Believe…just believe in the route your GPS is telling you to follow. We’ve all been in the position of thinking our GPS has no clue where he/she is taking us. You know that feeling, driving in the middle of nowhere on small bad roads that lead to who-knows-where. Well this road in the middle of nowhere New Mexico does lead to an oasis by the name of 12 Shores at Ute Lake…Believe!
Welcome to Tucumcari, NM. Talk about a hidden gem! Who would have thought you’d find a Nicklaus designed course in Eastern New Mexico. But here we are, finally standing on the tee box at Hole #1. We are playing from the white tee boxes and the start is a par 5 of 500 yards. The fairway bends to the left and there are bunkers out to the right where most of the slices will find sand. But better to be right than in the native shrubs to the left! This is a long uphill climb so a cart is definitely required, especially in the summer heat. I’ll get back to the cart a little later.
We were greeted at Hole #2 by a sign warning us of rattlesnakes. Rattlesnakes may be found in this area. They are important members of the natural community. They will not attack, but if disturbed or cornered they will defend themselves. Translation…bring plenty of balls and don’t go thrashing through the native brush areas. This is a par 4 with a large bunker nestled on the front of the green. Just a word of warning, you don’t want to be off the short grass because of the high rough that parallels the fairway and of course the…rattlesnakes!
The par 3 third hole has a large green and the safe play is to the left (of course the pin was placed on the right today). Danger to the right where those pesky snakes may be sunning themselves on the rocks over in that direction. The flight of your drive must be from left to right on Hole #4. It’s only 321 yards but it is an excellent risk/reward hole. The fairway swerves to the left, however the green is over water to the right. Play it safe to the left or find water to the right? I found the bunker just short of the water and was faced with a fairway bunker shot over the pond – excellent strategy!
If you are familiar with eastern New Mexico you might guess that this course was cut out of the prairie. No trees to provide shade, so bring plenty of water and I would suggest a cart. Your aiming point at Hole #5 is over the first fairway bunker. However, if you push your drive a little to the right, you will encounter another fairway bunker. Finally, if your second shot is short of the green, you most certainly will find more sand. Remember, this is 12 Shores! Hole #6 is a very cool hole. It’s a par 5 and loops well to the left with the green situated close to the water’s edge. The green is large and if the pin is tucked over to the left (as it was today), you have to carry a large bunker to land safely. As we approached the shoreline, the smell took me back to my Jersey Shore roots – it was the long-ago smell of Barnegat Bay here in the middle of New Mexico.
Hole #7 is a par 3 of about 120 yards. There are substantial bunkers both front and back of this green. This is a very thoughtful design that can make it both an easy or hard hole. If the pin is located to the right, this section of the green is wider and has less bunker interference. If it’s to the left, the green is narrow and the bunker creates a finesse wedge shot. Hole #8 – risk/reward. Where have you heard this before? The number one handicap hole has bunkers down the right and high native grass down the left. Do you try to carry the bunkers on the right for a more direct route to the pin? Or do you play it a little safe to the left, but too much club will find more trouble? Decisions, Decisions, Decisions. Fairway and greenside bunkers to the right on the ninth hole. So the prudent play is to the left, correct?
Rating – Ace (53 out of 60): 12 Shores is an awesome course for everyone. It has yellow tees (1531 yards) up to black tees (3871 yards), so it will be a test for any handicap golfer. The greens are large which allows for very different pin placements that can change the way the holes will play each day. As I looked back on the round, I used every club in my bag. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of my poor play, or the design of the course is that outstanding. The 9-holes is a little out of the way, but if you find yourself driving across I-40, stop – it’s worth it!
Back to the cart story. We did not make a tee time, so when we arrived there was only one cart left (I believe they only have 10). The woman at the desk was very helpful, but said the cart is sluggish and would not last 18 holes. Luckily we were only playing 9. She was correct as it went creeping down the first fairway. It was reluctant to climb the hill up to the second hole, so we (i.e., Mr. 5-wood) had to help it along. It did make it through 9-holes but it was at a tortoise-like pace. I would advise taking a cart but call ahead to make sure they have one.
One final note…BELIEVE!
7509 Eagle Drive, Tucumcari, NM 88401; 575-403-7177; www.12Shores.com