Renovations at Ladera: At Last, Real Reason for Hope 0 8

Golfers who transit the open nine holes of Albuquerque’s beleaguered 18-hole course at Ladera Golf Course might be shocked, shocked, at a long-awaited sight on the other side of the ropes — grass.

All signs are that the City of Albuquerque has finally gotten serious about saving the West Side’s only municipal golf course.

Ladera Supt. David Salas briefs Parks & Rec Director Barbara BacaFour miles of new cart paths are almost done. Earth-moving equipment is active across the course. Seed is germinating. Salty water issues have been addressed. Best of all, the poisonous, almost purposeful incompetence among former maintenance people that crippled Ladera for more than a decade appears to be history.

City Chief Administrative Officer Rob Perry may not know anything about golf, but he apparently recognized a looming financial and political embarrassment earlier this year when he finally set eyes on the disaster known as Ladera.

Key to the turnaround is Rex Saddoris, the new on-the-ground superintendent at Ladera. Saddoris was hired by Golf Division Superintendent David Salas to get his hands dirty, knees muddy, whip his crew into shape to fix what needs to be fixed. Saddoris, a returning New Mexican, is an experienced superintendent with expertise in poor soil conditions.

Until the latest surge, we were this close to printing up tee-shirts emblazoned with this quote from former Ladera golfer and golf activist Jeff Breitner: “I don’t play golf, I play at Ladera.”

Salas expects to finish the front nine renovation by fall, open both nines through winter, then close the back nine for renovation by about March. In another four or five weeks, after the new turf on the front nine has matured, its fairways will be sand-dressed to rid them of kidney-busting bumps that make riding in a golf cart painful.

After more than $2 million in irrigation improvements, plus another $750,000 for re-seeding and cart path improvements,  the hallmarks of Ladera — mud bogs, dust bowls, dust-strangled fairways and crumbling carts paths — may be a thing of the past.

We can only hope that when the city ATM stops dispensing emergency cash at Ladera, the course will remain playable. And that will be up to Salas, Saddoris, the people running the mowers.

— Dan Vukelich

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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.