I recently had a chance to visit the beautiful state of New Mexico. Though I went for a much more important reason, that reason understands my obsession with this crazy game, and for some reason, encourages it. Before I get to the specifics of the course, I must say that I could very easily write a “Play of the Week” for the whole state. If you haven’t been, you must go. Green chile, staggering views, a wonderful farmers market in Santa fe, a rustic downtown, and phenomenal weather are a few of the things that await. For golf, this state is a hidden gem. I’ll admit, prior to going, I wasn’t hopeful. When was the last time there was a lush green course out in the desert? (I can hear JK screaming Wolf Creek).

As for Twin Warriors, all I can say is wow. Twin warriors is located about 1/2 way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe just off I-25. This casino course was rated Number 10 on the list of top 40 casino courses by Golf Digest, and recently played host to the US Open qualifier for this area. From the clubhouse to the 18th green, this place lived up to the hype. Here’s the rundown:

Scorecard:

One great thing about casino courses, they almost always have a plethora of tees.
Tips (Tour) – 7736 75.4/140
Championship – 7284 73.5/140
Back – 6715 71.1/136
Resort – 6131 68.9/126 (74.1/133)
Forward – 5100 67.0/116 (Note, the 10th hole plays as a par 3 instead of a par
NOTE: Though these yardages seem extreme, the area is roughly 7,000 feet above sea level, thus the ball flies a little further.

Driving range, full practice facility ($25 daily use fee) with practice bunker, large putting green.

Excellent pro shop with all sorts of Twin Warriors gear and full selection of various brands of clothing.

Though the rate can be as high as $79 to play this track, resort guests and NM residents pay significantly less. I was able to get a tee time as a walk in for $39 (NM rate) at around 3pm. Since the sun goes down around 8, this was certainly early enough to be one of the last groups coming in. This course was also completely empty on a Friday afternoon.

The review:

This course was phenomenal. I played from the tips to get a real feel for this Gary Panks Signature design. The first hole is a 563 yard par 5 that doglegs slightly right. This hole plays directly into a prevailing wind that was blowing about 20 MPH when I teed off. Needless to say, it took a pretty good driver and a perfect three wood to be within chipping distance. Though this course measured 7800 yards, it was very playable from the tips. The elevation change really helps increase distance off the tee, but any mistake is magnified that much more. One problem that I’ve had in the past with desert courses is the need for a “rock” club for those occasions when I’m not lucky enough to find the fairway. No such club was required at Twin Warriors. If you are not fortunate enough to find the grass, you are likely hitting out of the largest bunker you’ve ever been in. The sand was soft and never threatened to dent my beautiful Mizuno irons.

The course itself was very interesting. Though the course sports wide fairways that beg for hard hit drivers, heaven forbid you miss them. When I was playing, the wind made this easier said than done. The wind certainly turned this into a shot-makers course and required you to find the correct level of the green if you had a hope of two-putting. The greens were also in phenomenal condition – probably the best greens I’ve played all year.

As far as the surrounding beauty, well I’ll let you be the judge…

One of the best holes on the course was the Par-3 fourth:

Yes folks, that’s the real hole. This is not a painting, and I have no idea how to use Photoshop. The views on this course are just that good. This photo was taken from the back tee which measures 197 yards. The hole plays directly into the prevailing wind and certainly typifies the “heroic” school of golf course design. I hit a very flush three iron and landed about 20 feet passed the middle right hole location (as per my plan). Once I got on the green, I realized that I had essentially guaranteed myself a bogey with this play because I was on a shelf that dropped 2.5 feet to the hole. I ended up putting sideways to avoid rolling off the green with the direct round and two putted from roughly 15 feet coming back up the hill. Local knowledge would have helped here. By the way, you don’t want to go in the bunker on the right. It’s actually 5-6 feet below the level of the green. See below:

My favorite hole on the course was probably the Par-5 sixteenth. This hole measures a whopping 648 yards from the tips. Fortunately, there is a significant elevation change that is in the player’s favor. I hit driver about 365 yards on a string to have 280 left to the back right pin location. A 3/4 three wood short of a deep collection area short of the green left me about 65 yards in. After a slightly pulled approach, I two putted for a neat little par on this monster of a hole. I must give JK a tip of the cap here: 4 out of the 5 shots that I hit were due to clubs that JK essentially put into my bag.

I must also mention the Par-3 15th. This 244 yard monster was the only hole that I felt was a little too long even from the tips. I hit an 18* hybrid off the tee about as well as I could and was still about 10 yards shy of the green. Though it was more likely that I was just between clubs (between a hybrid and a three wood?!?), this hole just felt a little too long. The part of the green that you actually can see from the tee is quite small and pretty heavily contoured. Also, it is exceedingly punitive if you go over the back of the green (you’re basically over a cliff). One cool thing about this hole, though, is that it is constructed right next to an extinct volcano.

