Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

Archive for March, 2012

LCCC President Jerry Smith shares his thoughts

My Border Golf Team Shirt arrived the oth­er day.

When I got it home and tried it on, the garment fit ok, but I noticed that the logo on the breast was Sonoma Ranch, while the sleeve dis­played the three crosses and Las Cruces Country Club.

“Hmmm,” I thought, “I’m not sure if I’m coming or go­ing.” With that, I lined up a talk with LCCC President Jerry Smith. We chatted after my round with the women’s golf association play day this past Wednesday.

Mary: It’s been a few months now. I imagine peo­ple are settling in. What is your impression of your membership’s satisfaction with the move?

 Jerry: “Nearly all those that have transferred are enjoying the course and clubhouse very much. We have even added some new members.

The ownership and staff, es­pecially the pro shop staff, has gone to great lengths to make the transition as easy as possible.” Mary: How many members do you have?

Jerry: “We have nearly 200 members now.”

Mary: I understand that some people decided not to make the move to Sonoma — one person in particular I know is playing at White Sands. Do you know how many didn’t transfer to Sono­ma and where they went?

 Jerry: “I can’t tell you exact­ly, but I do know that about eight or nine went to Red Hawk, and several are now playing over at White Sands.

We did have a couple of peo­ple that decided to withdraw after the move and they are playing at NMSU. Two peo­ple decided to give up golf entirely. Mary, as you well know, everybody has their own subjective opinions about golf courses and it’s pretty much impossible to satisfy everyone.” Mary: It’s my understand­ing that the Club property on Main Street is for sale. Has there been any activity with potential buyers? If so, when might we see a transfer of the property?

 Jerry: “Yes, the property is for sale, but that’s all that I can say about that right now.”

Mary: Has the City ex­pressed further interest in buying the property?

Jerry: “The City would like to buy the property, but I don’t think they have the available funds to make the deal.” Mary: The closing of LCCC leaves the Las Cruces area with only one easily walkable golf course. Is there any chance that could change?

 Jerry: “I’m sorry, I can’t comment on that right now.”

Mary: What are LCCC’s as­pirations for the future?

 Jerry: “We are interested in growth. For now we are con­tent with this situation, but for the future we hope to grow.”

Mary: The old LCCC and Sonoma are about as different as two courses can be. Are handicaps going up?

Jerry: “Well, they did to start, but I think that the membership is getting accus­tomed to the course, particu­larly the greens and handi­caps are moving back down again. I think most people are enjoying the complexity of the golf course and how it makes you think about every shot.” Mary: Is there anything about the course that you would like to see changed/improved?

 Jerry: “At this point, I’d have to say ‘no comment’.”

Mary: Is there anything fur­ther you would like to say?

 Jerry: “Yes, thank you for asking. We can’t be happier with the transition for the Women’s and Men’s Associa­tions. As you know, there was no women’s association at Sonoma before we moved over. From what I’m hearing, a few of the Sonoma women have joined our ladies and we are very happy to have them.

The men’s group was a little different. The Sonoma men had an active association and when we came in we were eventually able to meld the two groups together. I think it’s working great, and we now have about 103 men in the association.”

Mary: What’s coming up next for the LCCC/Sonoma Club?

Jerry: “Our Master’s tour­nament will be, oddly enough, during Master’s week April 5th through 8th.

Basically, you play your first round before Friday night and then attend the pairing party that evening. During the pairing party, the names of the PGA professionals playing after the cut are put into a hat. A name is drawn (and) paired with each of our competitors. You then play Sunday and after our round of golf watch the pros com­pete for the green jacket. The combined score of your two rounds and the last two rounds of “your” pro deter­mines the winner.”



Good friend Liz Chang is trying to start up a women’s golf association at Red Hawk.  The association will play Monday mornings at 9 am.

It’s a good chance to be there “from the beginning.” The staff at RHGC are encourag­ing the new organization with a deal of thirty bucks for 18 holes and cart.

Eventually, Liz hopes to build her association to the point that they can partici­pate in City Exchange and the Border Association. Contact the Red Hawk Proshop for more information.


A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordp



Red Hawk Golf Club – raptor or colorful songbird?

