New Mexico has been associated with intense secrecy in its recent history. The Manhattan Project atomic bombs that ended World War II were designed in ultimate confidentiality in Los Alamos. And UFO believers still flock to Roswell attempting to reveal the government cover-up of a supposed alien crash landing in 1947.

What golfers in this appropriately named “Land of Enchantment” don’t have to expose is an array of top-notch courses worthy of investigation. Some New Mexico golf layouts are carved into seemingly extra-terrestrial landscapes, but the breathtaking views are the only things out of this world.

The Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Hills is considered by most as New Mexico’s finest offering. Located at an altitude of 6,500 feet in the rolling hills northeast of Albuquerque, Paa-Ko has been inundated with accolades since its opening at the turn of this century. Golf Digest ranked it No. 20 among America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses.

The course winds through lands once roamed by the indigenous Anasazi. Ruins and dwellings from the Pueblo tribe – inhabitants as far back as the 14th century – can be found nearby.

Paa-Ko Ridge has expanded to 27 holes since its inception, making a somewhat concealed treasure even more enticing.

Another top contender for the state’s premier course, and perhaps its leader in dazzling vistas and lunar-like terrain, is Black Mesa Golf Club in Espanola. Many fairways are lined with rocky arroyos. Sandstone foothills form stark ridge lines. Some greens complexes are tidily tucked into and framed by canyon walls (see photo of Black Mesa No. 11 accompanying this article). This is not a course for trained geologists to focus on their golf game; the rock formations are mesmerizing. For everyone else, Black Mesa is, yes, a golfing gem.

For those interested in high-altitude golf, the Angel Fire Resort, a winter skiing and snowboarding destination, offers a challenging 18-hole design with dramatic elevation changes. The course winds through stately stands of aspen and spruce trees and across mountain meadows at 8,700 feet. Club selection is critical on No. 6, a par 3 with a precipitous 20 story drop from tee to green. It is truly cool golf at Angel Fire: Heat and humidity cannot find their way to this stunning mountaintop getaway.

The historic and capital city of Santa Fe features the Marty Sanchez Links municipal course. The layout was designed by Baxter Spann, who also is responsible for Black Mesa Golf Club. Soak in full panoramic views of the Sangre de Cristos, Jemez, Ortiz and Sandia mountains during your challenging round.

From Las Cruces to Albuquerque to the state capital and artist’s haven of Santa Fe, championship golf opportunities in New Mexico are not one the state’s best-kept secrets.

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