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Enduring the test of time

SANTA FE, N.M. — Baxter Spann developed a bit of a connection to the land that would become the Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe, even before laying out the course.

Spann, along with Santa Fe land developer Mark Hogan, took the unusual measure of spending a night on the property.

“We camped out on the site,” Spann recalled. “Our campsite was right on what is today the 13th fairway. We got up at dawn and walked the whole property.”

And in that one day, the Links were conceived.

Baxter Spann

Spann is returning July 20 to the course he created to help celebrate its 20th anniversary. He’ll be joined by LPGA pro Kathy Whitworth, who grew up in Jal, in headlining the public 20th Anniversary Golf Tournament. The two also helped open the course in 1998.

“We had sort of zeroed in on this part of the property,” he said. The Links de Santa Fe is a section of the greater Santa Fe Municipal Recreation Complex.

“We routed the golf course just walking through the site, envisioning where the best views were going to be. We made sure we routed holes that had backdrops of as many mountains as possible. The routing fell into place early that morning and throughout the day.”

The course design was something of a challenge because the designers were mandated to develop the quintessential links that anybody from duffer to ace could enjoy.

A view of the ninth hole at Marty Sanchez Links de Santa Fe in 1998, soon after the golf course (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

“One of the major concerns was the powers that be didn’t want it to be too tough,” Spann said. “I had done another project, PiƱon Hills in Farmington. It was on a much different site, much more rugged terrain, a lot of rock. The budget was extremely minimal, so we couldn’t disturb the area too much. The city said they specifically did not want something that severe at Marty Sanchez.”

It was not the easiest of tasks, but Spann said he was pretty happy with the way it turned out.

“We built a course that is still challenging for good players, with pins in certain places and tee boxes, that has all the challenges a good player would want,” he said. “But it’s still accessible and easier for younger players and newer players. There are a lot of multiple teeing areas so all players can enjoy the round if they play the correct set of tees.”

The land itself was actually well matched for a golf course layout, Spann said.

A water hazard at the course.

“You site the tees and greens on the high points, and work with the tees and greens and what there is in nature,” he said. “The land was pretty much suited to golf to begin with. Having good routing makes it much easier to build.”

And it didn’t require wholesale landscaping, so the costs were relatively modest.

“I think most of the earthwork was probably in building the irrigation lakes,” Spann said. “There were two major pools, one on the 18th hole and another down and away from the golf course, which is the primary source of irrigation. Those were the major bits of earth work. The rest was pretty much kind of shaping material in place, making the cuts and fill adjacent so we didn’t haul material a great distance.”

It’s a scenic golf course that has endured the test of time.

“I thought it was a lot of fun, a very enjoyable walk or ride through the property,” Spann said. “I think it’s a pretty walkable golf course, being a core configuration. The holes flow pretty well from one to the next and there are not huge distances from one green to the next tee. There are not a lot of huge, steep climbs.

“I really enjoyed the course. It’s not an easy course, but it’s not an extremely penal course. You can hit it and it’s easy to find it again, which I like. I thought it turned out really well.”