By Mary Armstrong

Published in the Las Cruces Sun-News 10/21/2011

Although it’s been open for a couple of weeks now, I only recently got a chance to actually play the Red Hawk Golf Course.  While I had walked the course, playing it is the only way to truly know a layout.  Is it a beast or a bunny?  Here are my thoughts on the new layout, but you should take it in and decide for yourself.

The course cannot be seen as you drive up Red Hawk Golf Course Road and the location of the pro shop and maintenance building further hides the golf course as you park your car.  As walk from the car  park and turn to go in to the proshop, the most extensive and beautiful practice area in Las Cruces is exposed.  Putting, chipping, pitching, bunker shots and a double ended driving range awaits your serious practice sessions.

The opening hole is a relatively straightforward medium length par 4, but the beauty of the contrasting golf turf and desert surroundings is what hits you first.  Fairway bunkers seemingly transition desert to golf course and their jagged, natural edge lends a rugged appearance against the “native” long grasses.  The result is the sense that one is playing golf across a vast open ground.  Yet it is rare that you’ll see more than the golf hole you are playing.  Other than the occasional scrubby mesquite, the course is treeless and the views of the surrounding mountains glorious.

I played during the morning and early afternoon – three women in under four hours, by the way. However, I would love to experience the views and course during an evening when the Organs can be magnificently illuminated with the filtered colors only a New Mexico sunset can provide.

   The 6th    hole at Red Hawk seems so serene.

Other than the mountain views and five man-made lakes, the course is reminiscent of some of Britain’s links-land layouts.  Fairway contours are rolling if not heaving and most of the greens are significantly elevated.  That, combined with bunkers that could have been created by sandy blowouts as the original bunkers were so many years ago in Scotland makes the meandering strip of manicured turf reminiscent of the British links courses.  The greens are moderately sloped, in my opinion less than Sonoma Ranch’s, but have subtle, and yet affective contours.  The greens wonderfully varied in size, but for the most part are large and often fall-off into collar height collection areas.  A missed green will ordinarily result in a chip or pitch to a table top surface three to six feet above your shoes.  The bunkers are wonderfully varied in shape and size – from the 3 foot in diameter pit bunker on the 13th, to several over half the length of a football field.

While the golf course is essentially a corridor of turf bordered on all sides by desert, the corridor is ample for the average player, but come prepared with plenty of golf balls that you’re not afraid to lose.  The “native” grasses that transition the manicured turf to the desert are often very thick and a ball is easily lost, and if found, very difficult to advance.  This is not a course to challenge with length, despite its roughly 7500 yards from the tips.  Most holes offer advantages to a well-placed tee shot.

My favorite hole is probably the 6th.  As relatively short par 4; you long knockers will be licking your chops for a chance to drive the green.  The serene setting next to a lake that runs the length of the hole on the right might lull you into thinking you can pull it off.  But the nest of bunkers down the left and peninsula green will eventually make you realize that this is not a hole to be taken lightly.

The course is indeed quite demanding.  Slopes of 133 for the men and women seem a little on the low side to me.  The beauty of the setting and skillful presentation might could easily be the reason you come back to Red Hawk Golf Club again and again.  However, this layout can eat your lunch.  To my mind, that makes this course a raptor in songbird’s dress.

Is golf a microcosm of life?

We often hear this about golf and other sports for that matter.  Indeed golf has many aspects that provide insights into a person’s character.  One of these is the ability to accept seemingly unfair occurrences.  The fact that the game is played over an imperfect surface – natural ground versus a court or evenly graded playing field – lends itself to unpredictable results.  A perfectly hit shot can bound obnoxiously away from your target, but it’s just as likely that a poorly struck shot can be redirected toward your goal.  The way we accept these setbacks as well as the good fortunes of an unexpected bounce tells a lot about our personas.  I often see players complain intensely about a bad bounce and then seem to want to “give back” the good breaks that come their way.

In a world-wide society rife with people seeking to control everything from their budgets to their weather, we are losing our innate capacity to accept that we are only pawns in a universe of queens.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010.  She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects.  You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog:

Was Gulbis’ nude photo a home run for the LPGA?

Natalie Gulbis’ naked­ness created a minor stir over the past few weeks. Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit issue was the can­vas for her painted body exhi­bition. To no one’s surprise, the result was controversial.

