In late November of 2017 Myra and I played for the first the incredible Sandia Golf Course in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first time. It was very high on our “must return” list. Therefore, when planning our return route from Florida back to our home on Vancouver Island we saw favorable weather in Albuquerque upcoming. Our contact back in 2017 was Matt Malloy , Director of Golf. I reached out to him via email to take advantage of his kind offer to come and play Sandia again. His reply was somewhat surprising but also very uplifting. He stated he had moved on from Sandia to take a senior position with OB Sports a premier golf management company based in Phoenix, AZ. It also made mention that he would coordinate our round at Sandia. A few days later while driving through Louisiana on our way to Texas, Josh from Sandia, called to confirm a lunch time booking on the date I had mentioned to Matt in my initial email.
Following up on Matts email I did my due diligence about OB Sports and saw that they also managed a very noted public course in Palo Alto, CA called Bayland Golf Links. We were slated to stay 4 nights in the San Francisco Bay area a couple of days after our incredible second visit to Sandia Golf Course. Another email to Matt Malloy to play and review Baylands for www.canadiangolfer.com was met favorably and also included an invite to be joined by our good friend Joey Tobias from Augusta, GA. Joey was out west for 5 days on business and just so happened to be available for the Monday round we had planned.
We awoke Monday to another beautiful sunny day and with Joey rendezvousing with us where we were staying the three of us made the short 15-minute drive to Baylands. A lengthy look at the Baylands website www.baylandsgolflinks.com provided me with some important facts about this incredible municipal gem. The course went through a major renovation in June of 2016 and reopened almost 2 years later in May of 2018. The photos on their website had me salivating.
Having lived on the east coast of northern England and also St. Andrews, Scotland for 6 years I played links golf on a regular basis and would humbly consider myself a very informed and expert critic of links golf. Technically a links course is positioned right beside a sea or ocean, the course being located on a piece of land that is the “link” from the sea/ocean to the mainland.
It is also void of trees and typically would not have many ponds and definitely no lakes. Baylands which has a smattering of trees and a couple of dried up water hazards is forgiven and gets a very high rating for being a great representation of links golf. It does contain one define feature that I’ve never seen on a links course and does somewhat detract from how you play shots when you are close to the green. Quite often even from as far as 50 yards out on a true links course you can play a shot that never leaves the ground. It’s not uncommon to take out the putter and just make an exaggerated long stroke and watch the ball follow the contour of the fairway onto the green. I have holed countless of these over the years. I am not sure why but the architect who did the amazing redesign, Forrest Richardson opted to add a 3-foot strip of dark green grass around all of the greens. It does not take away from the experience in the least but it does interrupt the pace of the ball when playing any “along the ground” approach shots. I can only surmise that it’s for possibly 2 reasons. It gives the greenskeepers cutting the greens a defined delineation of the putting surface to the apron and perhaps is also beneficial for the golfer when focusing from some distance as to where the putting surface starts and ends. It’s more of an observation than a complaint, a minor point I’m sure to 99% of golfers.
It contains many features that are indicative of a really fine links course. The landscape of the course is fairly flat with some slight rises up and down to greens. There are well placed mounding around many of the very large and smooth, running greens. In front of the Par 5 13th green is a sod faced or revetted bunker one of my biggest thrills to see on a golf course. The one in front of the green on the Road Hole, the Par 4 17th on the Old Course at St Andrews is probably the hardest one in the world to get up and down from. I avoided it and still made double bogey, horrible golf hole. After a very solid 4 over par 76 at Sandia which included a 12 putt, one under 35 on the back nine I was poised for a great round at Baylands. It was that and more but had nothing to do with my score which was a very bland series of 4’s,5’s and 6’s. Joey, Myra and I are a very cohesive three some who love golf and also love playing together and we were beaming playing this unique and well thought out redesign.
The day got off to a very buoyant start with a warm welcome from the guys in the pro shop including teaching pro Mark Madayag and new assistant Matt whose conquered Baylands by shooting a 7 under 65. Sam who got us set up with range balls and power carts shared a great story of playing the world-renowned Pine Valley in New Jersey. The pro shop is not only well stocked, the décor is beautifully designed. At the end of the day it was Bill holding the fort who I extended a very warm thanks too. The practice facility is a as good as any course you’ll play and in very close proximity to the clubhouse. There are 2 separate putting greens, one for chipping only and an excellent putting only green. Off to the right of the driving range is a full 75-yard-long short game area with a bunkered green. First class for sure.
On the 9th tee box you’re instructed to place your food order by cell phone to keep play moving and minimizing stopping between 9’s. This time, while waiting for the group ahead of us on 10 to get away from the tee, the three of us shared a chicken quesadilla which was as equally as delicious as the meal we shared 2 and half hours earlier. The food plus the customer service at The Baylands Café was as good any we have experienced and is definitely worthy of more than a casual mention. I think I can honestly say Myra and I would rate it a 10 out of 10 for flavor, preparation and value as well as convenience. It was contained in a very handy wax lined, leak proof cardboard box which is critical as I am without a doubt one of the world’s messiest eaters. Luckily ,Myra is the queen of stain removal. As our tee off was close to lunch time, eating was foremost on my mind. Myra went in an ordered a lunch from The Bayland Café for us to share. Ten minutes later Cesar appeared walking towards the putting green and brought a boxed lunch to us. We sat right there on the cart and devoured the most delicious grilled chicken sandwich and french fries I can remember eating.
With its meandering undulating fairways, shared double green for the Par 5 3rd and Par 3 15th as well as the aforementioned bunkering, Baylands will give you more than just a small sampling of what links golf is like over in the United Kingdom. The Par 3 17th is the most accurate depiction of a links hole on the entire course and for a few moments I could hear bag pipes chiming and the winds off the North Sea in my face. The flag was obscured slightly uphill behind a large mound positioned in front of the left side of the green. Links courses aren’t what you would consider particularly scenic if you are used to forests and mountains, valleys and lakes. I believe for me they are the most stimulating of all the course designs. Some of my most incredible days of golfing around the world have been on a bracing fall day playing the likes of the little known but world class Dunstanburgh Golf Course in Embleton, England, the scintillating Kingsbarns Golf Links 6 miles south of Saint Andrews or Royal Troon in Ayrshire, Scotland.
Joey said it best when I asked what he thought of the course. Now bear in mind this is a guy who was born in Augusta, lives half a mile from Augusta National and has attended over 25 Masters. He simply said “ If I lived here in the Bay area I’d be a member of Baylands”. He couldn’t have said it better and I’d be joining it with him. Oh, I forgot to mention I lost to Myra………… again.
www.baylandsgolflinks.com (650) 856 0881