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Overview

Black Mesa Golf Club is one of Santa Clara Pueblo’s finest accomplishments. The moment you set foot on the course, you’ll feel a sense of awe. Colorful sandstone rock formations cut the New Mexico sky, fairways roll across the valleys like carpet and dramatic bunkering and green contouring seamlessly blend with their native surroundings. With the Black Mesa on the western horizon and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range to the east, the beauty is unparalleled.

As for the game, prepare yourself for one of the Southwest’s most demanding courses. The layout offers five sets of tees on 18 championship holes, each with its own game. Unspoiled elevations, hidden target areas and the challenge of thinking your way around the course are all part of the thrill. 

 
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Course Descriptions

Hole 1


“A great course tests both the mind and the body, and this holds true for Black Mesa Golf Club. The mental strategy begins with the opening tee shot which requires a blind shot over a native ridge which houses two signal bunkers, unless the very forward tees are being used. Players familiar with the course learn to use the bunkers as points of alignment to reach the most favorable part of the fairway. There is plenty of room to the right, but the closer the tee is played to the native ravine on the left, the shorter the approach will be to the green. Long hitters may even try to drive the green in a strong southwest wind.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club Architect.

Black Mesa Golf Club is built with a degree of visual intimidation on every hole to challenge a player’s skills, courage and ability to problem solve.

That challenge starts on the first hole, a par four measuring 385 yards from the tips that requires a blind tee shot over a hillside.

The sliver of fairway on the left side will give you the illusion of safety, but the fairway is sloped from right to left and will push the ball into the unforgiving arroyo.

The correct play is to hit the tee shot over the middle third of the hillside to the unseen landing area. A sliced tee shot will be bounced back into play while a hook will likely remain in the fairway and leave you closer to the green.

The first green sloped from back to front with deep bunkers protecting it in front and on the right. These bunkers are typical of others your will see on the course. They are below the level of the putting surface and require a skilled sand game to escape them.

The best bet is to shoot for the center of the green, but if your approach shot goes long you will face a delicate chip from a downhill lie that will run quickly towards the bunkers.

If you’re a long hitter and have a tailwind, you can also try and drive the green from the middle tee positions. But if the drive is not dead true, hope your second shot might catch the green from out of the arroyo or the bunkers.

Hole 2

A recurring theme at Black Mesa Golf Club is the increase in difficulty of the angle of approach to the fairway as you progress from the forward to the back tees. The second hole illustrates this concept, as the tee shot from the back tee plays to the landing area on a somewhat diagonal line, while the forward tees approach it more straight on. The green is positioned in a saddle between two high peaks on either side. The putting surface is deceptively deep in and it is difficult to get the second shot to the back pin setting, with a fall away to a collection area immediately behind the elevated back shelf. Another collection area at the front left will swallow timid approaches as well.”
~Baxter Spann, Architect

The challenge of Black Mesa can really be seen on the second hole, a short par 4 that measures 404 yards form the tips of 278 from the forward tees that demands accuracy on every shot.

The right center of the fairway offers a generous landing area, but any shot going too far right or left will find trouble. Slice it too far right and a hillside or a collection area will create a tough second shot. Tee shots too far left offer less chance than the craps tables with an unseen hillside and desert rough leaving few chances for a good lie. Hope for a hillside lie which offers you the best opportunity to take your medicine and chip out onto the fairway.

The approach shot will call for a short iron, but it demands more accuracy than the tee shot. The green is set into a hillside that slopes to the back right to the front left. Miss to the left of the green and your ball will likely end up in a collection area 20 to 45 feet below the playing surface or if you’re lucky in the bunker complex that runs along the left side of the green. A pot bunker guarding the front right side of the green narrows your target area even more.

A back pin placement on this green is one of the toughest on the course and will only reward a great shot so play smart because an accurate approach shot may save you a stroke on the long slender green that will test your putting skills.

Hole 3

The tendency here may be to try to overpower this long hole which plays into the prevailing wind. Though the tee shot is played to one of the wider landing areas on the course., it is best to control the ball and keep in play, setting up a clear third shot to the green from the fairway cut. There is a lot of trouble around the green, which is situated in the bend of a natural arroyo, and which will rarely be challenged in two. A bank shot can be played into the front left of the green off the slopping approach, but care must be taken to avoid the small bunker at the top of the slope and the arroyo at the bottom.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The third hole at Black Mesa Golf Club is a great par 5 that measures 603 yards from the tips to 495 yards from the forward tees and is the course’s number one handicap hole. With the landing area sloping from right to left, any drive with any amount of draw will gain several extra yards. I like to aim at the bunkers on the right with little fear that my tee shot will end up there. Any shot pulled left will result in a Black Mesa chip out from the arroyo. This is one of the areas on the course that will tempt you to hit way too much club, but your third shot might only be 20 feet closer to the hole than your second.If your drive finishes on the upslope of the driving area you’ll have a chance to reach the long and slender green for a possible eagle. However, an arroyo cutting in front of the green and sweeping back towards the player will require a long carry making this a great risk/reward shot. A shorter and more playable option here is to aim your shot towards the mounds the architects placed to the left of the green and try to bounce the ball onto the green. For those who do not wish to flirt with making a bogey or worse your lay up options are as varied as Baskin Robbins flavors. You can lay up really short into a wide gentle slope leaving you a third shot from 170 to 150 yards or play more aggressively into a narrow neck with bunkers on the left to yourself 85 to 100 yards to the green. The green slopes from left to right and from back to front in the left third of the green with bunkers guarding the front and left sides. You’ll have a real chance for a three putt if you leave yourself above the hole on any parts of this green. Did I mention the arroyo behind the back right of this green? Pete Dye had nothing on island greens when you take a good look at this great par 5. The challenge has just started and the real ride is yet to come.

