Power to the Pueblos
Two tribal-owned golf resorts in Albuquerque and Santa Fe represent some of the best hospitality New Mexico has to offer.
Sandia Resort & Casino
“This is for you, Albuquerque!” native son Notah Begay III shouted to the cameras after winning the 1999 Michelob Kingsmill Championship, the second of his four PGA Tour victories.
But is Albuquerque for you? If you like great golf, it certainly is. The Duke City and surrounding area boasts miles of highly regarded layouts such as Paa-Ko Ridge, Twin Warriors, Santa Ana, Isleta Eagle and the University of New Mexico Championship Course.
You’ll find Albuquerque’s top golf offering on the north side of town at the Sandia Resort & Casino. Entering its second decade, the Sandia Pueblo-owned resort—which takes its name from the beautiful watermelon-colored Sandia Mountains that dominate the resort’s eastern views —continues to the standard for luxury in Albuquerque.
The resort’s Sandia Golf Club boasts a challenging Scott Miller-designed layout, which stretches from 5,112 to 7,755 yards and this September will again sponsor and host the $85,000 New Mexico Open. The club operates from the stunning Sandia Golf Event Center, a sprawling facility appointed with modern New Mexican décor and high end finishes. Its 5,300-square-foot ballroom divides into as many as four separate spaces, with an all-glass north wall facing the Sandias. Another collapsible glass wall erases the boundary between indoor and outdoor patios.
The Event Center spills onto a dramatic private lawn, making for an especially memorable tournament or wedding venue. The building connects—conveniently, through the Bridal Suite/Dressing Room—to the equally magnificent Green Reed Spa and its 14 new treatment rooms and salon. Green Reed’s encyclopedic menu of natural treatments and therapies means guests get pampered and rejuvenated in luxury.
All 228 of Sandia’s lavishly decorated rooms and suites showcase views of the city skyline or the Sandias. Sandia’s plush, 140,000-square-foot casino features myriad gaming options, and the resort’s 4,000-seat outdoor Amphitheater has scheduled a rocking summer lineup featuring Train, Jason Mraz, Bush and the Tedeschi Trucks Band. On May 28, Sandia will also kick off the 7th Annual ABQ Beer Week with the ABQ Blues & Brews festival, which features four blues and unlimited samples from more than 70 breweries.
Other outdoor pleasures await at Sandia’s fabulous pool and, nine stories above, at the lively rooftop patio and lounge connected to the resort’s five-star restaurant, Bien Shur. Martin Torrez’s superlative menu changes seasonally, and number of his savory appetizers—including the Gambas Torrez, a piquant combination of shrimp and chorizo—are available in the lounge. Order up a signature watermelon-mint martini—which matches the magical color of the mountains viewed from the patio during happy hour—or choose from a selection of 20 wines at only $20 per bottle.
Sandia provides the ideal base from which to explore Albuquerque’s other culinary options, including the fabulous Scalo Northern Italian on Central Avenue and the New Mexican food mecca of El Pinto on Fourth Street in the North Valley.
Sandia Resort & Casino
30 Rainbow Rd. NE, Albuquerque
Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino
You don’t expect to find a former PGA Tour winner giving golf instruction in New Mexico, but Jeff Mitchell, the winner of the 1980 Phoenix Open, does precisely that at Towa Golf Club, the 27-hole facility at Santa Fe’s Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino.
Mitchell, whose first-round 66 in the ’80 Masters tied for the lead with David Graham and eventual champion Seve Ballesteros, also coached the men’s golf teams at Texas Tech and Stanford as well as the North Texas University women’s team. He brings more than 45 years of experience and knowledge to teaching resort guests and locals, all of whom can also now benefit from the only FlightScope system in northern New Mexico.
Golfers also benefit from one of picturesque golf facilities anywhere. Framed by the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains, Towa sports three nines—Piñon, Valley and Boulder—that roil dramatically through surreal rock formations and outcroppings. Ironically, CU alum Hale Irwin designed all but the Boulder nine, which William Phillips authored in 2001.
Thanks to a mild winter and unusually wet spring, the course greened up early and is already in tournament condition. One tournament, October 1’s Gruet Golf Classic, caps off Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, which features gourmet food and drink every third hole. “What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” says Director of Golf Laurie Meredith, “than eating, drinking and playing 18 holes?”
Towa always discounts golf for resort guests whether they’re staying at Buffalo Thunder or any other Santa Fe resort. But Buffalo Thunder, Santa Fe’s only golf resort, gives you every reason to stay there.
Located 14 miles north of Santa Fe’s bustling plaza, Hilton Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino brings the art and food of Santa Fe into a place far from the crowded streets. Owned by the Pojoanque pueblo, Buffalo Thunder Resort Casino proudly displays more than 400 works—including pottery, paintings, sculpture, mosaics, weavings and designs—representing every Native Tribe within New Mexico.
Pueblo pride radiates from the resort’s traditional architecture to the detailed, handmade valences and headboards in the 398 lushly furnished rooms and suites—all of which have keyless smartphone entry. Swirls, so predominant in New Mexican Pueblo culture, manifest themselves in the curving lobby that leads to the enormous casino, the décor of which echoes the curvilinear forms. They also appear in the swirling staircase that brings you to Wo’ P’in Spa, a sanctuary of indigenous healing, serenity, health and balance.
Serving mouthwatering meals and a wine list worthy of Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, Red Sage tops the list of Buffalo Thunder’s six restaurants. A more casual option—as well as a fabulous breakfast buffet and killer margarita—awaits at the Iguana Café. The resort recently added the Wine Buff at Buffalo Thunder, which offers a wide selection of liquor, beer, cigars and, of course, wine, which can be purchased by the bottle or by the glass and savored in the well-appointed wine room.
You’ll naturally find plenty of fine dining just south in downtown Santa Fe. With restaurants worthy of San Francisco, culture on par with New York’s, stores with Dallas prices and a population comparable to Loveland’s, New Mexico’s charming capital can feel like an intimate adobe wonderland. It certainly earns its nickname as “the city different,” as there’s nothing else like it in New Mexico or the United States.
Buffalo Thunder Resort and Casino
30 Buffalo Thunder Trail, Santa Fe
This article appears in the May 2017 issue of Colorado AvidGolfer. Subscribe today!
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