Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course - North Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.3

Golf - Public Course · 9 Holes · Par 36
El Paso
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Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course - North Course Review

Using the majestic Franklin Mountains as a backdrop, Ken Dye and Jeffery Brauer carved three unique nine hole courses out of the Chihuahan Desert. and all 27 holes twist and turn through the desert's native foliage. If you spray the ball and miss the fairway, you'll get to experience native cacti, mesquite, creosote bushes, and Mormon tea plants, which signifies the area was once used as a trail by pioneers.  I know from first hand experience that if your ball lands in the cactus or thorny brush, let it rest - the thorns are sharp and reluctant to give up the ball without a number of pricks.  My right arm looks like a pin cushion and my white golf towel is now covered with red blood spots.   During the season and after a good rain, the desert comes alive with some vibrant colorful fauna.

Since opening, Painted Dunes has received a number of awards and accolades from Golf Digest, USGA, and the Dallas Morning News listed Painted Dunes as one of the preeminent golf facilities in Texas and the Southwest. 

Each of the nines is a links style design that puts a premium on putting and shot making, particularly on the approach shots to the greens.   Common to all three nines are a great rate, pretty good conditions, friendly service, challenging green complexes, and a native wild coyote who typically sits on the tee box in front of the pro shop. Here is a link to our review of Painted Dunes West Course

Normally the conditions at Painted Dunes are very good - lush green fairways and near perfect greens.  When we played in late March, Painted Dunes was starting to transition from the dormant winter conditions as you can tell from the pictures.  The course was also starting to recover from a very harsh January and February with record lows (minus 9) and snow.  As such the conditions weren't the best but a couple of locals that we played with verified that normally conditions of the greens and fairways would be between a high 8 to 9.   

The North Nine is easier than the West nine thanks to some wide and forgiving fairways and more manageable green complexes.  But it's still no walk in the park and requires you to manage the wind, dog legs, water, as well as avoid the 28 bunkers and stay out of the desert.

The first hole on the North Course at Painted Dunes gives you a feel for what to expect during your round - a 562 yard par 5 double dog leg with a rolling fairway with lots of mounding that twists and turns past several bunkers on the way to a challenging green complex with mounds, swales, and bunkers. During the rest of your round you'll need to manage:

  • narrow fairways as well as uneven lies thanks to the mounding and berms and contour
  • forced carries over water and natural areas
  • some risk reward opportunities
  • large bunker complexes that you'll need to avoid
  • tough approaches to challenging elevated greens that are well guarded

But don't let all of that scare you - it's manageable and makes playing the North Course a lot of fun.  In addition, there are some very memorable holes and particularly the last three holes:

  • #7 a short 345 yard par 4 with a tight fairway that dog legs right around a native area and some huge bunkers - a great risk reward opportunity to try for the green for a birdie or better, but don't miss
  • #8 is a 163 year par 3 that looks easy but 5 pot bunkers protect  a severely sloping and undulating green with a big ridge splitting the green in half - pin placement can be a killer
  • #9 is an excellent 521 yard par 5 finishing hole with a lake that lines a narrow dog leg left fairway from tee box to green - a temping opportunity to carry more of the lake than you might be able to handle to help you go for the green in two

When we played in late March the course was transitioning from winter to summer conditions.  The conditions of both the fairways and greens were very good and some locals claimed that during the season the fairways are green and lush and the greens are excellent. 

Speaking of the greens, they can be very challenging on the approach - some are elevated and most are well guarded with bunkers, swales, and mounds.  They vary in size from average to large and to get it in the cup you'll have to read the spines, ridges, slope, tiers, and undulation. 

Great track and a must play if you're in El Paso or anywhere near Painted Dunes.  Rating and slope are based on playing the North and West courses.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 3,202 70.5 127
White 2,882 68.7 124
Gold 3,460 72.6 131
Red 2,788 66.8 120

Course Information

Course Architect:
Jeffery Brauer
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Very easy walk
Course Map
Beware of water on 2 holes and the 28 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$16.00 to $39.00

Service is very good and Texas friendly, the pro shop is well stocked with all the basics, and the practice facilities are adequate. The clubhouse has a bar area and a grill with some good food - the breakfast Burrito and green chili cheese burger are delicious!



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.