Hole 4

The first of the course’s dramatic par 3 ‘sisset in a badlands’ area at the far southeast corner of the layout. Teeing areas here provide a tremendous variety of play, with the green tucked behind a native peak laced with pot bunkers. To be right is wrong here! Short and right of the green is a fourteen-foot deep arroyo bottom, and over the ridge to the right of the green is total oblivion in an even deeper ravine. There is more room to left than is apparent, with a mowed chipping area hidden behind the forward peak. The putting surface is well contoured with several subtle swales and ridges for the golfer to negotiate.
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The fourth hole is a “fitted par three” meaning what when you view the hole, the green “fits” the topography. With the hills forming the natural backdrop, this is the first of the picture perfect par threes that make Black Mesa Golf Club unique.

Small pot bunkers serve to frame and draw the eyes to the green. With a wide range of tees varying from 102 to 206 yards, this par 3 tee complex offers length and angle change. Championship tees on the player’s far right make the green appear to a sunken island in a sea of peaks with a forced carry over the wash to a small green at a tough angle.

From the player’s far left a carry of 150 over protecting peaks make the tee shot very exact and sometimes blind. Tees further to the right allow a full view of the green which is segmented into four distinct areas that funnel the ball into hollows on the green. Putting through these hollows will test any great putter and place a premium on lag abilities. This is a great opening par three. Don’t get fooled by the stark contrast between the desert and the emerald green. It’s a hard and well earned 3 here.

Hole 5

A 190 yard carry over a native ridge is required from the elevated back tee to reach the fairway. Its best to shade the line slightly left of the green, which is visible through a cleft in the hill. However, two fairway bunkers along the left side wait for a long shot that is turned a little too hard. Forward tees are positioned left of the ridge with a less intimidating line of play to the fairway. The approach to the large green is fairly open, with one bunker on the right, and possibly a friendly kick available from the upslope left of the green.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The fifth hole is a par 4 that offers the standard variety of shots for the player. From the championship tees on the player’s right you will hit either a driver from the back over a hill to a hidden fairway or use the directional flag on the hill to know where the center of the fairway is. Shots that are too far right will cost you dearly as will shots to the left side of the tree.

Bunkers guard the tee shot left and usually will result in a blind second to the narrow green from this angle. Both areas are the desert and usually tempt you to bite off more than you can chew such as recovery second shots, which normally lead to what I call the Black Mesa Golf Club death march, where it looks like you can advance it but you cannot.

Second shots played to the left of the green will find the friendly bounce onto the playing surface. This is the ground game at Black Mesa Golf Club at its first view. Players unable to carry the ball to the back left pin positions can play a runner up the left side of the green to access the right rear of the green. With a bunker guarding the right rear and collection hollows right short of the green and left midway, chipping here calls for the flop shot most of the time. Left collection area shots are ok for back right pin placements, but left or mid pin placements make a bogey a good score as the green slopes from the player’s left to right on this hole and with some back to front pitch makes any chipping from the left tricky at best. The short right collection area makes the chip to a front left impossible.

Hole 6

“The tee shot should favor the right here, as the second shot opens up more from the right side of the wide fairway. Anything left off the tee is confronted with massive peaks, which must be played over to go for the green in two or to reach the desired second landing area. This is one of many holes at Black Mesa which ask the golfer to play it again and again in order to understand the correct lines of play and the best target areas. The second landing area pitches severely from left to right, so approaches are best played farther left than would at first appear. This requires a carry over some cross bunkers and the toe of slope of the high ridge which runs along the entire left side of the fairway. The slope of the approach also allows a ball to kick into the green if placed properly left of the frontal bunkers. The long putting surface bends around a surprisingly deep bunker at mid-right which is definitely to be avoided.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The sixth hole is a par 5measuring 565-436 yards that asks the player to hit a very good tee shot. With the fairway sloping from left to right, following the natural slope of the land, any tee shot that drifts to the right will collect into the two depressions in the rough. These depressions will offer an easier second than the native rough and a relatively easy lay-up of no more than 170 yards will leave the player a straightforward third into a well-bunkered green.

