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Weekend in Albuquerque: Pueblos making golf history in heaven with a zip code

By David R. Holland, Contributor

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Historians will tell you that this high-desert city never had to deal with many outlaws during the Wild West era when six-shooters blazed and countless tombstones were raised.

It was the late 1800s and a blended civilization 150 years old was already in place in Albuquerque.

While surrounding states are proud of their cowboy heritage, New Mexico is a fascinating combination of Native American, Spanish, Anglo, African and Asian. You can certainly taste it in the food and feel it in the lifestyle.

Today life is multi-faceted in the "Duke City" - the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October is world-famous. The Rio Grande pueblo way of life is still alive and golf has become an important sideline for the Indian reservations already decked out with casinos.

Take a golf weekend trip to this colorful town and discover Historic Old Town, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, the Sandia Peak Tramway and Ski Area, Petroglyph National Monument or museums glamorizing the rattlesnake and turquoise (American International Rattlesnake Museum and The Turquoise Museum).

And more golf is on the way. The Sandia Pueblo and Casino has a golf resort on its drawing board.

Here's a suggested weekend golf itinerary:

Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course

Less than an hour north of Albuquerque, the Robert Trent Jones Jr., 1981 Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course is still somewhat of a secret. And don't be surprised if you play it and see a celebrity on the grounds. Some stars have even left momentos and autographs of their visit hanging on the wall in the new clubhouse's restaurant.

"Many celebrities tell us we are heaven with a zip code," said general manager Clee Martin.

The stars of movie, stage and song come here during a visit to Santa Fe or Albuquerque and they like it so much they don't spread the word to their friends back in Hollywood or Nashville. Too many people would spoil the experience.

No wonder. The 6,817-yard par-72 track is a scenic surprise and recently received a $3.2-million facelift. Jones returned to add 12 new clover-leafed bunkers and tacked on 400 yards in length. A new adobe-styled clubhouse was also built.

You might just be able to play year around. The Jemez Mountains protect Pueblo de Cochiti from gusty winds and at an elevation of 5,400 to 6,000 feet, the course is just below snow line. Santa Fe, 45 minutes north, may have six inches of snow and the golf course won't have any.

And even though the course was built originally for a failed development, you won't see houses lining the fairways. You will see cedars, pinons and ponderosa pines. And you will see all kinds of native New Mexico critters feasting as well as elk in the winter.

The layout will challenge you with slick bentgrass putts, sand and water, but No. 17 might give you an ego boost. This 560-yard, par 5, is reachable in two from the shorter tees playing downhill. But don't get too cocky. No. 18, a 390-yard par 4 has a visually intimidating drive with reachable water left and center and a rocky forest right.

History? The Cochiti people are thought to have come from the Anasazi, who lived nearby in Frijoles Canyon. Also close to the course is a stone kiva in Cochiti Canyon, thought to be the origins of the pueblo. The Cochiti arrived around 1250 A.D. and had infrequent visits by the Spanish until after 1581.

When you visit be sure and see Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. These white cliffs are a scenic wonder, designated a National Monument in January 2001. The Bureau of Land Management administers the monument and shares a partnership with the Pueblo de Cochiti to provide access, resource protection, interpretation, environmental education and customer service.

Twin Warriors Golf Club

Located on the Santa Ana Reservation just minutes north of Albuquerque, Twin Warriors Golf Club is New Mexico's only daily-fee beauty with $125 green fees. This larger-than-life Arizona-styled target marvel might just be worth the price teamed with your stay at the ritzy Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa just next door.

And just a minute away are 27 more holes of the Santa Ana Golf Club.

Twin Warriors measures a big medicine 7,736 yards from the Tour Tees, 7,284 from the Championship and 6,914 from the Back. Whew, it's a hike up to the 6,485 weenie tees.

Gary Panks was directed to design it with "cultural sensitivity" - there are 20 ancient sites through red-dirt arroyos and buttes with a towering volcanic "thumb" just above the 16th hole. The Santa Anas consider the Tuyunna Butte or "Snakehead" a sacred area that frames holes 14 to 16.

The contrast of reds and browns in the dry washes and the lush green knolls, mounds, fairways and greens of Twin Warriors makes it a Southwestern golf experience you won't forget. No. 4 is a scenic par 3 with a series of waterfalls. You will also see plenty of native pinons and junipers lining the ridgetops in the distance along with a view of the Sandia Mountains.

Twin Warriors has been selected to host the 36th PGA Club Pro Championship, a showcase event set for June 19-22, 2003. It's the first such event staged on Native American soil. The tournament will be televised by The Golf Channel.

Isleta Eagle Golf Course

Just south of town, near the airport and bordering the bosque of the Rio Grande is Isleta Eagle Golf Course, part of the Pueblo of Isleta.

