Paako Ridge Golf Club -1 to 9 Nine Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.8

Golf - Public Course · 27 Holes · Par 36
Sandia Park, NM

1_crop 2_crop 4crop

Paako Ridge Golf Club -1 to 9 Nine Review

Review of Paako Ridge Golf Club Holes 1 to 9

Wow, Paako o Ridge Golf Club is one of those must play courses and what every golf course should aspire to be when it grows up.  It was carved out of the rugged foothills of the eastern side of the Sandia Mountains and offers scenic vistas, serenity, lots of variety, elevation changes, and some outstanding holes - all at a very reasonable rate for such a quality course.  Paako Ridge is home to 27 holes, each of which has it's own unique personality and characteristics:

  • Holes 1 to 9 have lots of forced carries and layups, elevation changes, severely sloping fairways, and very demanding greens - yet it's regarded as the easiest nine by most players
  • Holes 10 to 18 play up and down the foothills and this nine is best known for breathtaking scenery, huge elevation changes, lots of bunkers, and the signature 17th hole
  • Holes 19 to 27 are more open and forgiving but this nines is regarded as the toughest of the nines with three long par 3s and 3 very demanding par 5s

We've played a number of courses in the United State and we have given less than a handful a 10 - Paa-Ko Ridge 10 to 18 got a 10 and the other two nines area about as close as you can get to a perfect 10!  Read our review of Paako Ridge 10 to 18 and 19 to 27 to learn more about these two nines.  And after playing all 27 holes it is not surprising that Paako Ridge Golf Club is the most highly acclaimed course in New Mexico and it is well deserving of all of the awards, some of which include:

  • National Top Ten Best Courses For The Money by Links Magazine
  • Golf Digest #1 "Best New Course in America
  • Travel & Leisure's Top 10 Desert Courses in America
  • #20 in Golf Digest's America's 100 Greatest Public Course
  • Golf Magazine's Top 100 You Can Play in America - #43

Holes 1 to 9 are a typical Ken Dye design and this nine is characterized by severe mounding, rolling and heavily contoured fairways, and very challenging green complexes.  In addition to all of that you'll encounter elevation changes that require you to club up as well as club down, scenic views, lots of forced carries some of which are very intimidating, several places where you can risk going for it or take the safer choice and layup, bunkers of all shapes and sizes, challenging green complexes, and peace and quiet except for a few swear words or shouts of "go in the hole" as well as golf balls ricocheting off rocks and trees. 

Every hole on 1 to 9 is different, fun, and will throw something at you to keep you focused on your game and not the scenic vistas.  All of the holes have names and some that we really liked included:

  • Dye-abolical - a 183 yard par three with an elevated tee shot that is all carry over a gully and natural area to a 98 yard oblong and very skinny green with 4 sloping and rolling tiers - and of course the pin was at the top of the green and my drive was at the bottom - I felt like I was a mile away and of course I 4 putt!
  • Santa Fe - from an elevated tee box you can see all the way to Santa Fe on this 562 yard par 5 with a wide landing zone off the tee, a dog right past 7 bunkers (most of which are steep and deep), and a sloping left to right fairway that can send your ball into the trees, dirt, rocks, and cactus
  • Gambler - I lost the bet to see who could get closest to the pin on this short 327 yard par 4 with a raised green and 6 bunkers
  • Anasazi Ruin - I don't know the significance of the name but I loved this excellent 477 yard finishing hole that dog legs right around a sparkling lake, has 3 huge bunkers waiting for errant shots, and has a beautiful backdrop of the clubhouse and mountains

New Mexico has been suffering from a multi-year drought and the lack of rain has impacted the conditions of the rough and fairway - what would normally by lush and plush and perfect was a little dry, thin, and had a few brown spots.  None of which impacted play and still the conditions were very good and we rated the fairways and rough a 8.75. 

Like most Dye courses, Paako Ridge's 1 to 9 fairways have lots of mounding, treacherous and numerous bunkers, slope, and undulation.  Dye did an excellent job of carving some very fun and scenic holes out of some rugged mountain terrain.  He leveraged the natural terrain to create fairways that are both a blast to play yet challenging with forced carries, elevation changes, slope, and plenty of contour - expect some uneven lies!

