Hobbs’ Rockwind: a Muni Where Kids Can Spend the Summer 0 44

RockwindCommunity Links

Fred Couples Inaugurates New N.M. Muni

The City of Hobbs, N.M. has turned a piece of ironing board-flat desert into the kind of daily-fee muni that a kid like Fred Couples could play every day of every summer for years.

Rockwind16BCouples should know. The 15-time tour winner and World Golf Hall of Fame inductee spent every day of every summer as a kid at Jefferson Park Golf Course in his hometown of Seattle. “This course is a fantastic course where the kids of Hobbs are going to have a ball,” Couple said at the opening of the Rockwind Community Links Golf Course.

The May 23 opening Couples attended was just the start. Four days later, Rockwind hosted its first charity event. Playing were Lee Trevino, Jim Colbert and Natalie Gulbis. The opening of Rockwind was a big deal for Hobbs, which is diversifying its economy and shedding its old image as a dusty oil patch town.

Built on the site of the former Ocotillo Park Golf Course, Rockwind was designed byPrint Scottsdale architect Andy Staples, who used soil removed from a new 5.2-acre irrigation lake to build brows and berms to add elevation change and visual interest to the 224-acre property. A stream fed by the irrigation lake meanders through the course. Rock walls built from native caliche rock lining some holes are evocative of courses on the west coast of Ireland.

Kept intact were hundreds of mature trees planted in 1955 when Ocotillo Park opened, which gives Rockwind the feel of a mature golf course, and shade and definition not often found in Southeastern New Mexico.

PGA Tour winner Fred CouplesThe resulting property is a 27-hole facility with a 7,102-yard 18-hole course and a 9-hole beginners’ course – “Li’l Rock” – with holes ranging in length from 35 to 185 yards.
Because of its flat terrain, the only defenses Rockwind offers against low scoring are its hidden fairway bunkers and devilishly difficult greens, some of which have two feet of elevation change from one section to another. Surrounding the course are walking and bike trials, and the adjacent park land is home to red tail hawks, golden eagles, javelina, quail and gray foxes.

“We believe Rockwind will be the focus of our community and we’re investing heavily in golf for our youth,” said Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb.

The name Rockwind comes from two realities of Southeastern New Mexico – the ever-present wind and the caliche rock that lies a few feet below the topsoil. Superintendent Matt Hughes said Staples trucked in two feet of soil and sand to overlay the old Ocotillo course.

Rockwind16AThe $12 million Rockwind renovation was a big step for Hobbs, population 45,000, which rode a wave of rising oil prices to become the second-largest economy in New Mexico last year – second only to Albuquerque. The city did not sell bonds to build Rockwind; it paid cash. “We’re investing in quality of life here, and we’re telling the world we want people to come and live and prosper here,” Cobb said.

As to oil’s boom-bust cycle, Hobbs has learned its lesson from past busts. The drillers and well-service companies kept an eye on spending and debt during last year’s boom and have weathered this year’s decline in prices. “But to tell you the truth, we’re drilling so efficiently, the cost of production here is $13, so we’re still making money even if oil is at $35,” Cobb said.

Dan Vukelich, a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, is the editor of ABQ Free Press in Albuquerque and newmexicogolfnews.com.

If you Go:

Where: Hobbs, in the heart of New Mexico’s oil patch in Southeastern New Mexico, is four miles from the Texas state line and 71 miles northwest of Midland-Odessa.

Getting there: United Express serves Hobbs from Houston’s George Bush International Airport. Southwest, United and Envoy serve Midland-Odessa.

Where to eat and stay: The Zia Park Casino Hotel is less than five minutes from Rockwind. Top restaurants include the Cattle Baron steakhouse and Pacific Rim, an eclectic mix of sushi, seafood and steaks.

What’s nearby: Carlsbad Caverns National Park is 70 miles southwest of Hobbs. Zia Park has horse racing September through December. Hobbs is a center of soaring, or glider flying. The Soaring Society of America is based in Hobbs and offers $139 introductory flights.

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Sierra Del Rio to Shutter for Two Months 0 35

Sierra del Rio Golf Course

Sierra Del Rio Golf Course, which restricted play in December to Thursday through Sunday only, will close for two months after the New Year.

The temporary closure of the 18-hole Elephant Butte golf course was announced in an email Sunday. The golf course’s food and beverage operation, also will close. Plans are to reopen on March 1, the course said.

“The course is in reasonably good condition but we want it to be in the best shape possible when we reopen,” a golf shop employee said Sunday. Maintenance crews will devote the downtime to earth and drainage work to repair damage to native areas off the playing surfaces caused by heavy rains in September, the employee said.

Sierra Del Rio, a Richard Phelps design, is the centerpiece of a retirement- and second-home community near the Rio Grande in Southern New Mexico. Its director of golf is Guy Wimberly, who retired to Elephant Butte after decades running Arroyo Del Oso Golf Course in Albuquerque. Wimberly had no comment on the closure on Sunday.

Sierra Del Rio reduced playing days earlier this month. Winter is typically playable in Southern New Mexico, where daily highs reach into the 50s and 60s.

Sierra Del Rio is part of the Turtleback Mountain Resort. It opened in 2007 on the footprint of the old Oasis Golf Resort and is the nearest golf course to Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic plans to fly tourists to the edge of space.

The renovated course and new homes built near it provided a boost to the local economy, but homebuilding and rounds played suffered following the 2008 housing collapse.

Dan Vukelich is editor of NewMexicoGolfNews.com. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com.

ESPN Tackles Socorro’s El Fego Baca Golf Shoot 0 37

Golfer stands on platform on top of Socorro's M Mountain ready to hit shot

Socorro’s Elfego Baca Golf Shoot was featured by ESPN in an accurate depiction of the painful, exhausting extreme golf event played 4,000 vertical feet down the side of a mountain over and through rattlesnakes, rocks, cactus and biting gnats.

ESPN host Kenny Mayne finished second in the 2013 event, in which players competed to reach a 50-foot-circle near New Mexico Tech Golf Course  down in the valley in the fewest strokes.

You can watch the Elfego Baca Golf Shoot segment here.

The Elfego Baca, named for an sheriff in New Mexico in the 1880 who held of 52 bandits who laid seige to his cabin, is part of Elfego Bacathe annual Socorro Open, a pro and amateur event held each June at the New Mexico Tech Golf Course. Socorro is about 70 miles south of Albuquerque.

Mayne, a former college quarterback-turned-broadcaster, claimed to have tied golf writer Rick Reilly’s score of 19 from several years ago. Mayne was coached on his strategy by El Fego Baca legend and the enduro event’s inaugural winner Mike Stanley, who holds the record of 9 strokes.

In addition to trying to make the descent over treacherous scree, boulders, cactus and snake- and scorpion-infested desert from near the peak of 7,243-foot “M” Mountain in the fewest strokes and with the fewest lost balls, competitors, spotters and officials try urgently to get off the mountain before temperatures exceed 105 degrees.

After his six-hour descent, Mayne said he escaped the event with no injuries, but he didn’t mention the dozens of no-see-um gnat bites most competitors suffer on their necks. The welts typically manifest themselves days after the event.

The editor of New Mexico Golf News and a team from New Mexico Golf TV recorded the event in 2001 for a segment broadcast on the Golf Channel. We concur with Mayne’s assessment, “Thanks for the memories, Socorro, New Mexico, but I’m never coming back.”

Dan Vukelich is editor of NewMexicoGolfNews.com. Reach him at dan@newmexicogolfnews.com