The renaissance of Santa Clara Pueblo’s Black Mesa Golf Club has nearly come to fruition, and everyone associated with the golf course is excited about its bright future.
Opened in 2002, Black Mesa quickly became widely known as not only one of the top courses in Northern New Mexico, but the entire state.
The course, with its iconic sandstone ridges, winding arroyos and atmosphere isolated from the public, was consistently ranked inside the top five in Golf Digest Magazine’s “Best Golf Courses in New Mexico,” and at times held the No. 1 position.
Golf Digest released its 2019-20 rankings on its website in June, and again, Black Mesa cracked the top five, holding steady right at the fifth spot. The ranking was a one-spot improvement from sixth place in the 2017-18 rankings.
The return to being in the conversation of New Mexico’s finest courses has taken a few years to complete after the course’s water supply infrastructure faltered in 2014, causing a flood to wash out the delivery pipes, leaving the course with a minuscule water supply.
In return, Black Mesa’s condition declined and its ranking continued to fall on Golf Digest and other media outlets’ lists of top courses in the state.
“Golfers know Golf Digest and they know they can trust their rankings,” Black Mesa Director of Golf Laurie Meredith said. “When Golf Digest says these are the top golf courses you can play in the state, people just Google, ‘Top golf courses in the state,’ and we want to pop up.”
Aside from holding a high ranking from Golf Digest, Black Mesa has also been named in the “100 Best Modern” by Golf Week, “Top 100 You Can Play” by Golf Magazine and “Top 10 Most Spectacular in the World” by Links Magazine.
While the majority of the golf course was affected from the water shortage, the fairways did not suffer to the extent of the rough. The greens were kept alive with the limited amounts of water available.
Fast forward to 2019, and the condition of Black Mesa has nearly fully recovered. Dry or dead patches are still noticeable in minor areas in the fairway rough and around some greens, but the fairways are in near-perfect condition.
“The entire team has done a great job bringing the course back,” Santa Clara Development Corporation Chief Operating Officer Brian Zanazanian said. “We need to thank our superintendent (Aaron Sunderlin) and the entire grounds keeping team for the return to pristine conditions of the course.”
With a $75 out-of-state and a $59 in-state rate for 18 holes with a cart, golfers’ dollars in New Mexico might be best spent at Black Mesa.
In comparison, Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park — ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest’s latest New Mexico rankings — has a rate of $200 per player.
“We’re at the point where we think we have a product that is unique,” Zanazanian said. “We want to have people incorporate us into their vacation and tourism with our golf course. That’s one market we can penetrate: the tourist golfer.”
The design and obscure location of Black Mesa are two aspects that make it a such a viable destination for New Mexico golfers and tourists coming to Santa Fe, or even Albuquerque.
What tourists might not be used to is the unique routing of the course, which continually keeps golfers’ minds at ease and in nature. There is just a slight view of U.S. Highway 285 along a small stretch of the front nine.
“There are majestic views from all 18 holes on the course,” Zanazanian said. “At times, you are just in awe.”
Now that the beauty of the course has been restored, Black Mesa can focus again on just operating a successful golf course, and one that the local community can appreciate.
They have expanded their restaurant hours for the convenience of early morning tee times, as well as keeping the restaurant open six days a week, as compared to four days a week last year.
The course continues to stay community-oriented, as the Española Valley High School and Northern New Mexico College golf teams both practice there. The junior league program is also in its second year and continues to grow.
“In addition to having experienced golfers, we take pride in being involved in the community and one of the initiatives we are most proud of is the junior league program,” Zanazanian said. “Now in its second year, we are up to 123 participants, amongst the largest Native American junior programs in the country.”
Moving forward, the focus for Black Mesa will be to increase the number of tournaments it hosts and expand its market beyond just New Mexico and the southwest.
The course currently attends the Denver Golf Expo each year, but Zanazanian said the goal is to reach other markets around the country.
“Here at Black Mesa Golf Course, we are focused on a very bright future,” he said. “One of our initiatives moving forward is to extend our reach to golfers from all over the country. We feel as if we have a great opportunity to attract golfers from Dallas, Denver, Phoenix and Southern California.”
Black Mesa has also launched a brand-new, revamped website. All details about the course can be accessed at www.golfblackmesa.com.