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|Though the New Mexico State University Golf Course is largely parkland, there are a few desert plants, such as this one of the par-4 10th, that can swallow up a misplaced shot. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)|
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - The New Mexico State University Golf Course has an impressive enough history. It has played host to both the men's (1968) and women's (1988) NCAA college championships, numerous conference championships, USGA qualifiers and plenty of other big amateur tournaments.
The golf course has also been home for many fine players, including former Aggies Rich Beem, brothers Brad and Bart Bryant, Tom Byrum and Steve Haskins (son of late legendary UTEP basketball coach Don Haskins).
But over the years, the NMSU Golf Course had lost some of its relevance and reputation, too, as other schools around the country built more difficult and longer courses to keep up with today's game and technology.
The golf course also started to wear down a bit, and if you asked someone in recent years about this college venue, you might have heard this response: "It's a good layout, but it wasn't in great shape."
That's all changed in the last year or so.
The course, under the leadership of former Aggie standout golfer and current NMSU Director of Golf Dan Koesters, as well as veteran Superintendent Bruce Erhard, is better than ever. Erhard has directed restoration projects that include new bunkering, cart paths and turf, as well as a new practice facility.
Opened in 1963, this Floyd Farley-designed, par-72 golf course isn't overly long at 7,078 yards (there are four sets of tees), but it does present challenges.
Unlike many courses in the desert southwest, NMSU is a parkland-style course, which means you really have to hit it offline in most cases to damage your clubs in the desert landscape.
But there are also scores of mature oaks and pines that weren't prominent 20 years ago, and they now present significant obstacles on the way to these medium-sized undulating bentgrass greens.
The par 3s present one of the strengths of the golf course. The sixth is only 160 yards, but it does feature a water hazard and bunker nestled against this tricky green. The second and 17th are 216 and 225 yards respectively. And the 11th, at 197 yards, is one of the most picturesque holes on the course. It plays downhill to a green with the football stadium, city and Mesilla Valley in the background.
The par 5s are largely reachable in two by long hitters, but they are good risk-reward holes and all different from each other. And the par 4s will require accurate drives and the ability to work the ball both ways.
In short, Farley put together an interesting layout that isn't overly difficult, but it will maintain your interest.
Even if you're from out of town, you can play this golf course for $25 or less during the week, and that's a bargain.
While the NMSU course might not host another men's NCAA championship event anytime soon, it's a fun test for the everyday player.
It's also a walk in the park, which is real bonus, especially in the fall and spring. With tees and greens in close proximity, this course, except for a few climbs, is very walkable.
There's also a terrific golf atmosphere here, where the golf shop staff members, many of whom are part of the university's Professional Golf Management Program, are taught to greet golfers as part of the Aggie family.
The 15,000-square-foot clubhouse, which opened in 2004, has a well-stocked golf shop with plenty of Aggie-logoed merchandise. Inside, you'll also find the Player's Grill, a full-service bar and restaurant overlooking the course with great views of the valley, Organ Mountains and the course. You can actually see every hole from the clubhouse's large outdoor deck.
The course also has a fairly new practice facility, moved a few hundred yards away from the original, which was too small. The new area offers a large driving range, contoured putting greens and a short-game practice area that recently opened in the fall of 2007.
NMSU also offers a variety of lesson programs as well as custom fitting of golf equipment.
Las Cruces is located just 45 minutes north of El Paso, Texas, which is probably your best bet if you're flying into the area.
The NMSU Golf Course, as well as a couple of other local courses, offers a variety of stay-and-play packages with several Las Cruces area hotels.
Among the hotel partners is the Hotel Encanto de Las Cruces (575-522-4300). The Encanto's Mexican Colonial interior creates a mood reflective of the area's rich history and tradition. The hotel offers 203 guest rooms, an on-site restaurant, lounge, gift shop, heated pool, whirlpool spa, gym and salon.
September 17, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry. Before joining the WorldGolf.com team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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