Ron Sirak, noted writer for Golf Digest, expressed an opinion in a Golf World arti­cle that Natalie bravely bared all for the sake of the LPGA. I found that interesting in that I doubt that Gulbis consid­ered what affect her appear­ance would have for the LP­GA. Furthermore, unless someone told you she was nude, you’d have no idea. Her body was painted to look as though she wore a skimpy green and white polka dot bikini. Gulbis, herself, had to say “You never forget the fact that you’re naked,” proving that even she didn’t think she looked nude. Lastly, posing nude is way overblown in my opinion — certainly no one would pay to see me naked — but a naked body is a naked body is a naked body — you’ve seen one, you’ve really seen them all. And as we all know, it’s not the viewing of the naked body that is desired so much as the endorphin high that can result.

But, I digress. The article brought many responses — among them this anonymous internet poster: “In the article he mentions that it was a home run for her and for the LPGA. I would dis­agree. Ms. Gulbis has dropped to number 125 in the world, had no top 10’s last year, and is rarely competitive in tourna­ments. Yet she somehow is in­vited to invitational events denying a better golfer the op­portunity. In my opinion, this happens because Ms. Gulbis is a very attractive woman. It can’t be a reward for her golf.

Quite frankly, many of the guys with whom I play golf had seen her photos, yet none knew where the LPGA was playing last week, who was in the lead, or who had won the previous week. So to say that Ms. Gulbis’ appearance in SI was a home run for the LPGA is a gross exaggeration.” So, not a home run? Perhaps a bunt single? Alas, I’m not sure I can even say that. Per­sonally, I think LPGA Com­missioner Mike Whan, struck out on this. The LPGA has been down this road many times — Laura Baugh, Jan Stephenson, Erica Blasberg — and each time, a sexy spread has done zippo for the tour and only left the participants in golf limbo (perhaps the ex­ception was Stephenson).

There are many men that like to watch the LPGA — and there is a lusty factor there, but do you think that more women would want to watch the PGA if Camilo Villegas appeared in Better Housekeeping with sculpted eyebrows? No, we would just want to see him with his shirt off. The same is true for Natalie and the men watching her — they only want to see her without the paint in Playboy. Sex is about sex, and sex trumps any sport. I think it’s been pretty clear that sex does­n’t sell sports and to go down that road again is farcical.

As for Gulbis, this will prob­ably help her gain sponsor ex­emptions down the road and certainly isn’t going to hurt her appeal for appearances. But you have to ask yourself, “how does posing nude help her golf game?” Natalie’s game isn’t her priority. If it was, she’d have an athlete’s physique and not a model’s body. It seems clear to me that she has decided that she can make more money looking good than playing not­so-good.

In the final analysis, Natalie’s bravest hour may have been when she submitted herself to the pre-painting body wax.


Hanse Design wins olympic contract

The Rio Olympic Committee selected Gil Hanse and his staff over big names such as Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Anni­ka Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa and Gary Player to design the 2016 Olympic course. Hanse teamed with ex-LPGA star Amy Alcott and wowed the committee with his commit­ment to a legacy component that focused on a golf academy facility that would help develop the sport in Brazil.

Hanse has been involved with many noteworthy proj­ects, including the restoration of Winged Foot and the North Course at Las Angeles Country Club. I am familiar with his Boston area work, in­cluding the renovation of the TPC Boston and the design of the Boston Golf Club. He is an authentic architect who has worked his way up the ladder. I’m pleased that he was selected over so many celebrity architects that push their name over the product.

 A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordp






You can excel if your practice is fun

I doubt my story is any more interesting than any­one’s, but I’ve been asked a number of times about my career and my golf game and even to write about my life in this column.  I’ve resisted because I ordi­narily have something more interesting that I want to share.

I guess this is a slow week.

I was born and raised in Ot­tumwa, Iowa — that’s right, the home of Mash’s Radar O’Rielly, a fictional character.  Oh, and when we moved to the “country” when I was 13, we lived just down the road from Radar’s Uncle Ed. Seri­ously, the town lies on the Des Moines River, about half way between Des Moines and Burlington. When I was growing up, it was a bustling little community of about 36,000.