All in all, this track was fantastic. If you get a chance, I highly recommend playing Twin Warriors. Don’t be discouraged by the length either! This course will help you out along the way if you can keep it between the ditches.

Greens: 9/10 (hey, they’re not Augusta)
Fairways: 7/10
Other course maintenance: 7/10
Value: 10/10
Pace of Play: 9/10
Pro shop/clubhouse: 8/10

Overall: 8.5/10

The Verdict: Fantastic casino course. Break out the 100’s boys, we got a track worth gamblin’ on.

This was one other ridiculously cool picture I had to include. One awesome thing about the desert was watching it rain without the rain actually hitting the ground! During my round, however, I was blitzed by a freak rain shower on the 13th green. I was so happy to be out there though, I made my longest putt of the day (17 feet) while it was raining on me sideways!

Fail of the Week 3

May 26, 2011

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how good you are; you fail. So, with great rumination, this week’s FAIL goes to LG.

LG, our PF readers have to ask: where are you? Of the last 11 posts, only 2 were authored by LG: FAIL 1, authored 4/30/2011, and Tip of the Cap (in honor of Seve Ballesteros), authored 5/7/2011. Now (5/26/2011, btw), I could be understanding and not crucify our comrade for burning the midnight (and early morning) oil in patent litigation, but….seriously dude. Our readers love your work–your course review on Pebble Beach is our highest rated post. The PF needs you. I can show them how to sand down a putter, but, seriously, how many of them are actually going to do that?

So, to you, LG, I salute you with FAIL 3.

Maybe this way I can get you to contribute with a response….or something

Play of the Week 15

May 24, 2011

This week’s play of the week goes to the great David Toms.

After 5 years of virtual anonymity, David Toms gathered a win on the PGA tour. The 44-year-old Toms won the 2001 PGA Championship (at Atlanta Athletic Club), but has been a non-factor for years. Last week, we gave a mention to Toms in POTW 14, where he played brilliantly but ultimately lost the Players Championship with a poor decision on the 70th hole and a 3-putt in a playoff with KJ Choi. Disappointing as it could have been, Toms didn’t shy away, but came right back this week to capture another championship.

The story was in the works last week. Announcers at The Players started building it up, speaking of how David Toms had lost his love for the game of golf; the described how his son, Carter, had inspired his comeback by just wanting to spend time on the golf course with his dad. The 3-putt deflated that balloon.

But Toms proved his metal, playing beautifully at Colonial. And, just as he did in the final round of the 2001 PGA Championship, Toms holed-out for eagle in the final round, garnering a 1-shot victory. As so rarely happens in sports, Toms was redeemed, and he shared the moment with his inspiration, his son.

So here’s to you, David Toms, champion of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial. You did what so few can do–you came back from a heartbreaking disappointment to win the next week. We at the PowerFade salute your courage.

It’s just too bad you had to wear that awful jacket.

PS.

In a side note, we at the PF would also like to salute KJ Choi, the subject of last week’s POTW 14. After winning The Players Championship, Choi did what no one expected and donated $200,000 of his winnings to aid in tornado relief in response to the devastating tornadoes in the southeast US. “While winning the Players Championship was a defining point in my life, there were those who were going through their low point,” Choi stated. “I want the victims of the tornadoes to know that their misfortunes will not be ignored.” A classy move from one of the class acts of the PGA Tour. Here’s to you, KJ.

(see, http://sports.yahoo.com/golf/blog/devil_ball_golf/post/K-J-Choi-donates-200-000-to-southeastern-torna?urn=golf-wp1971)

Play of the Week 14

May 16, 2011

This week’s POTW goes twofold, in that we recognize not only the player, but also the venue.

First, hats off to KJ Choi, champion of The Players Championship. KJ played solidly as ever, never wavering even when under extreme pressure of the field chasing him and trying to keep up with weeklong leader, David Toms. At -12, the leaders approached the tee of what is perhaps the most famous–and the most treacherous–par 3 in golf. With it all on the line, KJ Choi, cool as ice, struck a perfect ball to the island green within 12 feet, then sank the putt to go to -13, eventually winning the tournament.

I’ve always liked KJ. He’s a consistent player that doesn’t get caught up in the emotions of the moment. Although his stroke isn’t anything to emulate, he gets the job done year after year. At 40 years old, KJ showed the young guys how to do it. Here’s to you, KJ.

However, I have to give a nod, as well, to the tournament itself. The Players Championship this year gave us what golf has been missing for awhile: a true chase for a championship. Striking to me was the number of experienced golfers who were at the top of the field–Toms, Choi, Stricker, Goydos, and DLIII all had a legitimate shot of contending. Moreover, at the end of Saturday, there were 12 players within 2 shots of the leader (Toms). Perhaps its the course setup–with water on 14 of 18 holes–that prevents the younger “bomb and gouge” type players from overpowering the course. Perhaps its the severely undulating greens where the older players have better feel. Perhaps its the true risk/reward nature of the course, with so many pins hanging over water, where stronger iron players can gain an advantage over long hitters. Whatever the cause, the tightened field inherently leads to drama, and this year was no exception.

