Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course - West Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 8.4

Golf - Public Course · 9 Holes · Par 36
El Paso
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Painted Dunes Desert Golf Course - West 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 North 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 West Nine at Painted Dunes Golf Course is a desert-style links layout which opened in 1991 and was designed by Ken Dye who is widely recognized for designing  New Mexico's Pinon Hills and Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course.  The West Nine is characterized by plenty of artificial mounding, tighter fairways, and challenging green complexes.  Typical of Dye, the bent grass greens are larger than normal but are elevated, undulating, and well guarded by treacherous sand and grass bunkers, mounds, and swales.   West demands accuracy on the approach shots and an ability to read the greens if you want to score well. 

The West course has the reputation of being the toughest nine and it will require your "A" game, good course management, and excellent club selection to handle the wind, narrow contoured fairways, berms and mounding, forced carries, treacherous bunkers, risk reward opportunities, and challenging greens.  But don't let that scare you, there are 4 sets of tee boxes to choose from (don't be too macho) and West is scenic with the stately Franklin Mountains looming in the background and has several very fun and memorable holes. 

The fairways are a tad tight on West but the rough is ample and usually very playable, after that you're lost in the desert.  Most of the fairways are rolling and contoured and lined with several mounds.  

Before you head out for a round on Painted Dunes West Nine, you should practice putting and your sand shots.  West puts a premium on approach shots to very tough green complexes.  Most of the greens are elevated which prevents a bump and run and if you miss or can't hold them, you're in a sand or grass bunker, swale, or on the side of a mound - any one of which presents a challenge to get back to the cup.  The good news is that the greens are good sized but slope, undulation, and tiers can make one putts difficult. 

Bottom line - Painted Dunes and any of the nines are fun, challenging, and a blast to play.  Service is friendly, the conditions are above average, and you won't find a better value anywhere in Texas! 

Slope and rating are based on playing North/West courses.

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Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Blue 3,240 70.5 127
White 3,097 68.7 124
Gold 3,481 72.6 131
Red 2,874 66.8 120

Course Information

Course Architect:
Ken Dye
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Course Map
Beware of water on 2 holes and the 23 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

Overall Rating:
8.4 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.