Away Game: Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Big Draw
Continued (page 2 of 2)
Don't let the 30-mile drive from downtown Santa Fe to Cochiti Golf Club be a deterrent. The remote location is a reward, and awaiting is the best Indian fry-bread steak sandwich for six bucks you'll ever have. Nevermind the bodice-ripper soap opera the staffer is watching as she makes your sandwich. No Golf Channel in this clubhouse.
For my argument that golf in Santa Fe is world-class without being touristy, look no further than this mint Robert Trent Jones Jr. design. With bluejeans and scraggly long hair, the starter looked like an ex-roadie for Metallica. His sidekick was an aging Doberman pinscher who feebly ran behind his cart, and the duo joined us on the 10th tee without asking.
"I hate playing by myself" was his simple introduction.
The dog, Thor, trampled my putting line a few times, but nothing could shake my high of regularly outdriving Todd Kersting--the head pro at Puerto del Sol Golf Course in Albuquerque as well as Golf Digest's No. 1 Teacher in New Mexico--by 30 and 40 yards against backdrops of the Jemez Mountains. All my life I've suffered short-hitter shame, but on this day a sublime combination of heat, altitude, wide fairways with elevated tees and a few tips from Todd had me knowing power I've never known. In the desert, underclubbing with irons becomes addictive, and on par 3s the tendency is to push it as far as it can go.
Cochiti Golf Club is on a Pueblo reservation in the Jemez foothills.
Photo Courtesy of Cochiti
As for the downtown, there's little I can say you won't quickly figure out for yourself. Stay anywhere in the historic district, where the narrow streets and low adobe buildings offer a sense of what the city looked like when it was founded in 1610 by Spaniards. Tia Sophia's has the best breakfast burrito, and it's almost impossible to make a wrong turn at dinner. If you go to a bar, don't think that because these people are artists they're pushovers. After a misunderstanding over a spilled drink, I barely blinked before a local in a black beret stood squarely in my face.
In the spirit of Arnold Palmer, we'd come to have our souls uplifted by big drives. I kept my right hand where it wouldn't get hurt.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGEPLANNING HELP
Golf on the Santa Fe Trail (golfonthesantafetrail.com, 505-922-1323) is a marketing entity supported by courses in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. It offers packages and customized trips. You can save money, hassle or both by using it to book tee times and hotels.
PLAY 'N FLY
A drawback of travel to Santa Fe is that flight options to the municipal airport are limited. You're probably going to fly into Albuquerque and then drive. However, Twin Warriors Golf Club is just north of ABQ International, making it the perfect get on the way in or out.
There's so much good art in Santa Fe, a watercolor hanging in a public bathroom might give a moment of arrest. Canyon Road is the famous half-mile strip of galleries and studios, but less serious collectors can meet artists and find trinkets of rare quality in the city's regular street fairs (right).