To the immediate west of the Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico is the Bland Canyon, a comically-named landform. Its neighbor, the Cochiti Golf Club, is anything but bland. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, the course travels across the high desert, using the otherworldly landscape as a distraction for wandering eyes. This is one of the earlier designs from the younger RTJ, having been drawn out during 1981.
Yardage is certainly not its primary source of defense; the course plays just more than 6,800 yards from its back tees, and the higher altitude means that you’ll get a little extra distance. That, however, brings several tee shots at the shorter par fours into question. Is it better to let it fly on holes such as Nos. 10 or 15, which measure less than 350 yards? Or is it wiser to leave more than a half-wedge in? Bunkers and irrigation ponds may help make the decision easier, or tougher, for you.
The course is approximately equidistant from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, making it one of the more sought-after public-access facilities in the state.
When Cochiti first opened in the early 80s the playing field for "destination" public courses was in its infancy and having a New Mexico address clearly added to the fanfare when making the trek to go there. The course is beautifully situated -- hence the State nickname -- "Land of Enchantment." For a time, Golf Digest ranked the layout among the USA's top 50 public courses, although I believe that selection had much to do with providing for geographical diversity.
Robert Trent Jones, Jr. created a quality layout -- free of annoying clutter. The round of golf at Cochiti is always about the connection to the land and the holes fit quite nicely upon the landscape.
The main issue facing Cochiti is less about what it provides and more about how the quality of available golf in New Mexico has clearly risen considerably in the years since.
With the elevation above 5,000 feet -- the total length of Cochiti -- at just under 6,900 yards -- can be on the short side for strong players. As mentioned earlier, the layout is free of pesky intrusions so when playing the connection to the golf is first and foremost.
Overall, the architecture checks off the boxes but the sum total is merely good. A visit is certainly one to entertain but go with expectations firmly planted in a 2020 reality.
M. James Ward