Our original 3-day stay in Albuquerque stretched into 6 days and could have easily been extended beyond that if we didn’t have commitments back home in Canada.
What started out as an intent to “squeeze” in one last round of golf, saw us playing for the third straight day in the greater Albuquerque area. The sprawling high desert landscape is a perfect, serene setting for magnificent golf courses.
What was to be a typical 18-hole game of golf at Santa Ana GC morphed into a full 24-hour holiday experience that was not soon to be forgotten. Director of Golf/GM Derek Gutierrez implored us to not only enjoy 18 holes of golf at the 27 hole Santa Ana GC, but to also play the sister course Twin Warriors the following day. However, our 3-day drive back to Vancouver Island negated that opportunity. In hindsight it cemented another reason for us to come back to this magical state, appropriately named “The Land of Enchantment”.
Mr. Gutteriez displayed a manner that can be best described as utterly hospitable and kind hearted. Every interaction with him saw him possessing not only interest in Myra and me, but was accompanied with a genuine smile. Derek personally introduced us to members of his staff in and around the Pro Shop. Charlie who works in the starters hut, Assistant Professional Steve Manning proud of his Scottish roots and Patrick originally from Pleasanton, CA were all consistent in their professionalism and kindness towards us.
After pulling up to the bag drop, the very attentive Khristian directed us where to park and then promptly showed up at the car to load us up on a GPS power cart. On a rather cool, but pleasant morning, we were paired with 2 members who lived in the nearby town of Bernalillo. Gill and Gina were a welcome addition to our day and the four of us shared more than a few laughs as well as numerous good shots we to be proud of. The skill in Gill’s game was evident as he made a couple of great birdies on the second nine known as Cheena. Our first nine was played on the Tamaya nine and a third nine called Star which is used on alternate days was visible within the expanse that is Santa Ana Golf Club.
Before we teed off, Derek Gutierrez had asked me to take into consideration the time of year and its effect on the quality of the turf grass. He need not be concerned if that is the condition of the course in late November every year, we found it very playable, fair and in good condition.
One of the features I really endorse about the course was the green configuration. Most of the greens had a raised undulating apron around the back which would allow for a shot to roll past the flag, but be held up in these raised back stops if hit too firm or long. This is great for speeding up play as well as not being overly punitive for an errant miss hit.
The 2 nines possessed a great deal of continuity in style and shaping and were really enjoyable to play. I often think if lived in an area could I play a course day after day without boredom. Santa Ana would be that course!
It’s obvious why this daily fee operation is popular with green fee paying guests as well as members committed to more frequent play. One hole that stood out for all the wrong reasons was the Par 5 8th hole on the Cheena nine. First, let me clarify it is a great hole. But don’t try the hero shot like I did and hit driver from the rough. After all was said and done it probably cost me 3 shots and although 8 may be the lucky number in China, on my scorecard it sticks out like a zit on a Prom Queen’s face.
We finished our round and offered to treat our new golfing friends, Gina and Gill, to a drink for their kindness and as a reward for Gill’s birdie display. After some good conversation in the Wind Dancer Bar and Grill, we said farewell with a view to playing with them again in the not too distant future.
It was now dark and the next stage of our Santa Ana experience was dinner at The Prairie Star Restaurant and Wine Bar next to the clubhouse and an overnight stay at The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa just a short 5-minute drive away. The dinner at the Prairie Star Restaurant and Wine Bar was to say the least one of the most outstanding dining experiences we both have ever enjoyed. The hotel resort paralleled that to every degree. We quickly popped over to check in at the resort and then returned to Santa Ana and Prairie Star for our dinner.
The winding night time drive to the resort through the desert terrain was very stimulating under the star lit night. The property was extraordinary and we pulled up to the front doors with 3 sides of the resort surrounding us. A gorgeous fountain with bronze statues of indigenous people was the center piece of the courtyard. The entire property oozed that remarkably comforting ambience that is a way of life in New Mexico.
After a brief check in with Elmi we dropped our bags off in the room, freshened up quickly and headed back to The Prairie Star Restaurant and Wine Bar. Now pitch black out, the exterior beauty was stunning with the walk way lit up with unique ground lighting and flood lights cast upon the pueblo walls. The interior of the restaurant, which many years was a homestead, was peaceful and softly lit.
We were seated next to a traditional pueblo style fireplace and the entire interior was complimented with native blankets and pottery. One of the more dramatic aspects of the construction of this amazing 90-year-old building is the ceiling on the ground floor. Large peeled logs make up the rafters with smaller peeled logs and limbs angled at 45 degrees across the timbers.
Every member of staff was a pure delight to engage with and twice during the meal Mr. Gutierrez popped in to see if everything was going well. We were beaming and you could tell by the other guest’s body language and cheery disposition that we were in a special place. After a few days of spicy New Mexican food, we decided to take the advice of Bobby our waiter. The former Hoosier was bang on as my Bison Tenderloin with broccolini and herb garlic mashed potatoes was divine, cooked exactly the way I had requested. Myra savored every bite of her Applewood Smoked Bacon Wrapped Pheasant accompanied by goat cheese garlic roasters and haricots verts.
In advance of that we set our taste buds alight with a Grilled Heart of Romaine salad and a basket of delicious bread with a raspberry chili spiced compote.
“The new menus feature sustainable, fairly traded, humanely raised, non-GMO, organic and locally sourced ingredients and Executive Chef Chris Olsen puts as much care into obtaining wholesome ingredients as he does in preparing them.”
Although we don’t drink alcohol, we do enjoy a non-alcoholic beer and 2 cold O’Doul’s Amber with a slice of lime in tall glasses were waltzed over to the table by Mark who would we would find out from him later, during our after dinner tour of this incredible structure, has been with the restaurant for over 22 years.
We definitely wanted this moment captured so young Wyatt, yes named by his mother after Wyatt Earp, who had more talents than just busboy snapped a few pics of us on my phone. Amazingly in spite of the abundance of food we consumed, you see our combined body weight is south of 300 pounds and we aren’t big people, we insisted on dessert.
We had a small plate of Apple Stuffed Profiteroles with a caramel drizzle which were perfectly prepared and tasted sensational.
The aforementioned tour with Mark may not be the norm for most guests, but perhaps when you’re caught snooping around they sense a keen interest and commence the tour. He was purely delightful in taking his time to do this – setting aside his dinner plate to do so.
Heading back to the resort, we marveled at how smooth, polished and enjoyable this entire facility is run and presented. From the golf, to dining and our overnight stay. We felt we had to share our joy with someone other than ourselves and Elmi at reception at The Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa was more than willing. We spent about 20 minutes engaging with him, learning about his upbringing in the north of Somalia and his life with his family here in incredible New Mexico.
This day was the perfect end to our 7 weeks on the road and we concluded next time it will be the start to our next golfing adventure as we recommend it should be for golfers, diners and holidaymakers. We can share with you we agreed it was an A overall, with the meal at Prairie Star Restaurant and Wine Bar getting the extra “+”.