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With many courses to choose from, balloons and golf are a natural pairing in sunny New Mexico

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Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club is a 27-hole course located east of Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club)

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club is a 27-hole course located east of Albuquerque. (Courtesy of Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club)

If you’re lucky enough, you might just have a perfect morning — making a hole-in-one while catching up-close glimpses of hot-air balloons floating overhead.

Even if the balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta don’t go up because of poor weather conditions, there’s always golf. And in Albuquerque and its outskirts, there are plenty of options.

Mountain to desert to resort to parkland courses are all within 30 minutes of town, says Ken Adams, a golfing consultant with Sun Country Golf and spokesman for Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club.

“I’m not sure that’s found anywhere but here,” he says.

Twin Warriors Golf Club is considered a desert golf course, while Santa Ana Golf Club is a links course in that the Scottish design is very unique, Adams explains.

Sandia Golf Club at Sandia Resort & Casino, which is located just east of Balloon Fiesta Park, is considered a links resort course.

Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club, which was rated the only five-star golf course in the Southwest for a few years, is a 27-hole golf course located east of Albuquerque amid tall pines.

Prices subject to change.

North and south

For folks wanting to go beyond the Duke City for golfing, Roger Martinez, chief executive officer for the Santa Ana Golf Corp., suggests heading either south to Isleta Eagle Golf Club, or north to Towa Golf Resort at Buffalo Thunder Resort and Black Mesa Golf Club.

“I encourage them to check out golf on the Santa Fe Trail,” Martinez says.

Other courses along the Santa Fe Trail include Twin Warriors Golf Club, Santa Ana Golf Club, Sandia, Paa-Ko and the University of New Mexico Championship golf courses.

George Trujeque, director of golf courses for UNM, says that the UNM Championship Golf Course will offer a special rate to golfers during the Balloon Fiesta. The rate on Saturdays and Sundays will be $65 for 18 holes of golf. (Usually the rate for nonresidents is $75 on weekends.) On weekdays, the rate will be $52.

The golf course is located in the south end of Albuquerque a couple of miles from the Albuquerque International Sunport.

City courses

Within the metro area are four city-run golf courses, says Paul Hyso, marketing manager for the Parks and Recreation Department for the City of Albuquerque.

They are: Ladera, Arroyo del Oso, Los Altos and Puerto del Sol.

“The only day courses are closed is on Christmas Day,” Hyso says.

And, the courses are open from sunrise to sunset.

During the Balloon Fiesta, city golf courses tend to be busier than usual, Hyso says.

“I think that the key thing about City of Albuquerque golf courses is you can play on our courses and have the same experience you’d have on a private course,” Hyso says. “We offer real quality, enjoyable courses for not very much (money) at all.”

The cost to golf 18 holes is $25. Cart rental is extra.

“There’s nowhere else in town you can play a course of golf for $25,” he adds.

Though some golf clubs are available for rent, he recommends bringing your own.

For information on the city’s golf courses, call 311.

Top rate

Paa-Ko has been nationally ranked among the best courses in the country over the years.

“We’re consistently ranked number one in New Mexico,” Adams says. “We’re ranked in the top 50 in the U.S.”

The golf course is also ranked in the Top 10 for the best value for the money by Links Magazine.

“That’s a biggie for us,” he says.

“We have people fly out here, take a cab out here and fly out” all in a day just so that they can spend a day on the greens at Paa-Ko.

“With all New Mexico has to offer, that’s how bad some golfers’ Jones is.”

Greens fees are $89 Monday through Thursday, and $114 Friday though Sunday, according to the website.

And, during Balloon Fiesta, anyone playing Paako Ridge gets a free twilight round, he says.

Adams says that for travelers, golfing in New Mexico is “an incredible value.”

“Even if you’re a nongolfer, the patios at Paa-Ko, Twin Warriors, Santa Ana and Sandia” are worth the drive, Adams says.

“They all have spectacular patios, a really great place to enjoy the view, to have a drink, some casual grill dining,” he adds.

High desert scenery

Santa Ana Golf Club and Twin Warriors Golf Club, which are located just northwest of Albuquerque in the high desert, are dotted with grassy knolls and comprise 45 holes of play.

Twin Warriors Golf Club is ranked among the top 100 golf courses in the country by Golf Digest and Golfweek.

Santa Ana hosts the New Mexico Open, the state’s largest golf tournament.

Golfing after a morning of ballooning is a great way to spend a day in the Land of Enchantment, Martinez says.

“In September and October we have the best weather of any place in that time of year.”

The greens fees at Twin Warriors during Balloon Fiesta are $79 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and $69 on weekdays. Ask for the Balloon Fiesta special to get those rates, Martinez says.

At Santa Ana, it will cost $52 on weekdays, and $62 on weekends. Also, anytime after 2 p.m., greens fees are $39 on both golf courses. The fees include cart, greens fee and range balls.

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