Black Mesa Golf Club
This Land Is Your Land - House of Earth
By John Ehle
Woody Guthrie turned 100 on Saturday, July 14. Woody is still with us....some would say more than ever with the publication of his long-awaited and long lost book, "House of Earth". Touted by the likes of Johnny Depp and Bob Dylan, Guthrie's novel was written in response to the misery that he saw and experienced in New Mexico as a result of the Dust Bowl, circa 1936.
Guthrie had moved there late in the year; chased from the Texas Panhandle by a "duster", which made life in Texas intolerable. He was completely taken with adobe architecture, the construction of lodging with soil-straw bricks which were far superior to the wooden, porous board homes which did little to slow the penetration of dust and wind in Texas. Guthrie had purchased a nickel pamphlet, "Adobe or Sun-Dried Brick for Farm Buildings" from the USDA. Guthrie saw that even literally dirt poor denizens of the arroyos could build sheltering homes from the basement up with materials readily available everywhere. These "houses of earth" became the predominant architecture of New Mexico and made me chuckle when I overheard a visitor refer to Santa Fe as an "adobe theme park".
Guthrie zealously promoted the adobe way and, no doubt, had a more pragmatic effect on housing trends than the stylish and beautiful homes that dot the New Mexican landscape now. The early morning/late afternoon light which reflects off these abodes, fires them dramatically and makes them jump out of the sage brush like desert bonfires.
The trip from Albuquerque reveals a foreign land to first-time visitors. Red and yellow outcroppings, boulders, arroyos and rivers that wend their way, eventually, to the Rio Grande provide a visual geologic feast. It wasn't until we drove into Black Mesa GC that my imagination allowed me to conjure up the possibility of playing golf in, over and around this terrain. The old Aero windmill stands sentinel over the clubhouse, a muted symbol of what this land served as historically.
The gracefully curving fairways appear to be green lava, seeking the appropriate level on each hole. Eddie Peck, principal owner/manager, talked about the eventual routing of the golf course and the partnership with Baxter Spann, the architect. Egos were jettisoned and the beauty and strategy for playing golf on this land emerged; the product of diverse perceptions and many trips around this complex, beautiful, spacious property.
Black Mesa itself is visible from many of the holes at BMGC and legend has it that a large and famous battle took place there many years ago between indigenous tribes. The spirits of both conqueror and conquered are said to reside here and the light in this place speaks to something that science doesn't convey.
Playing Black Mesa is unique. It's not AZ desert golf and it's certainly not parkland or links golf. It may be a golf course genre which stands alone. Standing on any of the five tee boxes of each hole affords the player a variety of strategies which require the player to think his/her way around the golf course. But that is the least of the distractions: each tee provides a vista including the horizon, arroyos, canyons and the velvety green fairway which on many holes offers more than one strategy. But nothing about it is unfair.
The wise player learns much the first time around a new course but that doesn't mean that experience is necessarily the only teacher available. Director of Golf, Tom Velarde, has put together the definitive guide to playing Black Mesa and the candor and wisdom imparted by this valuable little tome will subtract significant anguish from the golfing experience. Read Mr. Velarde's guide before and after your round and subsequent rounds will bear golfing fruit. Its wisdom and illustrations will give the player great insight into this spectacular golf course. In addition, while you are there, make the effort to talk to course superintendent Pat Brockwell. He is Black Mesa's philosopher in residence and a conversation with Pat is an extraordinary way to pass a very pleasant hour at Black Mesa. He can talk about grass and sand, too.
While You Are There
Take a drive over to Taos and play Taos CC. Taos CC plays through a sage-covered valley of wide-open spaces which tempts the player to hit driver on 14 holes....not always a sage decision! Taos is Santa Fe with a Bohemian flavor that is certain to delight those interested in art and outstanding Southwest food. Please remember: chilis are not spice in New Mexico; they are vegetables.
Pass through Taos and you will find the Rio Grande Gorge. A hike out to the middle of the gorge bridge will move some extra oxygen through your lungs as the Rio Grande has had its way with the geology here over millions of years and the result is nothing less than astounding. The river appears as a mere thread; winding its way southward.
Our new friend George (of the Gorge) will greet you at the entrance to the parking lot and offer his hand-made jewelry at a very modest price. The stones which are the centerpieces of these leather-clad necklaces have been artfully tumbled in the River, creating memorabilia to be treasured.
Revised: 07/17/2012 - Article Viewed 19,784 Times
About: John Ehle
John Ehle writes for GolfWisconsin.com, GolfTrips,com and other golf-related sites in the US. He has attended 6 Open Championships in the British Isles and many men's and women's US Opens and PGA Championships as well as Ryder Cups and President's Cups.
His primary international writing is golf course reviews and travel articles. He also writes about golf equipment and other golf-related products. Most recently he traveled to Cuba and will be in SE Asia for 6 weeks in February and March, 2012.
He writes a weekly column for a metropolitan newspaper in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He is a 10 handicap golfer and has competed in many Wisconsin State Golf Association events.