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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Ladera - Albuquerque

7105 Yds, Par 72, Slope 121, by Dick Phelps

They Say: "Opened in 1980, Ladera featues include spacious greens, a broad teeing area and a large driving range tee, roomy practice putting greens, and four large lakes.
Surrounding Ladera are beautiful views of the Sandia Mountains to the east and the volcanoes to the west.
The long course is uniquely designed in natural terrain, nestled at the foot of the volcanoes.
Ladera is a challenging city-owned course, with the longest playing yardage of any of the other city courses."

Before I get to Ladera, I have to finish some business with Arroyo Del Oso . . . I love that course, and decided, all things considered, that I should take my Cousin Gary there in lieu of all the other great courses there, for a host of reasons, but mainly because I love it . . . when I called 2 days in advance to make a tee-time, they brushed me off with "first-come, first-served", but when we got there, we found a Tournament in preparation, and no tee-times till 1pm . . . so I told them how displeased I was, and stalked back out to the parking lot. Gary headed back towards I-25 while I phoned around, scrambling for a tee-time . . . Twin Warriors had no tee times either, till 2:10 . . . Desert Springs didn't answer . . . but Ladera said, "Get here by 8am, and you'll have no trouble getting off!" So south on I-25, West on I-40 to Coors Blvd, just a couple of lights, then left a couple of blocks, and there it was.
I have to say, friendliness & availability aside, it's just not as interesting as Arroyo del Oso . . . it was in excellent fettle, in fact a little too lush . . . I wasn't getting my roll that I need, it was so lush . . . the bent-grass greens were incredibly soft, too. On #3, my approach settled in the ballmark it had made, which is a cool feeling, but then I couldn't get it smoothed out enough to let me make the birdie. Wanted it bad. . . . On the par 5 #2, I'd totally pureed my drive straight down the fairway 280 yds on the fly, but instead of kicking off the hump of rough sticking out there (as you can see in the picture left), it just stuck, so I still had a 3wood to the green, which I likewise totally grooved with a tiny draw that bounced once in front of, then once in, then once over, the trap guarding the front of the green. Out of the clingy rye rough I chipped left of the hole 8 ft, so that it rolled down to kick-in-distance for my birdie. But I didn't get two in a row, not even another the whole day. The greens rolled really smooth & true, but fantastically fast downhill and fantastically slow uphill, so the sidehill putts were very difficult.

Most of the holes are not that memorable -- sort of Panksian or Nashian in their homogenous appearance, but did I break 80? No . . . partly because of the lush fairways, partly because when I got off the grass, I kept hitting the ball fat off the hardpan desert, partly because the gnarly rye rough flummoxed me a little, and partly because the greens were unfamiliar -- I had 5 lip-outs and a couple more burned edges.

But several of the holes perplexed me, being my first time around . . . like #9, a relatively short par 4 that has a landing area pinched by large traps & trees on the inside of the dogleg-left and a reachable water hazard on the outside of the dogleg . . . it really does look like there's no place to go . . . so I foozled my 3wood teeshot, then hit an 8iron layup all-but in the water on the left. My half-9 3rd shot was on the front of the green, with the pin, but I didn't make the par.

The longish par4 #14 presents another psycho-obstacle . . . the tee box is "aimed" away from the center line and a copse of desert trees on the left also obscure the fairway from the back tees -- it's not really a dogleg but it feels like one . . If you don't bite enough off, you'll wind up on the hardpan desert, but too-much will have you back into the desert on the left.

The par 5 #17 is another hole, I just couldn't get comfortable with the tee shot and so foozled it . . . between the trees and desert areas pinching the landing zone, I think maybe now I shoulda hit a 3wood. Cousin Gary, oblivious, hit a good shot up into the narrow neck of the fairway, but the ball jumped straight left off a bad bounce back onto the hardpan. So, my fears were justified, if not my craven cowardice . . . While Gary hacked his way down the left side, on and off the hardpan, I toed a 5wood up by the water, but the trees were blocking any shot to the green, so I laid up left, hoping for a 1putt par. Nope, sorry, thanks for playing!
I was surprised to be playing #18 . . . I tho't I still had some holes left to rescue my round . . . and it only added to my frustration to see this little puzzler . . . the tee is left of this shot, so the water comes even more into play . . . we had a playing companion who coached us to hit fairway woods instead of drivers, since that fairway is tee-niny up there where you can see the water poking in. It made me uncomforatable again, so I blocked my 5wood out into the hardpan again, in a sort of anti-water-lock . . . hit my 7wood 2nd fat, natcherly, wedged up about 20 ft away, and missed the par.
So I wound up with the 1 birdie, 45-41=86, with no blow-up holes. Gary had 51-45=96, so he said he won because he improved 50% more than I did on the back 9 . . . so the course, while not particularly memorable, was very playable & interesting, and on this day, more challenging than usual, with the soft fairways . . . I don't know if the found-balls I play with were soft or something, but I didn't seem to be getting that 5% boost in distance I was expecting, but it could have just been the soft fairways and greens. . . it'd be worth playing again just knowing what to do on those holes I've talked about.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Breakfast Burrito at Ladera, which inspires the peace-that-passeth-understanding, gustatively, if you know what I mean . . . I had the Red Chili version that includes carne adavoda, bacon, egg, potato, cheese, and other stuff . . . Gary had the Green Chili and didn't eat his at the golf course, but that was because he wanted to share it with his mom, wife, & sister back at the B&B. They loved it so much, they stopped back by Sunday, on their way out of town, to get some more . . . 8^D. . .

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