The Pueblo of Sandia Tribe runs the golf operation at Sandia Golf Club as a sporting facility for guests of their Sandia Resort & Casino. Designed by Scott Miller of We-Ko-Pa Golf Club fame and opened for play in 2005, the Sandia course is set in rugged high desert territory with water hazards only ever in play at four of the holes.
In The American Golf Resort Guide, author Daniel Wexler has this to say about the course: “Though much of its 7,772- yard total is tempered by altitude, challenging holes abound, with the front nine featuring the 515-yard 4th (a downhill par four played to a waterside green), followed by a run of huge, barranca-driven holes.
The back nine heats up with the 655-yard drywash-flanked 11th before climaxing over a strong closing stretch led by the 457-yard pond-guarded 14th, the 472-yard arroyo-crossing 15th, the 208-yard 16th (all-carry to an elevated green) and the 505-yard 18th, another oversized par four playing to a green pinched tightly by sand and water.”
The most noticeable aspect when coming to Sandia is the scale of the property. It is truly expansive and the golf is fashioned to take advantage of that aspect. Architect Scott Miller often gets little attention but his creative efforts clearly are working well here.
The zero role of housing allows the design to shine. Miller brings to the forefront plenty of interesting holes and shotmaking challenges. Sandia has plenty of "break" points where fairways are split and where greens are positioned on the other side of arroyos.
From the tips the course is over 7,700 yards and even when accounting for the elevation and the assistance you get you'll still need to select tee markers with great care. Sandia is devoid of trees and the wind pattern encountered on the day you play will have a major impact on strategic calculations to take.
The real weakness of the course is the four par-3 holes. They are generally lack luster and don't have the range and diversity found with many of the other holes at Sandia. The par-5s are very good -- they are clearly not easy prey for birdie opportunities and often can result in bogeys or worse.
The other missing contribution is having a vintage short par-4 that really sizzles. Sandia does have some lengthy par4s that are quite muscular -- with holes such as the 9th and 15th leading the way.
The long par-4 18th is a fine hole with the massive clubhouse greeting players from behind the green. As you contemplate your approach you have to pay sufficient attention to a menacing pond that juts in from the left. The main issue is that the closing hole goes in a westerly direction and therefore late day players have to battle the sun when preparing to play.
For those who require the assortment of creature comforts Sandia provides them. The practice facility is also done well -- large and fully capable in getting you ready for the round ahead.
Miller is often noted for layouts he has created in neighboring Arizona, but Sandia is a quality effort and one to check out when in the immediate Albuquerque area.
M. James Ward