The second shot must be played over the bunkers at the corner and the slope will work the ball into the middle of the fairway. Bunkers starting 150 yards from the green will present a difficult third to a plateau green with deep bunkers to the right and elevated bunkers to the left.

The scoring shot into this green can be helped with a slope from the left to the right to help funnel a second or third onto the playing surface. This large green has many putting areas that all slope in different directions. Use all your imagination on this green to work the ball into a two-putt position. This hole presents all that good design demands. Three well thought out shots will leave you with a birdie possibility; a great second will leave you a possible eagle try. Any mediocre shots will result in bogey being a good score.

Hole 7

“The long player here may be tempted to reach the green off the elevated tee in a southerly wind. There is little margin for error in this play, as the fairway tilts sharply from left to right in the landing area, and a carry over a bunker and a native ridge is necessary to avoid bunkers along the right side. Too far left, though, and a ball lost in the native grass is likely. An alternate play is an iron off the tee short and right of the left cross bunker, leaving a short to mid iron into the green. It is critical to place the second shot in the correct part of the multi-tiered green, as there is nearly seven feet of elevation drop from the back-left edge to the front right edge. The seventh offers the player a chance at a very low number, but a very high number here is possible at any point until the ball is holed.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The seventh hole is a very good, short par 4 that offers the player a chance of making 2 or 12. Playing just over 300 yards from the middle tees, this is a very reachable par 4.

Driving the ball over the small hill in the middle of the fairway, the player must fit the tee shot over the middle left third of the hill in order to hit the fairway. The landing area is divided by an unseen ridge that will kick the tee shot left if the tee shot is offline and into a severe arroyo rough. Chances of a good lie here are less than winning the lottery. If the ball lands to the right of the ridge it will funnel into the bunker complex which is easier to play from than the rough.

Some players will elect to lay up from the tee with a shot that must land to the left of the 150-marker in order to run back to the middle. A bunker on the hillside makes this lay up more difficult.

The green is elevated and slopes from left to right with three distinct areas which step down like stairs. Small pot bunkers behind this green make recoveries from over the green equal to Miracles on 34th Street.

The green’s elevation drop is dramatic and makes putting here from left to right tricky. When the pin is in front, the slope will help with second shots allowing you to aim past the pin and the ball will work back towards it. Otherwise, the player must keep the second or third below the pin in order to have any chance.

Long putts from lower levels of this green to the upper parts will remind players of practice putts on our lower putting green nicknamed the Serpentine Green. I suggest taking a few of these before playing in order to gauge the distances and breaks. You are never out of the match at any point because so much can happen so fast on this hole.

Hole 8

“The longest of the par three’s can be a real brute into a west or southwest wind. The hole is set in a gap in a high ridge, which can become a virtual wind tunnel at times. From the back tee, a drop of our feet adds to the effect such a wind will have on a golf ball. It will not be unusual for a good player to need a driver here to get home. On a calm day, the hole can be much friendlier, though putting will always be a challenge on the very large undulating green.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect.

The 8th hole is a par three that presents unique challenges. The hole normally plays into a breeze that can make the large green one of the most elusive on the course. The size of the green also tends to lull the player into accepting any shot on the green without taking notice of the slopes on the green. The green slopes from the back to the front and from the player’s right to left. The green is also divided into four “zones” and the player must try to get the ball into the correct zone to have an easier putt.

This is also one of the few holes on the course that does not have run up qualities featuring a false front with a deep bunker on the right side and native arroyo on the left. The right-side bunker will catch many shots with many shots coming to rest near the right side and leaving you a second shot 25 feet below the surface of the green. Golfers will discover that sandy lies are the norm in the native area on the left side of the green too.

Players chipping from the front can use the architect’s design to their advantage with back pin positions by working the ball off the generous slopes behind the green. Chipping to front pin positions are straightforward, but require correct distance. In my mind, this makes rear pin positions easier than front pin positions on this hole.

Hole 9

“Purely by measured yardage, this is the second longest par four on the front nine, but it will often play as the longest. Usually into the prevailing wind, it also requires a 220-plus carry from the back tee to reach the fairway. The tee shot that flirts with the arroyo on the left has a better view and angle of approach on the second shot. Tee shots played to the right will either be in a fairway hollow with a partially blind shot to the green or in a massive bunker complex which the fairway bends around to the right. The green is narrow in front and wide in back, where it is divided by a slight ridge which protrudes into the back center of the putting surface. The green is surrounded by a complex of bunkers and mowed chipping areas.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The 9th hole is a great finishing hole for the front nine. With the tees on one side of an arroyo and the landing side on the other, tee shots must be precise in direction and distance. The fairway wraps around a 75-yard-long bunker complex on the right side with an unseen arroyo guarding the left side.

