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Thursday, October 26, 2006


The Inn of the Mountain Gods

7206 Yds, Par 72, Slope 132, by Ted Robinson


They Say: "Experience New Mexico golf in one of the most spectacular golf courses in the country. Nestled among tall pine trees under the majestic Sierra Blanca Peak is the impressive Inn of the Mountain Gods Resort Championship Golf Course. Designed by Ted Robinson, this New Mexico Golf course features an island fairway and fast-breaking greens that are not only beautiful to see but also quite challenging to play."

Only in New Mexico, only a Casino Resort run by The Mescalero Apaches would have the audacity to call itself The Inn of the Mountain Gods. Perhaps Ted Robinson is the only Architect fitting for a golf course in such a setting. Elevation 6911 ft. I have played The Hyatt Bear Creek Courses at DFW Airport and Ocotillo in Phoenix, also by Ted Robinson. I saw Sahalee at the PGA back in '99 on TV, still remember the pros complaining. Like Sahalee and Bear Creek, IotMG has trees, trees, trees in the fairway, to the point that one quite doesn't know where to hit the ball.

Look at the video tour on their website, too.

#1, Par 5 - Drive downhill towards the creek - reachable, but not necessarily get-over-able, if you see what I mean - I was in the patchy rough on the right short of the creek. From that side the whole fairway seems closed off, disappearing into the gloom of the tall conifers w-a-a-y uphill. So a layup seems the smart play, but how far? The pitch up the hill to the unseeable green that seems tiny is no gimme, and these greens were the rolliest I've played, except for maybe Arroyo del Oso's, the kind I tend to 3jack from 8 feet. Double bogey.

#2, Par 4, #1 handicap hole - As you can plainly see this hole borders on the unfair: those pines in the middle of the dogleg look even more intrusive on the tee. In my desperation to avoid them I steer-jobbed my drive into the woods on the left. Punched out into the woods on the other side. Punched out again half-wedge distance from the green, but squibbed it over to right of the green. My chip out of the downhill lie in the rye rough jumped over the green into the trap. 2 to get out and 2 to get down, 9.

#3, Par 4 - broke my resolve formed after the 1st 2 holes: overcome my road-weariness from the drive to Ruidoso; overcome my unfamiliarity with my new irons; overcome my lack of warmup (Lunch!), and play some golf -- but I still couldn't see the fairway, my view was obscured by those two trees in the fairway and the long shadows thrown across the fairway. This ought to be a breather hole, only 343, but it's not. My uncertain drive left me behind the 2nd tree, I laid up too close to the green and bladed my pitch over the green. No up and down. Double Bogey.

#4, Par 4 - finally showed me a glimpse of the fairway, but I didn't like what I saw, which was a tiny sliver out from a chute of pine trees, that seemed closed off at the end because of the sharp dogleg right, really, a jag-right, if you know what I mean . . . I put a smooth swing on it to hit it as straight as I could, and naturally pulled it left . . . another punch out of the woods, a lob onto the green, and another 3putt for a double bogey.

#5, par3 seemed manageable to me, ever the optimist, even tho' the elevated green seemed a little pinched between the water and the trap, up until I plunked two straight 5 woods into water. Bah.

#6, par 4 -- actually did look like a breather after the first 5 holes: the chute of trees around the tee didn't seem toooo claustrophobic, the fairway didn't seem tooo narrow, and the hill up to the green didn't seem tooo steep. With confidence more born of delusion than reality I smacked my drive over and around the tall trees on the right to 9iron distance (with the wind). Somehow the algebra of the second shot revealed itself to me and - tho' I tho't it was over the green - I was dancing, but 35 ft above the hole - 3 putt bogey.

#7, par 4, now conditioned to ignore the trees everywhere in the fairway, I smacked another good drive to the bottom of the hill approaching the green. I bladed an 8iron perfectly up 16 ft below the hole. The birdie putt up onto the back tier was never on line, but finally! a tap-in par.

#8, par 3 - The length of this hole is somewhat mitigated by how far downhill it is, but for a first-timer it is a guessing game what club to use. I did the algebra, then smoothed a 5iron 25 ft left and below the hole. Another putt up onto the top shelf that never came close. Tough to go from the exhiliration of hitting that green to grinding out a par.

