A few months ago, I first reached out to Matt Malloy, Director of Golf at Sandia Golf Club, with a view to playing and reviewing the golf course which is part of the Sandia Resort and Casino complex. Knowing very little about the Albuquerque area of New Mexico, I didn’t take into account the elevation, which is upward of 5,000 feet above sea level, and its potential negative effect on the weather. He informed me that closer to our arrival in late November to contact him again to see if the weather was going to cooperate for our Tuesday,
November 28th 11:00 am tee time. Having played Isleta Golf Course, just south of Albuquerque on Monday, November 27th in sunny 70-degree weather, we awoke to another very favorable day for golf, particularly for the time of year.
In the past when reviewing multiple courses in the same area, we will often get feedback from golfers and staff at golf courses about other upcoming courses we will be reviewing.When we mentioned we were playing Sandia, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive and it excited me about the prospects of teeing it up there.
Myra has played with me enough to know that even before we set foot on one fairway or putt on a green, we get a sense of what to expect by just driving in. The access road into the adobe style terracotta colored resort was lined with exquisite brick and tile work. With the hotel looming in the near distance, we pulled into the spotless parking lot and gazed towards the clubhouse and adjacent pro shop. After walking up to the bag drop, Corina suggested we simply pull the car up and she would load our clubs and camera gear into a power cart and it would be down by the path to the practice range. We checked into the Pro Shop with Wesley greeting us in a very friendly manner. Wesley informed us we would be joined by Bruce Gunckel, one of the starters, and we set off to catch our first glimpse of the course from the cart.
Our initial reaction was a very buoyant one and we gave each other a little reaffirming leg squeeze and a smile as we drove to the range, complimentary balls awaiting us.
We were into short sleeves at this point and although shorts would also have been quite appropriate, today we dressed the part in anticipation of playing this esteemed course.
We met Bruce on the practice green and right from the initial intro we knew he was going to be a great addition to our round. It was like having our own caddy, commentator, tour guide and stand-up comic all rolled into one. With the Sandia Mountains as the back drop to the first green, we began play on this jaw dropping masterpiece. The condition of the course was superb and it was in peak season quality. The greens were pretty tricky but fair, the fairways beautiful with a nice tight cut and the tee boxes were impeccable. Complementing the challenging layout were perfectly positioned bunkers and various degrees of fairway undulation.
As you can easily see by the photos, it is a visual paradise. Not one hole looked awkward or contrived and with an abundance of high desert land surrounding it there was not one crowded hole. At no time did an errant shot from other golfers come anywhere near us and added to that was the pace was perfect. Once I figured out the pace of the greens and with some guidance from Bruce, I really stepped up my game and reeled off numerous pars and one hell of a birdie, draining a downhiller from the top tier 35 feet above the hole on the Par 4, 13th.
I was challenging breaking 80, but a little bit of bad luck reading the greens resulted in a 3 putt double bogey on the 18th. Still, 9 over was a very rewarding score. I felt that if Bruce chose to share the way I played with Matt, he would have painted a decent picture.
Myra’s round was equally as rewarding for her as well in spite of her struggles on the slick tricky greens. The day here was one of the most enjoyable days of golf we have ever played together.
We are in love with everything about New Mexico, especially the golf courses run by the many native bands. I can honestly say Sandia was probably my favorite of the 20 courses we reviewed on this trip and considering the pedigree of courses we experienced that is not something to be taken lightly. With the assistance of staff member, ex U of New Mexico Lobos’ star James Gehrke who is one of the most skilled of local golfers, we loaded up the car and headed in to thank Matt and also chat with him and Wesley about more than just this exquisite course. I told him I rated it at a 9.9 as I have only ever given one course in the world a perfect 10, and that was shooting a 75 at Kingsbarns in Fife, Scotland in perfect conditions.
Our golf companion Bruce was thanked for his kindness and awesome advice with a Dallas Cowboys putter cover I knew he would put to good use. Matt, a frustrated NY Giants fan, cringed when I told him that.
The combination of excellent customer service and the friendliness that ensued augmented this experience to the highest level of enjoyment. You may not put Albuquerque or New Mexico for that matter on your golf radar, but I highly suggest you do. It’s now our number one US golfing destination.