Before we moved to the “country,” my father, a Kore­an War Veteran, was enticed into playing golf by a couple of friends. This was probably sometime around 1957. Ot­tumwa had two 18 hole cours­es (and still does). One was private and the other a Mu­nicipal golf course. The “Mu­ni” as we called it was a mod­est golf course, and when I first began going with my fa­ther — probably about 1958, I had a hard time walking the entire course. I still remem­ber “hitching a ride” on top of his golf bag, which was perched on an old pull cart.

When my Dad and I were far enough away from the Clubhouse that no one could see — usually after we went over the hill on number 5 (they’ve switched nines since I left there) — he would give me a wedge and let me whack at the ball until we got into view of the Clubhouse again on 7. My Dad was left handed. Eventually, he cut off an old left handed 8 iron and brought it along for me to use. I can still see that old club in my mind. It had a brown shaft and a rusted face. I used it at home too. We had what I thought at the time was a huge yard. I convinced my brother to help me main­tain a “green” just behind the house. From there the yard sloped quickly down to a long narrow lawn to the back al­ley. We installed a Dinty Moore Stew can in the green and another down by the garbage cans next to the alley. we’d whack balls back and forth for hours. Finally, one day I hit a really good shot with really bad results — but isn’t that golf? I was hitting to the “green” on the hill by the house and I caught that 8 iron just a little too good…and crash, a window was broken.

Well, Dad was none too hap­py about that, but I think it was about then that he decid­ed I needed to be hitting shots at the golf course and maybe not so much at home.

My Dad is a big Arnold Palmer fan. He got hold of one of Arnie’s first books: Arnold Palmer’s Golf Book “Hit It Hard.” I remember seeing him study it for hours.  I guess the book came out in 1961, and it was about that time that I actually began playing real golf. I remember that one year for Christmas I got a set of new Jackie Burke junior golf clubs — a driver, 3 wood, and 3, 5, 7 and 9 irons and putter with a bag — a right-handed set. When April rolled around we went out to the course and I got a season pass for twenty six dollars.

That was the end of my left-handed play, except of course when there’s no choice. I’d say I use my left handed technique about once every 10 rounds to recover from an exceedingly errant shot. Last year, in the Sun City Women’s Championship, I birdied the par 5 9th hole with a left handed recovery thrown in.

More to come…


What’s wrong with the pic­ture above? Have you ever equated a scene like this on your course with thin lies and higher green fees or dues?

This subject was recently ex­plored thoroughly in the US­GA Green Section Record, a biweekly publication for su­perintendents and others in­terested in turf management.

You’re probably saying, ‘c’mon Mary, its rare we see five carts in a single group.’ Well, I’ll give you that, but how much impact do you think a typical foursome with two carts has? 25,000 square feet? 50,000? Actually, the figure is nearly three acres (124,000 square feet), and a foursome with four carts nearly 250,000 square feet.

If you and your foursome are willing to give up griping about tight and bare lies, then go ahead, grind that turf into the ground; but if you’re seri­ous about having the best possible turf, follow these guidelines when possible:

• Always pair up on carts.

• Avoid worn areas.

• Stay on paths when you can.

• Observe the 90 degree rule.

• Always keep carts on paths when near tees or with­in 50 feet of greens.

• Always avoid wet areas.

• Don’t follow the cart in front of you, and especially don’t enter or exit the cart path at the same place.

And, here are some sugges­tions for facilities that want to pay more than lip service for optimum playing conditions:

• Encourage golfers to walk.

• Designate a “walkers on­ly” day.

• Suspend or restrict carts following heavy rains.

I occasionally get requests for writing about speed-of­play or ready golf. Here’s an easy tip for cutting time on your round and reducing speed-of-play stress. After you play your shot, don’t re­place it in your bag; carry it with you until you reach your next shot, then replace the club as you are selecting the club for your next shot.

This may seem minor, but it can add up, not to mention the number of times you will use the same club in consec­utive shots. Also, the players’ perception following you is often about how efficient your movements are after your shot, and this will make you seem much faster as well.

A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces in January 2010. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. Mary is also the Executive Director for the Rio Grande Golf Course Superintendents Association. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: http://roadholeshorts17.wordp 

FIVE CARTS AT ONCE? Pairing up — or simply not using them — can help main­tain the course and speed up pace of play.