Laid out amongst the arroyos and canyons of the Rio Grande Valley, the Gary Pranks-designed golf course at Twin Warriors Golf Club is one of two 18-hole layouts operated by the Santa Ana Pueblo. This layout operates from the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa while the Santa Ana Golf Club course is located next to the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel, just a two-mile drive away.
In The American Private Golf Resort Guide, Daniel Wexler describes the course as “a tough track to be sure, but also a strategic one which regularly incorporates both the desert terrain and several ancient Indian cultural sites.”
The author continues: “The 3,933-yard front nine offers the 197-yard 4th (whose green is fronted by the club’s lone water hazard) and the 208-yard Redan 9th. Both back nine par threes are fairly natural designs (the 186-yard 13th playing to a clifftop green, the 244-yard 15th skirting a Cliffside cultural site) before the 648-yard 16th descends over 100 feet past sacred Tuyuna Mountain on the way home.”
Gary Panks is one of the more underrated architects who has done work globally but mostly his influence can be seen in the desert southwest area of America. His effort at Twin Warriors, which is part of the Hyatt Regency complex for the Santa Ana Pueblo Nation, is one of his best efforts.
Twin Warriors provides sufficient width as daily winds can pick up considerable speeds -- 3-4 club differentials are not atypical.
The main anchor holding back the course is the lack of really good design details in and around a number of the greens.
From the extreme tips the course exceeds 7,700 yards. Keep in mind, with the elevation being over 5,000 feet the golf balls will travel anywhere from 8-12% further.
The outward nine is good but with additional details should have been even better.
The inward side is where Twin Warriors excels. Much of that is because the rolling terrain is quite apparent. The par-4 10th -- playing 463 yards -- is easily among the best 3-4 holes. The tee shot is blind and the need to get in the fairway is essential as a desert wash separate one side of the hole from where the putting green is situated on the other. The visual dynamics are solid and the shot requirements are certainly top tier.
The terrain helps accentuate the shot challenges and the hole diversity provided by Panks works very well. The short par-4 11th tempts the strong hitters to consider a go for the green off the tee but the shot will only be rewarded with the best of best efforts. The back nine routing takes you around the northern edge of the property. The long par-3 15th is a superb hole with no bunkers and it's because of an elusive target with falls-offs. The long par-5 16th works in a serpentine fashion around the hillside on the golfer's left.
Back-to-back long par-4's conclude the round at the 17th and 18th holes respectively. The 17th is the better of the two because the strategic calculations are more varied. Word to the wise -- the prevailing wind is generally from the south / southwest and into the golfer with the final two.
As a resort course Twin Warriors has plenty of elasticity to handle varying handicap levels. On the flip side -- the course has twice hosted the PGA Professional Championship and has been well received. There's little question Twin Warriors is among the Land of Enchantment's top 10 courses but getting to a top three position would require adding in a number of missing design details -- mainly on the front side. One final non-golf related comment -- for those going to the facility it's helpful to really take in the culture of the Santa Ana Pueblo -- the facility truly honors the memory of earlier generations.
by M. James Ward