoy hitting targets with water and marshy lateral hazards to maneuver, you will like Angel Fire.
"This course can lull you to sleep," said Ken Stone of Corsicana, TX. "It doesn't look that difficult, but the greens are difficult to read and there are little creeks everywhere than can really play tricks on your depth perception. I brought several friends up here last week with varying handicaps. After the first round all of them said they surely would improve their score with a second round, but none of them did."
Not all downhill putts are as slick as you think. Some of them are against the grain and you will need to read those or you will come up short.
"It is very difficult for beginners," said head pro Chris Stewart. "There are lots of out of bounds, the creek comes in to play on 14 holes and the tight holes are very challenging."
Angel Fire was built as a resort with homesites throughout the golf course. The front nine was built in 1961 and is more open and like a links course. The back nine constructed in 1976 is longer and traverses through beautiful canyons.
Bunkers are everywhere and if that isn't enough of a challenge around the greens, one will find gnarly two-inch rough just off the green collars. Over the green, chipping out of that rough downhill, will test anyone's short game.
Actually, the "creeks" look more like deep ditches and on many holes these ditches are very hard to see. So study the scorecard graphic before every shot, especially if you are playing without someone who has played it before and has the "local" knowledge.
No. 1 is a dogleg right uphill and No. 2 is downhill dogleg right with three huge pines guarding the right side at the corner. Placement of all shots are imperative, otherwise you will be hitting lots of layups.
No. 9 is a par-five, 507-yard beauty. The tee shot is wide open, but the second shot has to be placed on the left side of the fairway. Toward the elevated, two-tier green the fairway narrows greatly with the "forest" grabbing any wayward shot.
Nos. 11 and 12 are tight as a bowling lane. If that's not enough of a tough tee shot consider that the water ditch goes all the way down the left side. No. 11 is a par-four, 378 yards and No. 12 is a par-five, 489 yards with an elevated green.
The signature hole is No. 15. It is a 239-yard, par-three and it is a 200-foot vertical drop straight downhill. Don't let up on this shot expecting the downhill to carry your shot or you will be short. Target golf defines No. 18. There's water left and a marsh to the right. The second shot is uphill on this 382-yard, par-four.
The Angel Fire Country Club Golf Course is south of the ski area on Highway 434. The golf course is open May 1 through the third Sunday in October and it's busy. Stewart said on the average 300 golfers play many days during the summer months. So call for a tee time at (505) 377-3055.
Angel Fire has spring, summer and fall packages. Summer season fees are $45 Monday through Thursday and $50 on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. There's a $35 twilight fee after 4 p.m. seven days a week. Daily cart rentals are $25.
Angel Fire has approximately 1,600 full-time residents and around 1,200 season inhabitants who come in from Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to enjoy the cool weather.
Winter at Angel Fire? Yep, the ski resort is one of the best in New Mexico.