Twin Warriors Golf Club, set in the high desert outside of Albuquerque, N.M., winds its way around 20 ancient Native American cultural sites and features beautiful grassy knolls and ridges dotted with juniper and piñon pine trees. Dry washes, or arroyos, run along the sacred butte known as Tuyuna, or Snakehead, adding to the stunning vistas of the Sandia Mountains.
Connected to the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, Twin Warriors is rated in the top 75 resort courses in America by Golf Digest. The resort and course are located on the Native American Pueblo of Santa Ana, just 20 minutes from Albuquerque and 40 minutes from Santa Fe. The resort offers convenient transportation to and from the course. I have to recommend the Prairie Star Restaurant, where I enjoyed a mixed grill of meats served on steel swords and the hottest mashed potatoes you would ever want to try!
The course, opened in 2001, is a Gary Panks design which had to take in the natural topography while being careful not to disturb ancient tribal sites. The course has hosted the Trans National, the New Mexico Open and the 2003 PGA of America’s PGA Professional National Championship.
Hole 1 (563 yards, par 5)
This was the last course of many I played while I was in Albuquerque, and my game had not been up to its usual standards. I was led to believe this would be the most difficult. Before the first hole, we stopped at the halfway house for a breakfast burrito made with the hottest green chili sauce in Albuquerque — wow, that was a wake-up call.
I was intimidated from the tee box. The fairways appear narrow, but are actually quite generous. The hole is arranged with a double landing area separated by desert growth. Unless you are Superman, you can probably use a driver off the tee. Of course, you want to keep this shot as straight as possible, which I did to the praise — and shock — of my partner.
Your following shot is to the next fairway, trying to keep clear of the bunkers on the right. From here you should have a relatively short pitch to the green. If you keep your ball in play, you can begin to battle the Twin Warriors.
Hole 3 (502 yards, par 4)
The length of this par 4 makes it play nearly like a par 5, and it’s challenging as well. Your drive from the tee box has to carry a native area to land on the narrow fairway. Two bunkers lie just on the left side of the fairway, ready to catch any drives favoring that side. Your next shot has to clear another area of native growth to the green, which lies above the fairway.
Hole 7 (489 yards, par 4)
Off the tee box you need to avoid the three bunkers on the right side of the fairway, which shouldn’t be a problem for most big hitters. A large landing area leaves you ready for your next shot to the amphitheater green below. The green slopes left to a dry wash area that catches many errant shots and makes for an interesting chip back to the green.
Hole 9 (208 yards, par 3)
This is a beautiful par 3; the tee box and the green are nearly level, with a depression in between. Panks built a Redan-style green, a common technique where the green slopes downward toward the point of entrance. A significant bunker front left of the green requires you to land on the green with no chance of a lucky roll. A smaller bunker will catch balls on the right.
Hole 10 (483 yards, par 4)
You may have half of the Twin Warriors behind you, but the battle still rages. Hole 10 is intimidating — another long hole requiring a monster drive. Take a moment to bathe in the spectacular views and incredible colors of the high desert, but don’t let the view lower your guard. Your next shot to the elevated green has to be powerful to clear a washout and native area. If you err, do so on the left side of the green, as there is a significant amount of fairway for bailing out.
Hole 12 (584 yards, par 5)
My partner and I drove this hole magnificently — until we approached the green and the wheels came off. From the tee box, aim for the turn in this dogleg left and do your best avoid the sandy wash areas lining both sides of the fairway. Your next shot will be with a fairway wood, laying up just before a wash area that cuts across the green. My partner’s shot chunked into the wash’s stone wall, bouncing back further than his original position. I bladed my ball over the green into some high grass. We kissed our pars goodbye.
Hole 14 (420 yards, par 4)
Holes 14 through 18 are strikingly beautiful and border on land valued by the Pueblo of Santa Ana people. Pay close attention as ancient burial sites between holes are visible from the cart path. Hole 14 plays downhill to a narrow landing area and then rises to an amphitheater green, which sits at the base of Snakehead Mountain.
Hole 18 (488 yards, par 4)
This memorable finishing hole has a bit of history as well. It turns away from Snakehead and positions you to return to the clubhouse, but first note the centuries-old horse corral, preserved by the tribe, left of the hole near a lone tree.
You will again need a significant drive; this hole climbs up to the green. My drive nearly fell into the left bunker, teetering on its edge. Rather than playing it safe and determining the distance with the wind (uphill was more than 200 yards), I threw caution to the wind, took out a fairway wood and drove the green. This afforded me the chance to admire the wildflowers that edged the green while my partner struggled out of the bunkers guarding the hole.
Twin Warriors Golf Club
1301 Tuyuna Trail
Santa Ana Pueblo, NM 87004
tel 505 771 6155
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