Up, up and away to New Mexico for high desert golf and diverse cultural activities. Fly into Albuquerque and take the old west version of a double decker bus tour – the Historic Old Town Trolley, for an entertaining open-air introduction to the neighborhoods. Starting in the plaza, it taxis along Route 66, noting preservation of architecture, Bart Prince’s fantastical spaceship featured on Extreme Homes, movie set scenes, and then passing elephants in the zoo.
New Mexico golf rises to higher plateaus, literally. Number one Paa Ko Ridge transforms a mountainside landscape with dense forest canopies. Optical illusion of slopes mystifies green readers. Sandia Golf Club and Casino Resort has one of the longest layouts at over 7700 yards. Elevations are
more subtle as it winds around the casino property with outstanding views. The always-
immaculate condition of the course, managed by OB Sports, satisfies discriminating golfers. The resort hosted three weddings the day we played.
Take the switchback road (not for car sick passengers) over Sandia Mountain and ride the longest tram in the world to a height of over
10,000 feet. Dramatic scenery continues on to Twin Warriors Golf Club, a Gary Panks signature design beside Indian cultural mesas. Pinion Pines and Junipers frame the grassy knolls through canyons along the sacred butte known as Tuyuna or “Snakehead.” Actually the whole serpent outline can be seen molten in the rock spanning several holes.
Before hitting the range, early birds should fly with Rainbow Ryders who unlike Dorothy’s wizard know how to safely float across the sky in a gondola box strung to a colorful hot air balloon. The International Balloon festival is held here annually for good reasons. The climate is ideal and the views are surreal over the Rio Grande. Celebratory toasting upon landing incorporates local champagne as New Mexico’s climate and high altitude is also conducive to vineyards. Stop at wineries along the river on the way to Santa Fe, 80 miles north, where Black Mesa Golf Club epitomizes the “Land of Enchantment” theme for New Mexico. The course is a contrast of ruggedness; snow capped distant mountains, imposing cliffs, gorges, scruff, blooms and yes, the black mesa butte. Exaggerated elevation changes work out golfers’ hamstrings. Number 14 gives new meaning to “uphill climb.” Thread the needle in the fairway between bunkers and rough terrain on the right and Eddie’s gorge along the left or you will see why they call this hole “the stairway to seven.” Indigo Buntings flash bright blue wings, teasing for birdies.
Art galleries such as Georgia O’Keefe’s stir creative senses in downtown Santa Fe. Visitors come as you are but the resident dress code is upscale western wear including cow boots, the finest of which are found in the plaza shops as well as everything turquoise. Native American artists promote their jewelry and art on the street and in the shops. Climb to the balcony of Marble Brewery and Tap Room for a spanning view and good brew. The Puye Cliff Dwelling tour in Espanola astounds with 70 abandoned cave rooms and petro glyphs on one level. Ascend to the village of ruins atop and submerge by ladder into an underground kiva, imagining tribal gatherings inside the adobe walls where historical decisions were made. Day prayer dances and sacred rituals still take place on site.
Taos is a northern version of the artsy Santa Fe enclave. At the private/public Taos Country Club, golfers must hit the fairways or forfeit balls in the thick sagebrush. Walk the nearby suspension bridge at The Rio Grande gorge for a stomach fluttering, mini Grand Canyon thrill. There’s no time for chilling in the land of chilies with many more golf courses and spas. Back in Albuquerque visit Explora! (a hands on museum) or the Balloon Museum. Diversity is not simply tolerated but celebrated with Petroglyph National Monument and Indian Pueblo Cultural Center showing off Native American lifestyles. Spanish and Moorish influences bring Flamenco to the stage and Mexican food is unmatched at El Pinto where the ambience is as authentic as the chili manufactured on the grounds. Seating 1000, there is still a wait on weekends. For Italian cuisine, don’t miss Torino’s at Home owned by Daniela, the vivacious Italian hostess and her husband Maxime Bouneou, an award winning French chef whipping up Trattoria dishes to be savored slowly, just like the state. With 310 days of sunshine, it’s a trip. Up, up and away – start planning yours at www.itsatrip.org.