Road Hole Shorts

Golf Design, golf, golf, GOLF

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:


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