From the back tees, long hitters will be facing a carry-over of 250 yards into the wind to clear the bunker complex to a small landing area short of the green. More daring players may elect to aim between the bunkers and the arroyo, but smart players will favor a long iron or fairway wood and play short of the bunkers to the wide landing area. From the more forward tees, a player who can hit the ball at least 200 yards in the air should aim left of the bunkers and be rewarded with a short iron to the green for your second shot. For those of you that find the fairway bunkers, I’ve found that they are much friendlier than the desert lies.

Your approach shot will be to the green that is well bunkered in front and back with a narrow entrance set at an angle away from the player. The green slopes from left to right in the back left and from back to front in the left front creating a bowl effect because of the bunkers that surround it. A smart high handicap player would be well advised to play short of the green side bunkers and have an easy pitch to a green that will slope towards them. The middle of the green is bisected with a ridge that even mystifies me. The ridge has two sublime curves in it which present the player with a difficult green reading test. The ridge to the left has a more pronounced height than the one to the right which will normally make putts go away from the ridge. I say normally because the green will also slope from the right rear to the front with the ball wanting to go towards the drainage area in the right front of the green.

Good luck and maybe try out some of the putting drills I recommended before playing it. I have never been very good on this green, but I do love it.

Hole 10

“Play begins on the back nine squarely at the landmark of Black Mesa itself, framed in the saddle of two large landforms left and right of the fairway. The fairway sweeps around some corner bunkering which can either be carried or played around using the slope of the ground to benefit. A well-played tee shot will bound down the hill to a level lie in a punchbowl type landing area, turning the corner for an approach to a semi-reverse redan green. (The back 2/3 of the angled green falls away to the back right.) A run up shot would be handy to have as the forward green contours will direct a ball to the back right. Otherwise, a lofted shot will have to carry deep grassy hollows and stop quickly in the less receptive portion of the green.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The tenth hole starts what can only be called the greatest nine finishing holes in the state. The tenth is a great example of visual intimidation and challenges the player to select the right club.

The hole is a par four that plays from 312 off the front tees to 457 yards off the back. Calling for a draw off the tee, the player can choose less club and take advantage of the fairway’s natural slope away from the player.

The two bunkers framing the left side only really serve as an aiming point for the player. With a bluff on the left and the ridge on the right the tee shot appears much narrower than it is. In fact, this is actually one of the easiest tee shots at Black Mesa because the fairway is designed to funnel shots to the middle and into a landing area in the 150-yard range of green.

Long hitters must carry the bluff on the left as well as the landing area with their drive because the design actually works against them. Most long hitters who carry the ball “down the middle” will find themselves in the right rough and face a very difficult sideways lie and downhill to the green for their approach shot.

For the approach shot, players playing between 150-120 yards will have a level lie, while those playing from 120 yards and in will have the perfect slightly uphill lie.

The approach shot to this green is unique. The right front part of the green slopes from back to front and has one premier pin location. The left mid front of the green has another pin location where a shelf is guarded by bunkers in front and to the left as well as to the aforementioned first location on the green. This shelf is also higher than the back of the green so stopping a ball here will require distance and spin control.

The back portion of the green slopes from left to right and away from the fairway and is well above the level of the ground on the right. Chips from the right must be hit high and soft to blind pin placements. Shots from the fairway must only carry the front of the green and should be played to the left side to allow the ball to run to back placements. Pin placements on the right rear part of the green will appear to challenge the ego by carrying the steep slope on the right of the green, but is really designed for intellect to prevail by playing to the left. If you are too short with your approach shot on the left, the designer has placed a hollow slightly above the shelf on the left front which will gather shots and leave you with a downhill chip.

I love this hole because there are so many options to play the hole. The second and even third shots are never straightforward and require thinking to make a score.

Hole 11

“A unique green site is the main feature of this slightly uphill par three. The setting is a deep draw between high ridges, with the putting surface hard against a vertical sandstone rise to the left. The approach is relatively open beyond a cross bunker short right, with a deep swale between it and the green. A saving bunker behind the green is intended to keep overshoots from continuing on to a harsher penalty in the rocky valley beyond.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The 11th hole is one of my favorite holes on the course because it presents so many challenges from the tee shot to recovery shots to putting on the green.

The hole is a par 3 that stretches from 102 yards off the front tees to 172 yards from the back and it could be one of the most memorable par 3’s in the Southwest.

I enjoy the routing because the hole seems to unfold as you drive up to the green. The green is higher than the tee and your eyes are drawn in to the box canyon where the green sits like a saddle between two hills. The trees sit at an almost right angle to the green so you can see all the trouble immediately.

With a bunker guarding the front left and a sheer bluff rising about 30 feet above, the left side of the green will subconsciously force you to try and play it safe on the right. But what a mistake this can be! A bunker positioned very short of the green and a hollow that from the tee seems very benign actually presents a difficult recovery.

The green slopes from back to front with a shelf on the top right that is protected by the hollow and a steep hill. The target for pins cuts top right is very small and requires a very high shot.

Beware of hitting over the green where your ball will find a water collection area that will force you to hit to a green that is above you and sloping away.

