Opening of Taos Country Club 25 years ago met with positive response from eager golfers

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The year was 1992. Fred Couples won the Masters Tournament at Augusta, Georgia. Tiger Woods was still in high school and wooden golf drivers were still widely used.

In Taos, a groundbreaking was scheduled for the new Holy Cross Hospital on Weimer Road, Eloy Jeantete was our mayor, the “Taos Hum” was buzzing and construction of another 18-hole golf course near Eagle Nest began in earnest “to serve the golfing needs of the citizens of Northern New Mexico.”

And so, the Taos Country Club opened its doors to the public Aug. 1, 1992, after a couple of soft commencements that included a veritable who’s who from the local golf scene. The idea of creating a golf course in the Taos Valley was dreamed up by Tad Bourg, Stephen Natelson and Steve Caldwell in 1978. In the proceeding dozen or so years, the trio worked extensively to see their idea come to fruition in a sweet mixture of fanfare, celebration and participation. July 1, 1992, saw the opening of the practice range, and one month later, the public was invited to check out the layout for themselves. In the first weekend alone, more than 200 golfers took to the links – eager to test their skills and equipment on the newly completed nine-hole course.

Taos Country Club officially opens

Before the public opening, officials held a private scramble tournament July 30, followed by an open house July 31, where Natelson, Bourg and Kirk Houston issued welcoming addresses to the guests in attendance. The trio, along with Kerry Goulard, formed Taos Golf Properties (TGP) and were responsible for the construction of Taos Country Club.

Taos Mayor Jeantete and Town Manager Gus Cordova joined Tom Oyama and Kirk Rose in hitting the first balls off the first tee – a ceremonial salute to the significance of this historic Taos event. Oyama was one of the project’s initial investors and Rose was a professional touring golfer at the time. The winning team in the special nine-hole tourney included Glen McCargar, Bill Brown, Russ Seymour and Ann Brown. The team finished with a 4-under-par 32.

Fed by effluent from the town of Taos water treatment facility less than a mile due north, the first nine holes completed included the current cluster of holes located on the north end of the course that encircled the practice range and the small rhombus-shaped holding pond on present-day hole No. 11 (considered hole No. 6 in 1992).

According to statements from Bourg at the time of the opening, the excellent condition of the course was due to the efforts of then-course superintendent Apollonio “Paul” Ortiz. “There are courses three and four years old that are not in the kind of shape these greens and fairways are in,” said Bourg, who was the firs golfer to tee off in the 7:30 a.m. slot during the public opening. “Paul has worked on a lot of courses, but this might be the best he’s ever done.”

At the time of the opening, earthmoving and irrigation work on the second nine holes were underway – preparing for usage in the middle of the summer of 1993. Jep Willie was the course architect and Mike Furgerson is the current superintendent.

Tee’d-bits

In 1992, lifetime memberships were sold for $3,000 for families and $2,250 for individuals. Annual dues at the time were $900 and $600 for families and individuals, respectively. The golf course closed for the winter on Nov. 1, 1992, and reopened the following spring on March 15, 1993.

As course records go, David Braxton owns the three best scores from each of the various tees. From the white (forward) tees, which measure a total of 6,123 yards, Braxton scored a 9-under-par 63 March 22, 2001. From the blue (middle) tees, which measure 6,817-yards, he hit another 9-under-par 63 Aug. 15, 1998. From the black (pro tees), measuring 7,302 yards, Braxton scored 8-under-par 64 on June 24, 1998. Very recently, Taos Tiger sophomore Josh Fambro recorded a 5-under-par 67 from the newly built green (up) tees. Fambro, a junior golfer on the Taos Tigers team, produced this all-time low score on March 31, 2015.

While there have been several golfers who have hit a hole-in-one – or an “ace” – on the each of the course’s par-three holes, nobody yet reported an ace on any of the reachable par-four holes.

“Beat the Pro” and “Couples Night” are two popular programs held weekly at Taos Country Club and offer a competitive outlet for local golfers. Annual charity events sponsored by the Lions Club and the Rotary Club take place here. Regional events, such as the New Mexico West Texas Amateur, have been held at Taos Country Club in the past.

One of the pinnacles for Taos Country Club includes recently being named the fourth best golf course in New Mexico by Golfweek Magazine. Taos Country Club is the home course of the Taos Tigers’ girls and boys teams.

To celebrate the silver anniversary milestone, the Taos Country Club will host a special 25th anniversary golf tournament, which will include live entertainment and a barbecue July 22.

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