Opened in 1996, this is a beautiful, fun 27-hole track with Sandia Mountain views, and holes that play around three lakes. The nines are named Lakes, Arroyo and Mesa and were designed by Bill Phillips, who authored 18 holes of the brand-new Towa Golf Resort on the Pojoaque Pueblo north of Santa Fe.

The Lakes Nine, with Penncross bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass fairways and tees, plays down off the upper mesa sloping to two large lakes. Seven of the holes are designed around the large contoured lakes and its signature hole is a par-3, 193-yarder to an island green. Throughout the nine, beware of the thick bluegrass-rye rough.

Views of Mount Taylor and the Rio Grande frame the Mesa Nine. You might even see the Santa Fe Railroad pass by. Four holes have native wash areas to traverse.

The Arroyo Nine was steered around a large mesa arroyo, creating a vast view from the No. 1 tee. The first four holes have arroyos to negotiate. No. 1, a par 5, 537-yarder has three separate targets to hit to arrive on the green in three.

Yardage? It's hefty. The Mesa-Lakes Championship 18 measures a strong 7,572 from the back tees. The Arroyo-Mesa combination is 7,218 yards and the Lakes/Arroyo duo is 7,136 yards.

But then just about everything is hefty about New Mexico. It's a vast land, fifth largest state in the USA, and it will capture your imagination in many more ways than what you see from the first tee. If you experience New Mexico border to border you might just find Heaven with a zip code.

Where to play

Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course
5200 Cochiti Highway
Cochiti Lake, N.M. 87083
Telephone: 505-465-2239
Green Fees: $40 to $50, cart included
Website: www.golfnewmexico.com/pages/courses/cochiti.html

Twin Warriors Golf Club
1301 Tuyuna Trail
Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. 87004
Telephone: 505-771-6155
Green Fees: $125, includes cart, GPS
Website: www.twinwarriorsgolf.com

Isleta Eagle Golf Course
4001 Highway 47 S.E.
Albuquerque, N.M. 87105
Telephone: 800.293.9146 or 505-869-0950
Green Fees: $35-$45, includes cart
Website: www.isletaeagle.com

Where to dine

El Pinto Restaurant
10500 4th Street N.W.
Albuquerque, N.M. 87114
Telephone: 505-898-1771
Website: www.elpinto.com

Seasons Rotisserie & Grill
2031 Mountain Road NW
Albuquerque. N.M.
Telephone: 505-766-5100
Website: www.seasonsonthenet.com

Route 66 Diner
1405 Central Avenue N.E.
Albuquerque, N.M.
Telephone: 505-242-4025
Website: www.66diner.com

High Finance Restaurant
Top of Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway
#10 Tramway Loop N.E.
Albuquerque, N.M. 87122
Telephone: 505-243-9742
Website: www.highfinancerestaurant.com

Traditions Restaurant
601 W. Frontage Road
Algodones, N.M. 87001
(On I-25)
Telephone: 505-867-9700

Maria's New Mexican Kitchen
555 W. Cordova Road
Santa Fe, N.M. 87505
Telephone: 505-983-7929
Website: www.marias-santafe.com

Where to stay

Sheraton Albuquerque Uptown Hotel
2600 Louisiana NE
Albuquerque, N.M.
Telephone: 505-881-0000
Website: www.sheratonuptown.com

Hyatt Regency Tamaya
1300 Tuyuna Trail
Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. 87004
Telephone: 505-867-1234
Website: www.hyatt.com

Things to do

Sandia Peak Ski & Tramway
#10 Tramway Loop N.E.
Albuquerque, N.M. 87122
Telephone: 505-856-6419
Website: www.sandiapeak.com

Golf on the Santa Fe Trail

Golf on the Santa Fe Trail is a new marketing alliance among seven New Mexico courses - Paa-Ko Ridge, Twin Warriors, Isleta Eagle, The Championship Course at the University of New Mexico, Santa Ana, Pueblo de Cochiti and Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe.

The marketing goal? Attract golfers from Colorado, Texas and Arizona. A website is under development at www.golfonthesantafetrail.com.

For more information check out these websites: Paa-Ko Ridge www.paakoridge.com; UNM Championship www.unm.edu/~golf; Isleta Eagle www.isletaeagle.com; Santa Ana www.santaanagolf.com; Twin Warriors www.twinwarriorsgolf.com; Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe www.golfnewmexico.com/marty_sanchez.htm; Pueblo de Cochiti www.golfnewmexico.com/pueblo_de_cochiti.htm.

Helpful phone numbers, websites

Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau:
800-733-9918 ext. 3339, www.itsatrip.org

Santa Fe Convention & Visitors Bureau:
800-777-2489, www.santafe.org

New Mexico Department of Tourism:
800-545-2070, www.newmexico.org

International Balloon Fiesta
899-422-7277, www.balloonfiesta.com

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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