There aren’t a lot of courses that you can play and try and par some of the holes that Tiger Woods, Tim Herron, Phil Mickelson and several other pros played during the NCAA regional and national championships – the Championship Golf Course at the University of New Mexico is one of them.
Red Lawrence designed the UNM Championship Golf Course as a modified parkland design that leveraged the natural hilly terrain to create wide, rolling, and sloping fairways plus elevated tee boxes and lots of uphill as well as downhill greens. It’s not considered a desert course but it does meander through some desert like terrain that is home to a variety of wildlife (rabbits, roadrunners, owls, hawks, snakes, and more) and lots of lost balls.
The course is fairly traditional and straightforward but with a rating of 122 to 133, UNM Championship Golf Course is no walk in the park and a good test of your golf skills thanks to elevation changes, tiered and sloping greens, and thick fairways – you’ll need some good course management, excellent club selection, and precise approach shots to score well. It’s long and tough from the tips so pick a set of tee boxes that fits your game – the score card has recommendations based on your handicap.
Since opening in 1967, the Championship Golf Course has occupied a position of prominence among golf courses in the Southwest. In fact, the UNM course is ranked among the Top 10 Collegiate Courses in America and is also highly ranked by Zagat. Some of the other awards include:
- #10 on Golf Digest’s “Top 10 New Mexico Courses”
- Golf & Travel Magazine’s “Top 40 Daily Fee Courses in America”
- Golf Digest’s “A Four Star Award in Places to Play”
- Golf Magazine’s “Fourth Best Course in New Mexico”
There are some really fun holes at the Championship Golf Course at UNM, for example:
- #6 is short at 350 yards, but from the elevated tee shot you’ll head down and then straight up a roller coaster fairway (expect an uneven lie) to a 38 yard deep green with 4 bunkers guarding it
- #8 is a pretty 248 yard shot from an elevated green to a raised oblong green with 5 bunkers ranging from pot sized to huge
- #9 is an uphill blind shot to a dog leg right (great risk reward opportunity to cut the corner over the trees and desert) to an uphill challenging green complex
- #10 is a fun 480 yard par 4 with an elevated tee shot with a blind shot over the hill to a dog right downhill green
- #11 is a challenging 204 yard par 3 that requires a carry over a valley and an oblong pond fronting a raised shallow green
Most of the tree lined fairways have some wide landing zones, so in most cases you can bring out the big dog and let-er-rip – but don’t spray the ball, the roughs are thick and challenging and after that you’re in the desert, where if you’re lucky, you may be able to find and play your ball. Or if you really spray the ball you may land in one of the other fairways. The fairways were in fantastic condition when we played and the rough was cut very thick for an upcoming collegiate tournament. A number of the tee boxes are elevated, there’s lots of contour and slope to the fairways, and plenty of uphill shots to the greens.
UNM’s multi-tiered greens are huge – some are 50 yards deep, which means even if you get on in regulation, you might still have a challenge making par. The greens were in excellent condition when we played and they were running a true and a good speed, around a 10. They also held the ball well. Most are elevated or raised and all are very well guarded – you really need to be precise on your approach shots if you want to score well.
The bunkers are fair with fairly thick gritty sand. They range from pot sized to some huge monsters. The good news is most of them have shallow lips and you may get lucky and roll out if you hit them low and with some speed, however you may roll right into some thick rough!
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Service is very good and friendly, the practice facilities are good, the pro shop is well stocked, and the grill serves some good grub. The facilities are dated.