Owned and operated by the local Hobbs city council, the course at Rockwind Community Links opened in 2015, replacing the former Ocotillo Park Golf Course which had been in use since the mid-1950s.
Rather than just replace an ageing irrigation system, the city decided to revamp the entire complex, redesigning the course and constructing a new clubhouse and restaurant in a project costing $12.5 million.
Scottsdale-based architect Andy Staples – who’d previously worked with club superintendent Matt Hughes at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah – was brought in to plan the new facility. On a flat site, with a hardpan caliche base just below the topsoil, Staples knew he had his work cut out.
Around 82,000 cubic yards of the calcium carbonate substrata was excavated to form a central irrigation pond and that volume (and more) of topsoil was trucked in to help create contouring around the property – including the occasional “chocolate drop” mound and coffin bunker.
Holes have been routed in the style of Muirfield, with the front nine hugging the perimeter in a clockwise direction then the back nine playing counter-clockwise around a 14-million-gallon lake on holes 10, 11 and 18. The lake connects to a network of irrigation streams threaded around the course.
The greens are undulating, to put it mildly, with some of them having as much as two or three feet of grade change in just a few paces. The architect is totally unapologetic about this, however, arguing that the putting surfaces had to provide a stark contrast to their flat surroundings.
Just as important to the golfing success of the project is the 9-hole par three track next to the clubhouse, where local children learn the game for free in classes organized by the club. The restaurant is open to the public and run by a family with another diner in town, bringing another community aspect to the set up.
The USGA commissioned a 6-minute video clip of the new golf facility, calling it “a model muni” that is “more than just a golf course,” serving instead as “a community hub [which is] a blueprint for other municipalities.” Here’s hoping others might be able and willing to follow the Hobbs example.