Situated close to Albuquerque's international airport, the University of New Mexico's Championship golf course sits on a hilly landscape where architect Red Lawrence skilfully laid out the fairways back in 1967. It’s been used on several occasions since then to host the prestigious NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship, and the last occasion this took place was when the University of Nevada, Las Vegas won the event in 1998.
Situated at an altitude of 5,300 feet above sea level, the Championship course shares the same location as another university 18-hole layout, the North course, which was actually built back in 1942 and was used to stage the inaugural edition of the Albuquerque Open, won by Lloyd Mangrum in 1947.
The Championship layout is the home course of The Lobos Men’s and Women’s Golf Teams and it can be extended to 7,555 yards from the back markers, starting and finishing with strong par fives. Unlike some educational golfing facilities, green fee paying golfers are welcome on either course at any time.
Going to New Mexico certainly includes an enjoyable "Land of Enchantment" connection and a visit to UNM's championship course is certainly worth including when making any visit to Albuquerque. One of the most immediate advantages is the close proximity to the main airport. You could literally parachute onto the course with any flight arrival!
The layout is located on a hillside and when warming-up the practice area provided is quite spacious and provides views of the nearby city.
Red Lawrence did a fine job in mixing and matching holes. Being able to shape shots is a plus as a number of the holes do turn in the drive zone.
One needs to score early on because the demands quickly intensify when you reach the uphill stretch of holes starting with the 5th. The par-4 7th is quite demanding but even more so what follows at the long par-3 8th at 260 yards is truly a test of one's muscles to get all the way to the target. The outward side closes with a long uphill par-5 at the 9th.
The inward side, in my mind, has the better overall mixture of holes. At the 10th you face a downhill turning right long par-4 at 517 yards. The key is shaping the drive with the requisite length included. The next few holes run along the southern perimeter of the property and matters. The short par-4 15th is quite special. One needs to respect the fact that it pays to play more to the right than what you see from the tee.
The ending takes one back up the hill towards the clubhouse with a closing par-5 hole.
The main negative I have with UNM / Championship is the desire to overwater the layout. New Mexico is quite dry and a number of courses in the immediate area are so fixated on not being brown that they overcompensate and water to the point in which there's little or no meaningful roll. The concern for the aesthetics is noble but it's done far too much for my tastes. If UNM / Championship were far closer to firm and fast then the design attributed Lawrence provided would be far more in play and only add to the challenge given the nature of the terrain.
Nonetheless, I still recommend playing the course -- the close proximity to the airport and to the central downtown area of Albuquerque makes for a solid combination all the way around.
M. James Ward
I could not agree with M. James Ward opinion on the over watering of the UNM Golf Course. I was a UNM Lobo golfer in the 1970's and lived in Albuquerque at times after.
When I was in school, South Track as we called it (the original UNM Golf Course was also a good course. Almost gone now, Arnold Palmer won a NCAA National Championship on the North Course) was a dry fast course. Two tee shots come to mind. A driver on the first hole and any number of long clubs on hole 15 could find the water on the left if pulled down that side of the fairway. Now days one may not even know that water is present because of the over growth!
I remember play UNM back in the early '80's when they had hired a new greens superintendent whose background was in irrigation. We were in the tenth fairway when he introduced himself. I clearly remember him saying that we should tell him of any dry spots on the course. Little did we know the horror that was to come.
UNM Golf Course has a special place in my golfing heart but like so many things that have to do with the heart, I remember better days.
Ron, I read your comments from my initial review of UNM / Championship and I'm a bit confused. You state at the outset, "I could not agree with M. James Ward opinion on the over watering...," but then before concluding you do mention how the course from your playing days was a "dry firm course."
You also mention later on when the new superintendent introduced himself and asked for any feedback regarding any "dry spots on the course." You then concluded by saying, "You remember better days." Given your additional comments I am guessing you likely had a typo early on and concur with my comments on the over watering that has infected the course. Let me point out the situation with UNM / Championship is replicated by quite a few others courses in the Land of Enchantment.
I too long for a future round at UNM / Championship that rightly celebrates the memory and smarts of architect Red Lawrence. And that means turning down the flow of self-imposed moisture that robs the course of its splendid offerings.
M. James Ward. Sorry for the confusion. I should have added to "better days" with "of a dryer faster golf course".
To my way of thinking the turning point for UNM Championship Golf Course was the new superintendent in the 1980's. That I believe was the start of the over watering.
For years I have said that New Mexico golf courses have a love affair with green grass. Why is there so much over watering on NM golf courses? No one in New Mexico has ever given me a good answer.