If the pin is cut in the lower front of the green, a well-placed shot to the middle of the green will result in the ball collecting towards the lower front. Pins cut short left also present a small target, but chips from short of the green are very straight forward.

Putting on the green from back to front is fast with a capital FAST. The top right shelf has a slight right to left slope, but is relatively level. But the shelf’s edge runs at an angle and drops some eight feet to the middle of the green, creating large breaking putts. Before making a lag putt, be sure to look at the green from a few angles and take the slope into account so that your putt will not only end up in the direction you want, but relatively close to the hole as well.

Hole 12

“Perhaps the most spectacular view from any of the holes awaits the player at the 12th tee. Perched in the saddle in the high ridge right of the 11th green, the view of Black Mesa and the surrounding countryside is quite an eyeful. The tee shot should carry a large mound in the fairway and be played as close as possible to the bunkers on the left to shorten the second shot. The uphill second shot is played to a heavily bunkered and elevated green with a combination of bold and subtle breaks that are difficult to read.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The par four 12th hole measures 269 to only 403 yards from the back tee, but the well-designed bunkers and green will challenge the player all the way to the hole.

From the elevated tee box, the fairway slopes downhill before rising and climbing to the left following the natural contour of the land. Bunkers run along the left side of the doglegged fairway beginning at the 150-yard mark and continuing to the back of the green with another bunker and collection area guarding the right-hand side of the landing area. Long hitters will also need to be aware of a collection area straight through the fairway that drops 20-30 feet and features deep rough. A recovery from here to the well protected green is no bargain.

The left side bunkers are all below the level of play and present a difficult recovery from lies close to the bunker faces. The right-side bunker is more level and allows the player an easier recovery unless you catch the right rear finger of the bunker where a more pronounced face requires a high shot off the clubface.

Players will find the fairway level with uphill lies for their approach shot. Bunkers guarding the front right of the green are deep and shots can funnel to the front of the hazard. This can be a plus for the player sometimes and allow bunker shots to gain the necessary elevation to get on the green.

The green is partitioned into thirds and offers several potential pin placements. The front left third of the green slopes towards the fairway and runs from left to right. This will put a premium on lag putts from the other two thirds of the green that will feature fast speeds and breaks as much as twenty feet.

The shelf above the left front slopes away from the player with a steep hillside acting as a backstop that can catch long shots and bounce them back to this level. However, there is also a small hollow in this hillside that will present a simple chip to the middle and rear portions of the green and a hair-raising adventure to any front pin placements.

The rear third of the green is a clear separate area that slopes towards the front bunkers with a ridge separating it from the middle third of the green and another smaller ridge running from the middle to the rear of the green.

I find that putting on this part of the green is more challenging than the front part because of the various obstacles you can face on a putt including breaks into the hill or running away from you at a maddening pace.

Hole 13

“This should be a long three shotter, especially into the normal southwest wind. A long carry is required from the back tees to reach the fairway, which turns slightly to the left along the base of a large ridge. The second shot must negotiate a large cross bunker, with a decision to be made as to whether attempt to play beyond it or lay up short of it to approach the green. The putting surface is the longest on the course, with a difference of three to four clubs from front to the back, where it becomes quite heavily contoured.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The par five 13th hole marks the farthest point from the club house on Black Mesa’s home stretch. The holes measures 591 yards from the back tees down to 500 yards from the front.

The goal off the tee is to find the space between two saddles that mark the beginning and end of the fairway. The furthest saddle narrows more than the first with a high bluff to the left and a more gentle hill to the right.

When hitting a drive to this point of the fairway, you will notice the bunker on the left and instinctively play to the right.The fairway slopes from left to right and faded tee shots will find the hillside to the right. On days when the breeze is up, finding the fairway will feel like trying to thread a needle with an elephant.

A cross bunker running the last three fourths of the fairway presents a major problem for your second shot. You can play to the generous landing area well short of the bunker and have a long third to try to clear it. The landing area over the bunker slopes from right to left with a natural arroyo guarding the fairway and green. Balls finding the hollow in this landing area will leave you with great angles to all pin placements from this planned lay-up area. I have found that most second shots anywhere near the fairway will collect in the hollow. Only when the wind is blowing from left to right will the arroyo come into play.

The hourglass shaped green complex is well guarded with bunkers on the left and right. Players who favor the right might find trouble in the deep long narrow bunker that runs the entire length of the green. On the left side, a series of three bunkers above the green will leave those with a questionable sand game with a white-knuckle downhill shot to the narrow green.

The green generally slopes from back to front and is the longest on the course. On long putts, players should consider how the initial break will be influenced by the final break on this green.

The front and middle of the green features a middle crown that slopes into two catch areas with the middle section featuring a much flatter crown than the front.

Despite the number of times I’ve played this hole, the back section of the green still tricks me up and is one of the reasons like to play the course so much. You can have easy putts to each of the three back pin positions, but only when the ball is in the correct position. Otherwise you will face the most interesting putts up to the point of your round.

The hole only sets up the remainder of the back nine which is the reason Dante wrote the book.