#9 Par5 - The landing area is almost 300 yds from the back tee, but at least 100 feet below the tee and at 6911 ft, I felt like I oughta be able to reach it -- nuthin but rye rough swales short. I clobbered my drive, as well hit as on #6, #7, & #8, but it still came up short. I pulled out my balky 5wood, but instead of the hook I wanted, I got a toe-hit-push up into the rough on the side of the mountain there. I tried to smooth a 4iron above the green and let it bounce down, but I caught a tree and it fell back into the rough, short. After some study, I punched a 9iron knockdown out-under-and-around some trees and let the slope take it down to the front of the green. 2putt bogey, feeling pleased with myself for no particular reason.

#10, par 4 - this is one quirky hole. I guess it might tempt some long-hitting flat-bellies to go for the green, cuz the layup shot is almost as tough. That fairway is elevated, and the rough shorter than elsewhere, so missing the fairway could wind up wet, easily. As it was, I just had an uneven lie and the uncomfortable feeling that it wasn't as far (with the wind and altitude) as the yardage, so naturally, I came up short. Chipped long and 3 putted for double bogey.

#11, par 4 is mercifully open and relatively free of fairway trees, but in compensation, dreadfully long. After a good drive and a layup long iron, I still had a full wedge to the green. Missed the very make-able one-putt par.

#12, par 3 has an intimidating visage to it, there's a pond in front of the peninsula green, and Lake Mescalero behind. The tees are elevated just enough that you can see all that water. My first 4iron shot turned over into a draw when if anything, I wanted to miss it right, I heard it hit the bulkhead, but I didn't see it. My second 4iron turned over too, but cleared the bulkhead and hook-rolled almost into the trap. A 3 putt double bogey from there, BUT, as we drove around the back of the green to the next hole I found my first ball in the rough, not 20 ft from the pin. No doubt in my mind I could have gotten up-and-down for par there, none at all. . . 8^D. . .

#13, par 4 I hardly remember at all -- I think I foozled my drive, disoriented by the wide-open-ness of it. 3 to get on, 3 to get down, double bogey.

#14, Par 5 is another criminally difficult hole: a diabolical double dog-leg with very narrow fairways bordered on both sides by tall pine trees that obscure the view past each leg. A sort of creek runs down the whole left side. The rye rough must really love it there, it's ankle deep. The whole hole kinda grinds uphill. I steer-jobbed my drive into that ankle deep rough next to the creek behind the trees in the first dogleg. Trying to hit a full shot to the other side meant a foozle, twice. I hit a 5iron from the fairway just to help me gather my wits again, but that last big tree in the fairway interfered with my approach. Triple Bogey.

#15, par 4 didn't seem too bad, and may not be, but I toe-pushed my drive out to the right into the trees. I tho't I still had a chance, but 2 foozles out of the rough off the steep sidehill lie from behind the trees, two sandshots, and 2 putts disabused me of that notion.

#16, par 4 looked like as much a breather as one could expect on this course, with shorter yardage and fewer trees than normal, but the green is severely elevated. I hit a reasonable drive, but when I did the math it looked like a 6iron 2nd to me, still. It wasn't. It was a 7iron shot, but I got lucky that my trajectory out of the long rough on the left was low; my ball took a HUGE bounce off the front bank of the green and stopped 6 ft from the hole. Missed the birdie.

#17, par 4 - I think I was just wore out by now -- lacking my lunch as it were, and beat down by the course: the unrelenting hostility of the trees, the treachery of the greens, and the unforgiving rough. Tho' the tee is elevated, so is the green. 3 to get on, 2 to get down, bogey.

#18, par 3 - a little unusual to finish with, but not entirely unheard of, but this is an unusual par 3, way up hill tee shot, way over water. My 5wood betrayed me once again as I popped up, into the water. When I reloaded I still didn't reach the green, from fear-of-releasing-the-club-into-another-pull-hook. Triple bogey, to be honest.

A fabulous course. A fabulous experience.

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