Moreover, what we saw–for the first time since Tiger and Phil went at it at Doral a few years back–was a true duel to the finish. Toms, leading by 1, decided to try to put the dagger on 16, coming out of a hybrid and leaving it well-short, leading to bogey and a tie with Choi going to 17. Choi responded with the aforementioned man-up shot of the year that eventually earned him the crystal. With the tournament on the line, Toms, one-down to Choi, stood on the 18th tee (which I have always contended is a more difficult hole than 17 and perhaps the best finishing hole in all of golf) pondering what he had to do. Lesser men would fold to this pressure. Toms striped the drive of his life down the middle. His shot was not rewarded: his ball found a sand-filled divot. Again, lesser men would fold, but Toms placed his approach to 15 feet. Then, with the tournament on the line, he rolled a beautiful 15-footer for birdie on the last to pull even with Choi. It was just the fourth birdie of the day at 18. Choi, faced with his own pressure, rolled a tricky 5-footer for to save par and force the playoff.

Although Toms 3-putted from 15 feet on the playoff, the drama of the event was the best we’ve seen this year. Players on all ends of the course had a chance to win. By Sunday, no one even acknowledged that Tiger Woods, the marquee player at any event, had pulled out of the first 9 holes on Thursday and was absent from the tournament. It’s hard to envision a tournament that is so exciting of itself that everyone forgets about Tiger; this was the one.

At the end of the Sunday, Choi walked away with the crystal, but the true champion was The Players Championship. Once again, here’s to you KJ Choi. But also, here’s to The Players Championship, and to Sawgrass and Pete Dye for a course that can host this type of event. We’ve been waiting for this for awhile. Thanks for providing it.

Tip of the Cap

May 7, 2011

Today,  the Power Fade mourns the loss of one of the greatest short game artists of all time,  Seve Ballesteros.  Seve, you could do more with a 3-iron than any of us could hope to do with a sand wedge.  You were one of the greats.  You did more to bring European golf to the prominence it enjoys today than any modern player.  You, sir, were a great champion.

“El Momento” – Seve wins the 1984 Open Championship at St. Andrews.

For more details:

http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=6498364

Play of the Week 13

May 6, 2011

This week’s POTW goes to the Navy SEALs. This week, the SEALs took down Osama bin Laden. 10 years and over a billion dollars after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, we finally got him.

I have had the pleasure of knowing several SEALs. They are, without a doubt, some of the bravest and most important people for our country that you will find. One SEAL I knew was saved from death by another SEAL who jumped onto a grenade to save his fellow SEALs, absorbing the explosion to save their lives. That SEAL later died defending a base Iraq.

For those reading this, never doubt the importance of our bravest and finest solders. They may be the most important part of our continued existence as a nation.

Here’s to you, Navy SEALs. We celebrate you for what you’ve done today, but you are never out of our minds for the many things you do that we will never understand.

Fail of the Week 2

May 6, 2011

With the popularity of our Fail of the Week (FAIL) 1, I present to you, this week’s epic FAIL. This week’s FAIL focuses on Rashard Mendenhall, runningback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It all started with the labor negotiations. Many eyes raised when Mendenhall compared NFL players to slave trade:

“Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say that these two parallel each other”

Of course, in his wisdom, Mendenhall ignored the fact that slaves were physically beaten and oppressed–not to mention unpaid–while he earns more in a year than I probably will in my career. But, of course, when you’re stupid, you’re stupid.

Many wrote this off as a dumb comment–or, perhaps, were too cowardly to comment, given that this country has a hard time dealing with race relations. But Mendhenhall now has drawn the ire of the whole country. In an amazing day in American democracy–the subject of this week’s POTW–the villain of the worst disaster in American history was taken down by Navy Seals. Osama bin Laden, the pursuit of the world’s armies for the past decade, was shot in a firefight early this week.

Football players are known for doing some pretty stupid stuff. But sometimes, it’s just disturbing to find out what’s rolling around in their heads. Following bin Laden’s reported death, Mendenhall felt the need to tweet…

Stupid tweet #1:
“What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”

Stupid tweet #2:
“We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style”

Let me explain to you, Rashard, how the people of this country can HATE a man they’ve “never heard speak.” He killed 4,000 of us. That’s all I need to know to HATE him. And while I don’t think it’s good for our country to relish the death of anyone, I cannot deny that bin Laden needed to die, if for no other reason than he was our sworn enemy.

But, looking to Stupid Tweet #2, I have to say that you need to quit football and check into a mental health institution as soon as possible. You have obviously taken far too many hits to the head. Have you not seen the videos?

I’m looking forward to the signs in the audience when you’re in Baltimore. The 8 road games this year are going to be fun; I wonder if the fans will chant “TERRORIST, TERRORIST, TERRORIST” for you.

You probably should leave the tweeting to the professionals.

So, to you Rashard: you are an epic failure.