Review and rating of Butterfield Trail in El Paso, Texas
Note: El Paso International Airport (EPIA) will close Butterfield Trail Golf Club (BTGC) by May 31, 2020 in order to reduce expenses and focus on essential airport operations.
EPIA, in response to the health and economic crisis, has made and continues to make major cuts to operating expenses. The Airport has subsidized the course since 2008 through revenues generated through non-aviation development; closing BTGC will save the airport about $1 million per year.
Wow – what a fantastic 18 holes of golf. Butterfield Trail Golf Club typifies what keeps us coming back to play this frustrating and expensive sport – challenging but fair, unique and different holes, very scenic and fun, lots of character, excellent facilities, affordable rates, great pace of play, and excellent service! And near perfect conditions from the tee box (you’ll fee guilty leaving a broken tee) to the green. Fazio makes a round at Butterfield fun – one hole may be short and a good birdie opportunity while the next one will test your game all the way to the cup. The entire course as well as the facilities are meticulously maintained – even the sand around the native fauna is raked. This seems very typical of other Kemper Sports managed courses – Newport Dunes Golf Club in Port Aransas is another example.
Butterfield Trail was designed by Tom Fazio and opened in 2007. Since opening, the course has won a number of awards and accolades, some of which include:
- Best Municipal Course – #3 in America – and Best Courses You Can Play in Texas by Golfweek 2010
- Top Ten New Courses You Can Play – Golf Magazine 2007
- America’s Best New Courses – Golf Digest 2008
Fazio has created a masterpiece out of the dry flat west Texas desert – he must have moved millions of cubic feet of sand to create the dunes, contoured fairways, and elevation changes of up to 55 feet. Several of the mounds may be the highest points in the El Paso desert and they offer panoramic views of the desert, mountains, and El Paso.
And the scenery is stunning with the contrast of the lush fairways and greens against the desert sand and fauna coupled with the Franklin Mountains as a backdrop. Just riding the cart as it twists and turns through the dunes and desert is worth the cart fee! Not only did Fazio move a tons of sand to sculpture the fairways and create those mounds and deep bunkers, but he also brought in lots of mountain juniper and pinon trees.
Each nine at Butterfield Trail Golf Club has it’s own personality is a little different from the other nine. The front nine is a little longer from each of the five tee boxes and a couple or three strokes harder. The back nine has more character, is more scenic, and has some outstanding holes. On both nines, each hole is unique and different and throws something at you to keep you focused on your game. You’ll encounter uneven lies, huge natural sand waste areas, tall mounding, forced carries, a couple tight landing zones, contoured fairways, elevated greens and tee boxes, hazards in the middle of the fairways, dog legs, blind shots, risk reward opportunities, and two small lakes – in the middle of the desert, the pristine water seems out of place.
In addition to all that, you’re likely to encounter a variety of wildlife (geese, hawks, rabbits, and more), snakes (don’t go poking around in any of those holes), and some really sharp nasty thorns – the starter has band aids and I laughed when he ask if I wanted one – the joke’s on me! In fact, if you’re ball strays outside of the fairway, you may want to just forget about it and drop another one.
Butterfield Trail Golf Course’s fairways were dormant when we played but still in near perfect condition. The fairways are resort style generous but if you miss them you’ll got a problem. There are no homes lining the holes and seldom will you see a side by side fairway or another golf cart. Most of the fairways are rolling with lots of contour and undulation which can create some very uneven lies, extra roll, and ball positioning you may or may not like. The fairways are also lined by berms and mounds, which can tend to help the ball roll back toward the middle of the fairway.
The bent grass greens were also in near perfect condition and most are large, but well guarded by bunkers and mounds or swales. Butterfield Trails has done a good job of keeping the greens running at a good speed, around a 10, and they run true and hold well. Outside of the the 3rd and 9th greens which have both slope and tiers, most of the greens have a manageable slope and are pretty easy to read. Hitting, holding, and putting the greens shouldn’t be a major challenge during your round.
That’s not the case with the bunkers. Fazio made them steep, deep, huge, and very treacherous – do what you can to avoid them. Some are so deep you’ll need a ladder to get out! Good news is that the sand is fairly soft and thick. There are also a number of waste or natural bunkers that range from small to huge – some seem to follow you from the tee box to the green.
Bottom line – Butterfield Trail is one of the best courses in Texas and well worth driving or flying way out of your way to play!
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Butterfield Trail prides itself on service and they deliver on that promise with first class service from the minute you arrive to the time you put your clubs away. The pro shop is well stocked and the practice faciliites are very good. The restaurant is excellent with reasonable prices.