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New Mexico: Tech, Sonoma Ranch Bargains

By Diana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

Put the pedal to the medal, it's time for a driving golf trip of New Mexico. Whether you enter the Land of Enchantment via Interstate 25 or you fly in to a city like Albuquerque, New Mexico offers a treat you'll not soon forget. Here you'll find the Sandia Peak Ski Area, numerous museums, art galleries, performance halls, vineyards, historic Route 66, and the Turquoise Trail, a National Scenic Byway encompassing 15,000 square miles in the heart of central New Mexico. Dozens of golf courses at reasonable rates are scattered throughout the state.

Yep, New Mexico hosts wide open spaces, framed by the rugged mountains, and offering more diversions to your golf game with culture and history galore than there's time for. With more than 310 days of sunshine on average and a minimal amount of precipitation, golf is a year-round possibility in New Mexico. Oh, and did I mention the dozens of golf courses at reasonable rates?

My mission, about six weeks ago, was to make the drive from Denver and enjoy the view of the Rockies first hand and New Mexico's oftentimes rugged mountainous land with an occasional glimpse of what a desert landscape has to offer in their awe-inspiring valleys. Occasionally I was sidetracked when I stopped at the "local sites" on my way to my scheduled tee times. Hopefully, this recapped journey will offer you enough of a taste of New Mexico's golf courses to encourage you to enjoy this great state as much as I did.

Quiet ruins and magnificent, colorful rock formations welcome the traveler into New Mexico. Small cities and towns in the northwest scatter the panoramic scene, setting the traveler up for its friendly inhabitants. Tranquil is your first thought, a welcome reprieve to any fast-paced city. You breathe in fresh air, not tainted with the brown cloud of Denver or other fast growing metropolitan cities.

The small college town of Socorro is only about 70 miles south of Albuquerque located in the beautiful Rio Grande Valley of central New Mexico, but it's course, the New Mexico Tech Golf Course, is one of its best kept secrets. Known as "the jewel of the desert" to locals and traveling golfers, this course is truly an oasis in the desert.

At 6,678 yards (par 72), this course proves that size does not matter in the challenging game of golf. Every hole varies in length and changes in elevation making it necessary to use about every club in your bag. Accuracy is a necessity with its small greens and tight driving areas.

Hole 1 begins with the longest hole, a 547-yard par 5, and a guaranteed warm up for any rusty spring golfers. Big hitters could cut the dogleg and attempt the green in two, allowing for the second shot to be placed to the right of the tree in the fairway. Others should play it safe and keep in mind that what you see isn't necessarily what you get. My favorite hole was #8, with the backdrop of the mountains providing a scenic and relaxing view, momentarily taking your mind off your game. Your drive here is from the right of a small, but intimating lake for a 350-yard par 4. Achievable, but daunting to those balls that like to head straight for the water. The signature hole is touted to be the 13th, a 360-yard dogleg left. Your second shot is to a green more than 60 feet above the fairway, and another confirmation that maybe just one more golf lesson might have been warranted.

The green fees for this New Mexico Tech Golf Course will have you packing your golf bags in a heartbeat. Only $20 bucks will buy you 18 holes of sheer New Mexico heaven, definitely worth the drive from the city.

But wait, there's more! New Mexico is teeming with reasonably priced courses, and I was determined to find them all.

Another vista-bearing drive south on Interstate-25 passes the famed Elephant Butte Lake and the Dam Site, a cabin resort area. Elephant Butte is 45 miles long and is the largest in New Mexico and the premier location for fishing, swimming and boating. Along the highway, tumbleweed may cross your path and small towns are dotted along the interstate. The further south you drive, the more relaxed you'll become. Detouring off this interstate will get you more golf and more historic sites than you can blink an eye at, but for this trip, I continued to Las Cruces, approximately 130 miles south of Socorro.

Las Cruces today is New Mexico's second largest and fastest growing city with a population of 78,800 and recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Although increasing in size, Las Cruces managed to retain the charm and flavor of the "Old West" and its Spanish heritage. Situated between the Organ Mountains and the Rio Grande, the university town of Las Cruces is a regional and cultural hub linking El Paso and Juarez, Mexico. Agriculture abounds in this region's chile, cotton and pecan industries. New Mexico State University and White Sands Missile Range provide a financial base to the area. Like Arizona, living in Las Cruces is a choice among many retirees.