Hole 14

“I would have to rate this as my personal favorite at Black Mesa, because of the many options it presents off of the tee. Depending on conditions, a player may elect to carry the large native mound in the middle of the fairway, or play around it to either side. The least favorable shot is the most comfortable tee shot that is hit too far left, will likely find the largest bunker complex on the course. The green is as challenging as any at Black Mesa, with many twists, turns, and rolls.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The 14th hole at Black Mesa is a challenging par four that requires golfers to hit precise shots in order to have a shot at par or better.

The hole measures 389 yards from the back tees to 274 yards off the front. The fairway slopes from right to left off the native hillside with large bunker complexes along the left side to collect poor shots. The landing area is split by a horizontal arroyo in the middle of the fairway.

Players should aim for the center or right side of the fairway where the hillside will kick shots back towards the entrance. Long hitters should have no problem clearing the arroyo to find a fair-sized landing area. Mid and shorter hitters can play short of the arroyo for a long iron into the green or try their luck and sneak past the danger on either side. The left side has more space and a better view of the green for the second shot, but sits snugly between the two large bunkers. Players trying the right need to clear the apex of a small hill to reach the nirvana of the far landing area.

The deep green is sloped from right to left and back to front and sits like a shelf in the hillside. False fronts guard the front and right sides and the hillside guards the right. There are bunkers tucked into the hillside to give players second thoughts about using the hill to their advantage.

Like many greens on the course, this one is broken into three sections with raised ends sagging into a middle bowl section. Precise approach shots are needed for front pin placements to avoid the false front and the middle bowl from collecting your shot. A high ridge divides the back from the middle and must be cleared in order to reach back pin placements. Shots flying the green will be left with an uphill recovery shot.

Playing wisely on this hole should result in a good score, but it could yield a high score if you get greedy and miss the ideal targets.

Hole 15

“The last of the par threes features the only water hazard on the course that is in play for the better player. A cross bunker short of the green must either be carried, or played around by using the slope left of the green to bank the ball in. Anything leaking to the right will find a deep flanking bunker or the water. Another wonderful view for the player here from the tee.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The 15th hole is the final par three of the course and one that presents a multitude of problems. The tees measure 216 yards from the back to 152 yards from the forward tees and each tee offers a different angle to the green with the championship and back tees presenting the toughest angles.

The hole slopes down hill and form the players’ left to right with double trouble protecting the right side of the green so any shots hit to the left have a great chance to find the green. The biggest trouble is a small lake that collects any shots sprayed wide right while two deep bunker complexes sandwiched between the lake and the green collect any near misses. The entire left side is now mature so shots that used to bounce onto the playing surface will now catch up in the hill side providing the player with a very tough chip. The alternative to the tough chip is a clump of cedar trees that seem to catch any shot that is not hit into the hillside on the left. This clump is bounded by deep grass and many a round has been ruined here. A shelf about 2/3rds of the way down the slope also seems to hold up short shots rolling towards the green. When the greens are at summer speeds this chip from a downhill lie to a short pin position usually will leave the player with the putt from Hades.

The green is sloped from back to front and left to right and divided in half by a rough semi-circle or half-moon shaped ridge from the front to back. The right side of the green is about six feet below the left side and presents multiple problems by forcing you to consider the slope and angle into the slope when putting from one to another. If you have a putt from the front middle to the back right rear portion, you will need a great amount of skill and a greater amount of luck. From this position, three putts are very common for even good putters.

If this is not enough, the ridge running through the middle of the green is also crowned and putts from the front of the green and to the left of the ridge will seem to break into the hillside defying all known putting laws, not to mention gravity.

I recall losing a Senior New Mexico Open on this hole after finding the cedars and chipping long into the three-putt area. I do love to play this hole as it is very receptive for good shots. This hole has also yielded the most hole in ones on the course.

My advice is really pretty straightforward. Pick the right club, hit the correct shot, have the correct distance. Hit the putt at the right speed and line only if you are below the hole. If you are above the hole and we are at summer speeds, just take the three putts and move on. What a test for a par three, but no rest here.

Hole 16

“We looked at several options for using this canyon to get back to the other side of the ridge from the valley floor. I had initially favored a short uphill par four to the current green location, but a tee location on a high point on the west side of the valley, was suggested, playing downhill across the arroyo, and then climbing steeply on the second shot. In the preliminary plans the narrow neck of fairway which climbs up to the second landing area was to be left as a natural arroyo. However, we decided during construction to run a culvert under the fairway and give the player at least a chance to run an accurately played shot up the middle to the “promised land” past the deep bunker on the left. Once past this hazard, a ball has a fair possibility of finding the green, as the right side will kick anything hit there toward the putting surface, which is open in front. The green itself is probably the most severely contoured of any on the course and the surrounds fall away sharply on the left side and in back.”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The par 5 16th hole has been dubbed “Stairway to Seven,” but in my opinion it’s a design masterpiece. It measures 366 yards from the forward tee to 536 yards from the championship tee that also offers a stunning view of the hole. The entire hole unfolds before you with the lush green fairway contrasting with the stark hills and arroyo that surrounds it. At first sight, the challenge of finding the seemingly narrow fairway seemed daunting to me, but after playing the hole a few times I realized that it’s a very generous landing area.

