Location: Hobbs, N.M.
Course architect: Andy Staples
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
Gold — 7,103 | 73.0 / 127
Black — 6,6,16 | 70.9 / 126
Green — 6,015 | 68.0 / 118
Orange — 5,347 | 64.5 / 111
Green — 6,015 | 73.4 / 134
Orange — 5,347 | 69.9 / 122
Turquoise — 4,102 | 62.5 / 106
Saturday morning green fee: $ [Under $50]
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes
Fairways: Bluegrass / fescue
Starter: Rockwind is Scottsdale architect Andy Staples’ reanimation of a tired, ironing-board flat, 1955 muni in the heart of New Mexico’s oil and gas country. The name Rockwind denotes the white caliche rock that lies beneath the first 12 to 18 inches of topsoil and the ever-present New Mexico wind. Staples, who describes his design style as “maximalist,” trucked in 90,000 cubic yards of soil and sand to resculpt and raise tees and greens. He also created 50 feet of elevation change where there had been none. Digging out the course’s 5-acre lake meant hammering out 82,000 cubic yards of caliche rock – hard, but crumbly, calcium carbonate – much of which Staples piled in low rock walls to define the perimeters of many holes.
Play because ...: The greens are wild, with some quadrants having as much as 4 feet of elevation difference in the span of a few paces. That, in turn, leads to putts that may have two or more breaks, some as big as six feet. Staples is unapologetic about the wild ride players face on his putting surfaces, arguing that aside from wind, they are the course’s only defense. The golf course has hundreds of mature trees, planted in the 1950s and 60s, that come into play on most holes, even though Staples departed radically from the old course’s routing. The redesign led Golf Digest to rank Rockwind No. 7 on its Best New Courses list for 2015. Golfweek ranked Rockwind the third best course in New Mexico for 2018. What’s nearby? Carlsbad Caverns National Park is 66 miles away.
Takeaway: At a cost of $12 million, the City of Hobbs bought itself a worthy 18-hole course and L’il Rock, a nine-hole par-3 course where an unlimited number of junior golfers can play for free with a paying adult. The First Tee of Southeastern New Mexico, which claims 15,000 children in five New Mexico cities, uses L’il Rock as the focal point for year-round junior golf programs that bring between 20 and 40 kids to the course each day. And they start them young in Hobbs: Through Rockwind and the First Tee, kids as young as 3 are introduced to the game, along with their parents, which breaks down the intimidation factor that keeps families away from golf elsewhere.
THE RATINGS [1 to 10 scale; 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: 8.8
Pro shop: 8.0
Pace of play: 8.0
Best par 3: No 17 (143 | 122 | 120 | 111 | 79 yards)
“Child’s play,” you say of the puny yardages, but this hole is all about the wildly undulating elevated green that must hide Volkswagen Beetles beneath. A greenside bunker guards short right. Regardless of hole location, missing left means a blind, nearly impossible flop shot to an elevated green that runs away from the shot. After the heroics fail and the ball comes to a rest, you’ll wonder why you didn’t put the tee shot there in the first place. This hole brings double bogey into play for even strong players who end up on the wrong side.
Best par 4: No. 9 (432 | 411 | 363 | 325 | 247 yards)
This hole best captures the Staples design philosophy: A flat straightaway hole with a 20-by-30-yard copse of mature trees smack in the middle of the fairway short of the green. The right half of the two-tiered green is significantly higher than the left, making a decision on which side of the trees to place the tee shot crucial. Depending on hole location, play to the correct side and face an easy chip with a friendly backstop; play to the wrong side and face a chip to a green that is nearly impossible to hold.
Best par 5: No. 4 (561 | 521 | 491 | 451 | 330 yards)
When not facing a headwind, this slightly uphill dogleg right is reachable in two, but hazards abound along the way: A finger of rough reaches into the fairway near the landing area from most tee boxes; an arroyo spanning the width of the fairway must be cleared on the second shot; and a creek guards the right side all the way through the green. This is a hole a wily short hitter can steal from an errant, longer-hitting opponent.