Albuquerque Country Club was founded in 1914, with members playing across grassless desert to sand greens. Fourteen years later, a site close to the Rio Grande was purchased for $33,000 and a portion of the land sold for housing to finance the building of a new course.
John Van Cleek, design partner of Wayne Stiles, worked out of the firm’s Florida office and he was assigned to design the new layout. Nine holes were brought into play on 30th June 1929 but there had not been enough money to build grass greens. Instead, greens made of cottonseed hulls were fashioned as putting surfaces.
Three months later, the second nine holes were introduced and by 1931 an elementary irrigation system was installed. Still, the club’s economic situation prevented the grassing of the greens and this didn’t happen until sometime during the 1940s.
Authors Bob Labbance and Kevin Mendik comment in their book The Life and Work of Wayne Stiles:
“In 1959, architect Warren Cantrell of Texas remodelled six of the greens; five years later Leon Howard worked the remaining 12… Superintendent Garry Hodge began in 1997 [and] was engaged to carry out a master plan penned by Ron Fream in the mid-1990s. The work involved rebuilding the greens once again to the latest USGA specs, scheduled over the course of many years, but that Hodge fast-tracked to complete in his first year at the helm.
‘We actually build the greens complexes by taking material from the landing areas and fairways and made some mounds and undulations in the fairways, and then shaped the green complexes, bunkers and mounding around the green,’ says Hodge.
Today, Albuquerque is a wonderful modern golf course with flowing lines, elegant bunkering, elevated greens and a sense of place from 80 years on the same site. Van Kleek’s routing has not changed, not has the location of the hazards, but the greens have all been rebuilt and modernized twice.
Mature trees shade most fairways and buffer the course from the city that has grown to nearly engulf the property. The club is the most western course associated with Stiles and Van Kleek and decidedly different than any other courses the architects produced.”