Exchanging the sale of Remington firearms for a golf club, Bob, a 74-year-old retiree from Remington, is just one of the many senior citizens playing a round at the Sonoma Ranch Golf Course in Las Cruces. Sonoma Ranch is a championship golf course designed by world-renowned architect Cal Olsen.

The first public course built in more than 50 years; Sonoma Ranch provides an 18-hole challenging round for golfers of all ages and ability. The 7,028-yard, 72 par course with five tees offer playing choices for all skill levels. Your first stop is the par 4, 348-yard that starts your game with a deceiving, but beautiful hole. A drive from this elevated tee seems approachable, but this fairway likes to kick your ball off into the rough in a blink of the eye. Once you get over that setback, you realize that those beautiful rolling greens are tough, fast and hard to read, and that, mi amigo, is par for this course.

Sonoma Ranch provides a hodgepodge of mountain views beginning with the Franklin Mountain Range, east toward El Paso, Texas. Another range easily visible on this course is the Organ Mountains, which gained its name and reputation long ago. When the wind blows through the mountains, the sound is likened to that of pipe organs. Hole 5 provides a backdrop of the Morgan Mountains, and another challenging par 4. Hole 14's 525-yard, par 5, requires a good drive to come close to par and an error free and decent drive to not lose hope. The finishing hole is water logged and gives you enough reason to run to the 19th hole and order two cervezas to complete your day. However, this course is well worth the heartache for its views alone.

With all these panoramic views, you'd expect this course to run high as a popular course, but you're in for a pleasant surprise. Sonoma Ranch's 18-hole green and cart fee is $30 on weekdays and only $37 on weekend.

To make your New Mexico trip complete, an "authentic" Bed and Breakfast stay is mandatory. The Happy Trails Ranch Bed & Breakfast in Mesilla (http://www.las-cruces-new-mexico.com) is your only choice for TLC and a taste of the area. The adobe accommodations are uniquely western and intimate and close enough to the many area golf courses.

Your B&B hostess Sylvia, serves up a Southwestern breakfast in the intimate surroundings of the newly designed sunroom that leads out to the inner courtyard, a heated swimming pool and Jacuzzi. Hunkered in a valley with a magnificent view of the Organ Mountains, pecan orchards, chile and alfalfa fields surround this small ranch, and you're welcome to bring your golf clubs and your horse, as this B&B also offers stables. After a game of golf, a visit to the infamous historic Mesilla Valley is a short walk away for your shopping and dining pleasure.

And where do you eat? With the quality of food, a trip to New Mexico is a guaranteed added ten pounds, but believe me your taste buds will come alive! When you head to the Plaza of historic Old Mesilla, two must-eat restaurants are located in the 150-year-old haunted adobe home filled with Victorian era chandeliers and antiques featuring seafood and steaks in guaranteed Mesilla style. Double Eagle (www.doubleeageldining.com) and Peppers, a more informal restaurant located inside the Double Eagle, serve up New Mexican Southwestern cuisine in style. More "tastes" of Old Mesilla history can be ordered at La Posta de Mesilla, housed in an 1850 adobe building once a stop on the Butterfield Stage Line.

No matter how you "slice" it, New Mexico golf is reasonably priced and the Southwestern cuisine is authentically addicting. Experience New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, from mountain range to mountain range, and sample the dozens of New Mexico golf courses, historic and cultural sites and tastes just waiting for you.

Golf Courses listed in this article

New Mexico Tech Golf Course
801 Leroy Place
Socorro, N.M. 87801
Phone: 505-835-5335

Sonoma Ranch Golf Course
1274 Golf Club Road
Las Cruces, NM 88011
Phone: (505) 521-1818
Web: www.sonomaranchgolf.com
Email: goforthepin@aol.com

Places to Stay

Happy Trails Ranch Bed & Breakfast
1857 Paisano Road
Mesilla, NM 88005
Phone: (505) 527-8471
Web: www.las-cruces-new-mexico.com
Email: htrails@zianet.com
Innkeeper: Sylvia

Must-Eat Restaurants in Historic Old Mesilla

Double Eagle
Phone: (505)523-6700
Web: www.doubleeagledining.com

Located inside the Double Eagle
Phone: (505)523-6700

La Posta de Mesilla
2410 Calle de San Albino
Phone: (505)524-3524

Diana Rowe MartinezDiana Rowe Martinez, Contributor

A Denver-based freelance writer, Diana Rowe Martinez is a member of Colorado Travel Writers and writes for other publications, both print and online, in the industries of travel, nonfiction, and business. She writes a monthly column for a Denver based newspaper, Singles Entertainment.

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