Pinon Hills Golf Course Review

Texas Outside Rating: 9.3

Golf - Public Course · 18 Holes · Par 72
Farmington, NM

Gallery-32 Gallery-14 Gallery-53

Pinon Hills Golf Course Review

Review of Pinon Hills Golf Club

Pinon Hills Golf Club in Farmington, New Mexico was designed by Ken Dye in 1988 and is owned and operated by the City of Farmington.  Dye carved Pinon Hills out of some arid and rugged Northern New Mexico terrain and did an excellent job of leveraging the natural terrain (arroyos, sand and desert fauna, plateaus, rolling hills, and more) to create a fantastic golf course that is demanding but fair, scenic, and a superb layout.  Pinon Hills claims that they are a "legend in the desert golf landscape" because they are affordable, friendly, fun to play, and hassle free. We would agree with all of that and it's not surprising that some of the awards and accolades for Pinon Hills Golf Course include:

  • Golfweek's "Best You Can Play in New Mexico" and "#4 Best Municipal Course in the USA"
  • "#1 Municipal Course in America" by Golf Digest
  • "#3 Course in New Mexico" by Golfweek

Pinon Hills Golf Course is a true links style desert course with big undulating fairways and greens, views for miles and miles, and lots of signature Ken Dye berms, huge bunkers, and very challenging green complexes.  With a rating of 66.5 to 73.9 and slope of 124 to 139, Pinon Hills is fair but no walk in the park and three putts are waiting to happen.  To remain sane during your round, pick the right set of tee boxes from any of the five and don't bit off more than you can chew. 

The first hole sets the stage for what you can expect during your round - an elevated tee box with a forced carry to a downhill dog left contoured and rolling fairway that gets pinched as it leads to a tiered green guarded by water on the right, huge left and right side bunkers, and lots of nasty mounds and swales.  During the rest of your round you'll find natural rock outcroppings, elevation changes, intimidating forced carries, natural areas including natural sand bunkers, deep arroyos, water that comes into play, and huge nasty bunkers.  In addition to all of that, what makes playing Pinon Hills Golf Course a blast are that every hole is a little different, unique, and fun.

Some of the holes that we really enjoyed include:

  • #5 is a relatively short but tricky 355 yard par 4 with a carry over a natural area off the tee to a rolling and heavily contoured fairway that has another natural that is waiting for your drive plus a kidney shapped tiered green with mounding and swales and a big bunker surrounding three quarters of the green
  • both of the par threes on the front are great - one is a 199 yard big downhill shot to a guarded green and the other is a 229 downhill shot that is all carry to a big green but with a huge bunker
  • after #9, an outstanding 589 yard par 5, you'll be ready for a cold beer and maybe some new golf balls
  • #14 is fun - dramatically elevated tee shot to a wide open fairway that turns right and requires a very accurate approach to avoid the pond,and 4 bunkers
  • 17 is another great par 5 - 549 yards with a fairway that snakes it's way past 5 good sized bunkers and two huge monsters

New Mexico is in the third year of a severe drought and we were expecting the fairways to look similar to the arid desert as we drove up.  But that wasn't the case, they were in very good condition as was the rough.  Most of the fairways are ample off the tee and then they vary from wide to tight.  All of the Pinon Hills Golf Course fairways have lots of slope and countour, ups and downs, berms and swales, and some huge nasty bunkers.  No homes to contend with but if you miss the fairway you're in the desert with the snakes, cactus, ants, and desert brush - not a good place to be!

The greens at Pinon Hills were also in very good condition and they ran fast and true and all are well guarded.  Pinon Hills Golf Course puts a premium on approach shots and putting.  Three putts were common for us thanks to tiers, lots of contour, and undulation.  The greens are raised, a variety of shapes, and most are good sized - from 24 to 42 yards.

Like the greens, the bunkers can also be a dhallenge - they are strategically placed and range in size from small to huge sprawling multi-fingered monsters.  The sand was a little disappointing - firm, a little gritty, heavy, and thin probably because of the wind wanting to take the sand out of the bunkers.

Bottom line - you need to go way out of your way to play Pinon Hills Golf Course - lots of variety, excellent layout, demanding but fair, scenic, tough greens, and an excellent value for such a quality course.

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

Gallery-12 Gallery-30 Gallery-15

Course Slope & Ratings

Tee Box Yardage Rating Slope
Black 7,196 73.9 139
Blue 6,204 69.0 127
White 5,560 66.5 124
Gold 6,746 71.7 132
Red 5,428 70.6 125

Course Information

Course Architect:
Ken Dye
Greens Type:
Greens Condition
Greens Difficulty
Fairway Condition
Bunker Condition
Hard and hilly
Beware of water on 4 holes and the 46 sand traps.

Texas Outside Rating

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


Approximate Weekend
$25.00 to $49.00

Service is very friendly, the pro shop is well stocked, the grill has some good food, and the practice facilities are good - spend extra time on the putting green.



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.