The greens on 1 to 9 at Paako Ridge were in near perfect condition - little to no damage, fast, true, and they held the ball well. The fringe was puttable and the majority of the greens were huge and a variety of shapes. Ken Dye also sculptured the greens with lots of slope, tiers, contour, and subtle breaks.  Make sure you practice putting before you head out.

The bunkers ranged is shape and size from some deep pot bunkers to some huge multi-fingered monsters.  The sand was a little disappointing because it was a little gritty and firm - which may be necessary to keep it from blowing out of the bunkers thanks to the wind.

Bottom line - all 3 nines at Paako Ridge are a must play - fun, demanding but fair, scenic, lots of variety, and an excellent value.

The slope and rating are based on playing the first nine and 10 through 18

Read all about this fun trip to Southern Colorado/Northern New Mexico where this is one of the courses we played.

Head Pro's Corner

Since we last played Paako Ridge, the course and facilities have undergone improvements that now include concierge service upon arrival and departure, new electric golf carts, an all-inclusive rate structure that includes all of your food and non-alcoholic beverages, and a new luxury clubhouse is under construction and scheduled for completion in Spring 2020.

Dsc_0251 Dsc_0255

Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 3,737 75.2 137
Blue 3,354 70.7 130
White 3,115 68.6 119
Gold 3,571 73.0 134
Red 2,876 71.7 134

Course Information

Course Architect:
Ken Dye
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Hard and hilly
Course Map
Beware of water on 1 holes and the 44 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
9.8 out of 10
Fun to Play:
Front Nine Rating:
Back Nine Rating:


Approximate Weekend
$59.00 to $114.00

The pro shop is well stocked, the practice facilities are good, the service is excellent, and the food in the grill is great (the green chili cheeseburger was excellent) and you can't beat the view on the patio.



Here's How Texas Outside Determines the Scorecard Rating

The Texas Outside rating scale ranges from 1 to 10 – a perfect 10 course would be something like this:  links along a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean and bordered by tall trees; lush fairways on rolling hills with lots of natural hazards; water (which is crystal clear) on most of the holes; immaculate greens (but they are undulating and tough); lots of variety and character (each hole is completely different and includes blind shots, elevation changes, doglegs, and significant challenges); perfectly manicured traps with the whitest and prettiest sand you’ve ever seen; a nice club house with great food and a 19th hole; a GPS; plenty of beverage carts or your own cooler and ice; and it only costs $40 bucks! What this means is that you probably won’t find any 10s in Texas – try Cabo San Lucas, Pebble Beach, or some of the Hawaii courses! 
Texas Outside rates courses on the following:

  • Beauty – tall trees, rolling hills, beautiful houses, waterfalls, and similar stuff would score high; a 1 would be flat, bushes or cactus instead of trees, and some grass but mostly weeds
  • Difficulty – a straight, 300 yard par 4 with no traps or hazards, no out of bounds or water would probably get a 1; if it is a 460 yard par 4 over two ravines, with water along one side, natural hazards on the other, strategically placed traps or that dreaded tree right in the middle of the fairway, we are talking a 10. 
  • Variety – what would you give a course where all the holes looked and played exactly the same (“I thought we just played that hole!”); were side-by-side, which is good for finding or dodging other people’s balls, but not much fun; and you can see the flag from every tee box?  That’s right, it gets a 1.
  • Fun Scale – a 10 is where you walk off the course and say “now that was fun” and you can’t wait to get back, or you immediately turn around and play another 18 holes
  • Value – a 5 is $50 to $60, a 10 is $20 to $30, and 1 is $200 or so – of course all of this is dependent upon how you liked the course.  For example, if a run down, boring municipal course, with six players on each hole was only $10; it would still get a value rating of 1.
  • Condition – this one’s pretty easy – what condition are the fairways. A 10 commands very lush perfectly manicured fairways, compared to a 1, which has fire ants, weeds, and more dirt than grass!
  • Condition of Greens and Difficulty – very hard to read greens with lots of undulation and tough pin placement, rate very high on the difficulty scale.  Condition is self-explanatory.  

All of the above determines the overall score for the golf course.  In other words, we like courses that are pretty, fun, very challenging with a lot of variety, and fairways and greens in excellent condition – all for $40.  We also tend to play the courses that are affordable for the masses, which means in the $30 to $80 range. We rate hard and we haven’t found a 10 in Texas yet – don’t worry we haven’t given up and we’re still looking.