The tee shot requires a carry over an arroyo before reaching the fairway that slopes from right to left and uphill. Very short tee shots will find an uphill slope while shots clearing a low ridge will find a level lie at the bottom of a natural drain or an uphill lie as the fairway climbs upward. Most players will prefer an uphill stance for an easier second shot for those trying to reach the green in two or just advance the ball up the fairway. The arroyo on the players left has a deep bunker before it which will stop a pulled tee shot. However, all bunkers and the arroyo on this side are below the playing surface and require a high second shot.

Two bunkers guard the deep right side of the landing area, but they aren’t reachable from the back tee. For those of you out there that can reach them, we have random steroid testing on the 17th tee. I have not mentioned the area to the right of the fairway up until now and my only advice is to “don’t go there.”

For second shots from the right side of the fairway where you cannot see the green or the landing area, I use a huge rock formation behind the green that looks like the outline of a rooster to me. I aim to the right of it for the correct line on shots when I try to reach the green in two.

For players choosing to lay up on the second shot around the 150-yard marker, a shot of anywhere from 175-125 yards is needed. The 150 marker will give you the most level lie for your third shot, but the fairway narrows as it reaches the 100-yard marker with a deep bunker on the left before opening up more generously. After the 100-yard marker, the fairway slopes from right to left with a deep arroyo on the left side that allows only the luckiest individuals a chance to find the green on their next shot.

The green is set on a pinnacle with deep bunkers guarding the left and right sides and one of the most challenging on the course. The green has three very distinct areas that are divided by a ridge that runs diagonally from the front left before splitting like a “T” about two thirds of the way and running to the back middle and right front of the green. The whole green slopes from back right to front left with the back of the ridge more elevated than the front. All putts on this green are tough if you are on a different area and level and all putts from the back to the front are very quick.

The front right of the green closer to the ridge is the easiest pin position, as the ridge will act as a backstop for almost all shots, but shots that fall closer to the front of this area will roll off to a collection area below the green. Pins located in the front left part of the green are the most challenging due to the slope of the green and are one of the fastest putts on the course. A rear left pin position is very accessible because it sits in a hollow that collects long shots. Anything longer will drop into a grassy collection area or reach the native hillside.

The right rear pin position has always presented me with little chance to reach it until I started using the hillside. The steep ridge makes it difficult to run shots up to the rear, but you can use the hill on the right to funnel shots into the rear area. The hill will stop most shots, but it presents a much larger target than the actual putting surface. I love this hole because it presents so many options on every shot. Once you decide to go for the green on either the second, third or fourth shot you must be a problem solver to score well. This hole is the ultimate challenge and will leave you wanting a second chance if you miss making par. Holing out for par or better will leave you the most satisfying pleasure as you look back down the fairway to the tees where you can see the next group of players pointing up the hill and mapping out their plan of attack.

Good luck taming the “Stairway to Seven!”

Hole 17

“I think that this medium-long par 4 may prove to be one of the most difficult holes on the course, particularly for those who are overly aggressive. The silhouette positioning of the green on a natural plateau creates a lot of uncertainty for the better player trying to get close for a birdie on one of the flatter surfaces on the course. All of the real trouble is on the left with a large series of stacked bunkers running from the landing area to the green. These bunkers make it impossible and counterproductive to attempt to cut the dogleg, as an approach from the left side is undesirable. Though the fairway landing area is wide, the tee shot must be hit long and favor the right side to have a decent angle and as short a club as possible into the green. The wind is normally at the player’s back here, though it is not at all helpful when going for a left pin. The left side of the green above the bunkers is very shallow and only a perfectly struck iron with lots of oft is likely to hold the green, particularly downwind. To the right side of the green and behind it is plenty of mowed chipping area to afford some bailout opportunity, but that puts pressure on the short game for what could be a critical up and down near the end of the round.”
~Baxter Spann, BlackMesa Golf Club, Architect

The seventeenth at Black Mesa Golf Club is a visually stunning creation. From the back tees this hole will measure 424 yards to 327 yards from the forward tees, but neither distance can warn you of trials and tribulations to come.

It begins on your drive to the tee box, which appears to be uphill, and from the back two tees it will appear as if your tee shot is uphill as well. This is a snapshot of the hole. The tees will set up for a draw; the fairway and slope of the land will give you the impression that a fade is needed. Do you need to be more confused? Yes, you do.

A deep bunker is guarding the right side of the fairway and is there to catch short, weak fades from which an escape of 100 yards is good. Shots from the rear back can travel further, but risk reward from here is rated slight chance of success. The bunker is kidney shaped so long shots without a high lip are rare. Another bunker further down the right side will catch stray long tee shots. This kidney shaped bunker has a more benign lip than its neighbor, but is still high enough to cause problems with shots from close to the edge. All bunkers are framed by the long fescue grasses which like the siren will look pretty, but capture the unwary.

