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Towa Golf Club debuts disc golf course

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The aftermath of the popular Land of Enchantment disc golf tournament at the Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder Casino Resort has brought a new, permanent 20-hole course at the Towa Golf Club.

Maria Coca of Albuquerque closes out a hole at the new disc golf course at Towa Golf Club at Buffalo Thunder Casino Resort. (Courtesy of Maria Coca)

The 20-hole, par-63 course covers the nine-hole Boulder Course, said Ryan Flahive, a local disc golf enthusiast who helped encourage the resort to add the course permanently.

The tournament itself was the brainchild of Albuquerque resident Ash Beckstead, who created it several years ago.

But it was Flahive, who works at the Institute of American Indian Arts, who helped convince resort officials that disc golf could work.

“When they started the tournament, the turnout was amazing,” said Linda Howell, Towa director of golf. “The interest and passion for the sport was fantastic.”

The Boulder course will be open strictly for disc golfers Saturdays and Mondays from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Ian McKendry of Los Alamos is about to let one fly from the teeing area of one of one of the holes at the Towa Golf Club’s new disc golf course. (Courtesy of Ian Mckendry)

“What struck me with the group of people was their passion and dedication,” she said. “They’re a wonderful group of people with the sport. The tournament was a lot of fun and the pueblo decided to pay for the permanent baskets, which was a high fee, but something that was important for the entire property.”

Adding the disc golf course falls in line with the resort’s continuing move to add more family-friendly activities, Howell said.

“We’re not a golf course. We’re not a casino,” she said. “We’re a resort property and we offer many different activities. We have tennis, pickle ball and now we’re adding another activity, which makes us a bigger presence as a destination resort for the entire family. We’re starting small by getting the baskets for the one course.”

The Towa Golf Club has two other nine-hole courses that, for now, will remain full-time golf courses.

Flahive said the course is simply stellar.

“The views are amazing,” he said. “It’s terraced so the first eight (golf) holes look out to the west, then you get on another terrace and turn north, and the last terrace is on top. You can see all the Sangre de Cristos. The views are to die for.”

And his favorite hole, No. 20, sits on top.

“It’s a big, huge downhill shot where you really get to float it,” Flahive said. “It’s a 400-foot shot, but you only have to throw it 200 feet because the elevation does the rest to get it there.”

After running the tournament for three years, Beckstead and his crew turned the project over to Flahive, who picked up the disc and ran with it.

“Me and my friends, we took this on three months ago during the summer,” Flahive said. “We worked on it, chipped away on it with the groundskeeping staff. There was one hiccup. How do we make this property benefit both the club and the disc players?”

At other golf courses where this is tried, the two sports share the course at the same time, which is not really ideal, he said.

“We wanted to make sure the disc golfers have the same respect,” Flahive said. “To do it correctly, we wanted to give disc golfers time on the course by themselves. We’ve seen it work at other places.”

The disc golfers, however, have to do their part.

“Disc golfers are very frugal people,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a cultural barrier that we have to get through. But letting people see disc golf is a very skilled … sport, it can integrate on the golf course if the disc golf people learn how to spend money. You’re paying for good things, cleanliness. To have the property to yourself. To enjoy the beer truck that comes around. To have a cheeseburger after your round is over.”

The first weekend over Labor Day was successful and the hope is that it will continue to grow.

As a matter of fact, Flahive wants to have regular league play at some point and Howell said she’s hoping to revive some kind of annual tournament.

“This is very good for Santa Fe,” he said.

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