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Insider's Guide to Golfing Albuquerque

BEGAY'S FAVORITE COURSES
Although he plays out of Las Campanas, in Santa Fe, Begay keeps a list of hometown favorites.

University of New Mexico's Championship (or South) Course
"What impresses everybody who plays this course are the enormous greens. They measure up to 8,500 square feet and usually roll at least nine on the stimpmeter. UNM is a perennial site of the NCAA men's championship tourney, and this particular layout is by far Albuquerque's most challenging. The ninth, a 602-yard par five, is all the golf hole you could ever want. You face an intimidating uphill tee shot, then the hole doglegs left over a hill to a sunken green guarded by three bunkers. The best hole is the fifteenth, a 364-yard par four that doglegs left around a pond with a big cottonwood tree on the edge. The hole's not straightforward, and that's why I like it. You're confronted with a number of options. If the tees are up, you can drive the right edge of the green. If the tees are back or the hole is playing into the wind, you can hit a three-wood or a two-iron to the right of the pond. Or you can lay back with a five-iron off the tee, then hit an eight-iron over the cottonwood. UNM also has a nine-holer called the North course, where you can work on your short game."

ESSENTIALS:
Par/Yardage: 72, 7,248 Architect: Red Lawrence Address: 3601 University SE, Albuquerque Phone: 505-277-4546

Santa Ana Golf Club, Cheena/Star/Tamaya Nines
"The best daily-fee course in Albuquerque is probably Santa Ana, located on the Santa Ana Indian reservation. I have a special fondness for the club because it gave me some sponsorship money the year after I turned pro. The Star nine is for high- and middle-handicappers. The Tamaya and Cheena nines hosted the Nike New Mexico Classic in 1999. Most of the greens slope sharply from back to front and/or tilt sideways toward trouble. My favorite Tamaya hole is the ninth, a 335-yard par four that doglegs right around a huge pond. If you can carry the ball 240 yards at sea level, you can roll the dice and try to reach the green with a driver or a three-wood because of Albuquerque's altitude. My favorite Cheena holes are the front-nine par threes: the 237-yard third, which has a deep linksland-style swale fronting the green, and the tricky 171-yard fifth. In 2001, Santa Ana plans to open a Hyatt Regency and another eighteen holes designed by Gary Panks."

ESSENTIALS:
Par/Yardage: 35, 3,569 (Cheena); 36, 3,543 (Star); 36, 3,670 (Tamaya) Architect: Ken Killian Address: 288 Prairie Star Rd., Santa Ana Pueblo Phone: 505-867-9464

Isleta Eagle Golf Course, Arroyo/Lakes/Mesa Nines
"Isleta Eagle islocated just south of town on the Isleta reservation, where I lived until I was seven. Like Santa Ana, the area reflects recent Native American development by including a casino and a golf course. And like Santa Ana, Isleta offers three nines, two of which--Mesa and Lakes--are championship caliber. The Mesa nine has several holes that either force you to lay up or give you a chance to gamble. My favorite is the 593-yard par-five fifth, which requires you to hit your drive to the top of a hill to have any chance of getting home in two. The green is guarded by a deep arroyo, and if you lay up you must be precise so you'll have no more than a pitching wedge on your third shot. Two of the best holes on the Lakes nine are the 444-yard par-four second, which plays uphill to a small, steeply sloping concave green shaped like a western saddle, and the 471-yard par-four fifth, which also plays uphill, this time to a green surrounded by amphitheater-style grass mounding. The Arroyo's toughest hole, the 227-yard par-three third, has a plateau green fronted by four bunkers."

ESSENTIALS:
Par/Yardage: 36, 3,345 (Arroyo); 36, 3,745 (Lakes); 36, 3,793 (Mesa) Architect: William Phillips Address: 4001 Hwy. 47 SE, Isleta Phone: 505-869-0950

Ladera Golf Course
"Ladera will always be my favorite muni in Albuquerque because that's where I learned to play golf. At first glance, there doesn't seem to be anything special about Ladera, but it's really a mystical place. You can see three extinct volcanoes off in the distance to the west, and there's a row of lava-rock mesas behind the fourteenth fairway, where my family's house is. What I really love about Ladera are the huge, fast greens, which helped me to become a good lag putter. The overall pitch of the course is east, toward the Rio Grande, so you can easily be fooled by subtle breaks. My favorite hole at Ladera is the eighteenth, a 430-yard par four that bends to the left around a sausage-shape pond. The tee shot is everything here. Hook your drive, you're in the water. Bail out right, you'll find yourself with a long second shot from rocky hardpan. But if you put your tee ball safely in the left center of the fairway, you can set up a birdie with a short-iron approach and get ready to count your winnings in the clubhouse."

ESSENTIALS:
Par/Yardage: 72, 7,107 Architect: Richard Phelps Address: 3401 Ladera Dr. NW, Albuquerque Phone: 505-836-4449

WHERE TO STAY
Bottger-Koch Mansion Bed & Breakfast, 110 San Felipe NW, 505-243-36390
Inn at Paradise Hills, 10035 Country Club Ln. NW, 800-938-6161

WHERE TO DINE
Church Street Café, 2111 Church St. NW, 505-247-8522
High Noon Restaurant & Saloon, 425 San Felipe NW, 505-765-1455
Little Anita's Restaurant, 2105 Mountain Rd. NW, 505-242-3102
Monte Vista Fire Station, 3201 Central NE, 505-255-2424
Prairie Star, Santa Ana Golf Club, 288 Prairie Star Rd., Santa Ana Pueblo, 505-867-3327
Ranchers Club of New Mexico, Hilton Albuquerque, 1901 University NE, 505-884-2500

WHILE YOU'RE THERE
Albuquerque Aquarium & Rio Grande Botanic Garden, 2601 Central NW, 505-764-6200
The American International Rattlesnake Museum, 202 San Felipe NW, 505-242-6569
Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 Twelfth St. NW, 505-242-4943
Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway, 50 Tramway Loop, 505-856-1532
San Felipe de Neri Church, 2005 N. Plaza NW, 505-243-4628

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