The fairway here (yes, there is one) will look like a roller coaster, with flat lies and the ability to play from uneven lies at a premium. I like to place tee shots to the right center of the fairway, as it is the most accessible point of the fairway. Only the unluckiest tee shots will find rough when started on this line. I have also found tee shots that fade from the left rough into the fairway present a very tough angle into the green. So, make sure that you try to keep this tee shot to the right center of the fairway.

From about 100 yards into the green a complex of bunkers guards the green. All the bunkers on the left side will slope back to front and second and third shots that do not carry them will roll back into the middle or rear portions of many of the bunkers. There are steep slopes between the bunkers and green and the thick grasses surrounding them will hold some shots before they can roll back into the bunker. If you’re faced with a long bunker shot to the green, a good idea may be to play out sideways and your next shot from the beautiful grass of the fairway. Some players have tried to hit this bunker 8-10 times in the same round.

Why are all of these shots so difficult? The green sits above the fairway at the skyline, creating problems judging distance and depth and high approaches are needed to hold the green.

The right-side pin placements of the long and somewhat “L” shaped green is much more accessible than the left side pin placements. A soft ridge runs from the left front quarter to the right rear of the green, creating many possible pin placements for players.

A better player will normally play to the right side of this green on any approach as most pin placements on the right side are straightforward. The toughest pin placement on the right side is up front, where a small false-front returns anything short to the fairway and gives the illusion that it is a much shorter shot than it really is.

Pin placements to the left side are the ones that will run the score up. The rear of this green slopes away from the player and the collection areas are rimmed by native rough. Native rough in New Mexico means looking for a place to drop. Players who can hit very high approach shots can try for the left rear pin placements of this green. The left rear will actually slope from the players left to right so shots on the left will funnel somewhat to the left rear of the green. Shots missing the green short of the left side will need a great bunker game to get up and down.

This is my toughest hold because I like to fade the ball most of the time. This hole exposes all of my personal weaknesses and I love to play it because it makes me a little better each time. I have learned to draw the ball and my approaches now soar majestically into the sky. Bunker shots no longer make me quake in my spike-less shoes. I have always been a pretty good putter so now watch out 17, I have your number.

Hole 18

“The keys here are the tee shot and the putter. While not especially long, the farther back the hole is played, the more angled the approach to the fairway becomes. It will require a trip or two around for each player to determine their personal best line for the tee shot to find the optimal part of the fairway. Generally, though, the best bet is to favor the left side, as the hill will tend to kick all but the most severe hooks back toward the fairway. Right is absolute disaster with a deep arroyo hugging the entire length of the hole on that side. Once in the fairway off the tee, the green is a fairly large target, though large deep bunkers surround it. These will be particularly troublesome for anyone missing the fairway and attempting a recovery shot to the green or short of it. The green is one of the more difficult reads on the course, and depending where the pin is and where the ball is, can make the player look like either a genius or a buffoon! The secret is to be as close as possible to the pin in order not to have to negotiate the sinister rolls and slopes –or else be very creative and have a deft touch with the blade –simple!”
~Baxter Spann, Black Mesa Golf Club, Architect

The journey ends with a par four right dogleg that measures 429 yards from the championship tees to 361 yards from the forward tees, with a view of the Rio Grande Valley from the elevated tee, distracting you from the job at hand.

The tee shot will have to clear the arroyo before finding the fairway that slopes away from tee and from left to right. The entire right side of the hole is guarded by arroyo and a deep dry creek bed. Combined with a bunker complex running the last 125 yards of the right side of the hole gives pause to any long hitters thinking about cutting the corner. The wiser shot is down the left side and use the hillside to funnel you back towards the center.

The front of the green is guarded by deep bunkers on either side with a narrow entryway between them to allow you to try and run the ball onto the green. The left bunker will collect short wayward approach shots and leave a blind shot to the green. The bunkers on the right side cut across half the fairway and guard any pin placements on the right side of the green.

The green is dogleg shaped like the hole with a ridge running the length of the green dividing, leaving a left side about 12 inches higher than the right. A shallow false front protects front pin placements from short approach shots and golfers running the ball onto the green must contend with the ridge shuttling their ball to the upper or lower half of the green.

The right side of the green is guarded by a bunker in the crook of the green and the aforementioned ridge. Precise shots will be able to find this area and get close to the hole, but most will have to figure out the correct speed and angle down the ridge in order to get it close to the pin.

The back part of the green has a couple of mounds along the back to funnel shots back towards the putting surface and its generous size makes it an easier area to reach if you pick the right club.

The 18th hole can be considered a fitting end to a round at Black Mesa Golf Club because it will reward the golfer who plays smartly and chooses the right shot while punishing those who gamble unwisely.

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