At its best, Black Mesa Golf Club is one of the finest courses in the country.
Numerous national publications have shown that by rating it as a top-100 public course since it opened 2002.
Even at its worst, Black Mesa still has one of the most scenic layouts there is — and is a great place to play a round.
Tom Velarde, the only director of golf Black Mesa has had, said the course recently had some lean times, but added, “the rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated,”
In 2015, the spring season was very kind to the course, located in Española. “It was absolutely perfect,” Velarde said.
But later in the year, there were issues.
“We lost our well, so we didn’t have any water. It’s pretty simple, when you don’t have water, you don’t have grass.”
The course then suffered another issue, being hit with Pythium — “A fungus that eats up grass,” Velarde said. “We had some really freaky weather that caused it.”
New wells, however, were added, the fungus was cured by superintendent Cal Baca and the course is recovering nicely.
Velarde said it will again be in “spectacular shape” in 2018.
It will also have a look like never before.
“We recently reassessed everything,” Velarde said. “And we’re seeding in all of the fairway bunkers with grass. There won’t be any more sand bunkers in the fairways.
“The long-range plan is to make the bunkers smoother, so we can get a mower in and so people can play out of them.”
While visually stunning, Black Mesa can be very difficult for the average player, much of that because of the traps.
There are nearly 160 bunkers on the course, and there will still be around 65 remaining around the greens after the winter project.
Velarde said that filling in the fairway bunkers with grass will help golfers lower their scores and make for quicker rounds and help lower maintenance costs.
“If the bunkers are a half-shot penalty now, I want them to be about a quarter-shot penalty when they are grass,” Velarde said. “We want a challenging course, and one to be ascetically pleasing. But we also want it playable. One of the things we’ve heard quite a bit, is about the difficulty of the course. And that’s mainly because of the bunkers.”
Especially for the typical player. It’s not uncommon to see golfers struggle mightily while trying to get out of a fairway bunker. And if takes two, three or four shots to get out — then, sometimes, watching your ball fall down a steep hill — play can be slow for everyone around.
“And after that, you’re in no mood to rake it. You’re upset and want to move on. The condition of bunkers wasn’t good,” Velarde said.
And while some of the fairways and greens had a rough go in the past year, most of the course has recovered.
“Right now, we have trouble with a few greens, but overall they are really good,” Velarde said. “We’re reseeding a couple of them to get them back up.”
A Journal reporter visited the course last week and saw just three or four greens that had been over-seeded to help fill bare spots. Overall the course again looked solid.
“We’ll be back as strong as ever by next year,” Velarde said. “… We just got a new fleet of carts with leather seats that are as nice as any in the state. We’re ready for a big year in 2018.”