Local Golf Course Gets Innovative

The 16th green at Los Alamos Golf Course was protected by a turf cover last winter and this shot shows the dramatic difference between covered verses noncovered following removal of the cover Feb. 22. Courtesy/LAGC

By Carol A. Clark

As springtime comes alive with bright sunshine, colorful flowers and grass growing greener throughout the community, the PGA Professionals at Los Alamos Golf Course are welcoming novice and seasoned players to enjoy the local links.

Course Manager Steve Wickliffe is excited about this year’s opening season because of an experiment conducted on the course last winter.

Large white turf covers were placed over the 1st, 8th, 12th and 16th greens in an effort to protect the tender grass from typical winter weather abuse.

The results were successful and have made this spring’s start up season at the golf course much smoother.

“Coming into last spring our conditions were marginal – our conditions coming into this spring are much improved and we are thrilled to be in the kind of condition we are this spring verses last spring,” Wickliffe said. “Last winter we experimented with some greens covers – a blanket for the turf – to provide protection from the cold, dry weather and protect against crown hydration. The turf covers did a good job.”

In fact, the covers were successful enough that if he can find the resources, Wickliffe would like to purchase another 14 covers and one for the putting green. The covers cost approximately 1,200-$1,400 a piece, he said.

This shot shows the results of the greens that had a turf cover on over the winter. Courtesy/LAGC

New Programs

Now that the course at 4250 Diamond Dr. is up and running for the season, Wickliffe said they are offering a variety of new programs for players of all skill levels.

Golf 2.0

One of the big industry-wide initiatives is golf 2.0,” Wickliffe said. “It introduces new players to the game and reintroduces lapsed players and offers some things to strengthen those players we do have here with a variety of different programs.”

Newcomers Card

Also new this season is the “Newcomers Card” that includes:

  • 4 lessons
  • 8 baskets of range balls
  • 36 holes of golf

The Newcomers Card is structured to allow golfers with time constrains or those new to the game to play three holes at a time, all 36 holes at once or any amount in between.

“They can come out and take a lesson, hit some balls and play three holes of golf,” Wickliffe said.

This would cost $189 separately but drops to $130 under the Newcomers Card, he said.   

Also geared toward beginners and folks who’ve been away from the game for a while is a week-long evening program, “Get Golf Ready.”  It involves 60-90 minute lessons in which the local pros try to cover everything from “A to Z” regarding golf.

Get Golf Ready

The “Get Golf Ready” program instructs participants on where to check in, where to stand, where to get their carts and overall golf etiquette.

“This program will run the week of May 7-11 and cost $99 for the week. It provides a person who wants to play golf for the first time or after not having played for a long time everything they need to feel comfortable at the course,” Wickliffe said.


“Starting New At Golf”(SNAG) is a pilot program for 5 to 6 year olds that is funded by a grant obtained by the County’s Recreation Department that allowed the purchase of all of the equipment. SNAG contains all the elements of golf in a modified form. It offers the opportunity to young players who might otherwise not have the chance to experience the game. Falling somewhere between miniature golf and regulation golf, SNAG allows for full shots, pitching, chipping and putting. It’s a learning and training tool for entry level golfers.

“We’ll be offering three, six-week long sessions twice a week at East Park. The first session starts the middle of April, the second session begins the middle of June and the third session starts in mid-August,” Wickliffe said. “We’re also introducing SNAG to this year’s Bear Camp and other venues.”

Family Fun Night

Three nights this summer will be set aside for Family Fun Night at the golf course in June, July and August. There will be a bit of instruction, some course time and refreshments including pizza. Entire families are invited to enjoy the golf course experience and have dinner, too.

A family gets out for an afternoon golf game at Los Alamos Golf Course. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Demo Days

The public also is invited to participate in two Demo Days at the golf course at which manufacturer’s representatives will be on hand to showcase their new products. They will let players tryout the new products free of charge.

PING will demonstrate its products Friday May 18 and Taylor Made will be on hand Saturday June 9.

Special pricing will be available to the public from the manufacturers on everything from new drivers to sets of irons and wedges.

A foursome hits the links recently at the Los Alamos Golf Course. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Other Programs For New and Existing Players

Also beginning in May are 10-minute lessons from a golf professional at the Los Alamos Golf Course. The course also offers play by the hole for those players facing a time challenge.

Clubs are available for people interested in hitting a bucket of balls but who don’t own clubs. They also can take private, semi-private or group lessons.

Also, Junior Camp starts with a one-week program in the middle of June and another in mid-July for ages 5 through 10.

About the Pros

The Los Alamos Golf Course is home to three pros, including Wickliffe, Head Professional Donnie Torres and Assistant Professional Michael Phillips.

All three are Class A Golf Professionals and members of the Professional Golfers Association. They have been extensively trained in all areas of golf instruction.

Wickliffe also is a Master Golf Professional hired as course manager at Los Alamos Golf Course in October 2009. He came from managing a Jack Nicklaus public course in southern Montana for 12 years. This is his third full season at Los Alamos.

“I don’t think there are many facilities in communities of this size that have the breadth of experience in their golf professional staff that this facility has,” he said.

Wickliffe has 30 years of experience Torres has 25 and Phillips has 15.

About the Golf Course

Built in 1947 by the Atomic Energy Commission, the Los Alamos Golf Course is the second oldest 18 hole golf course in New Mexico.

The 6,500 yard par 72, 18 hole course is now owned and operated by Los Alamos County.

“Los Alamos has small, tricky greens and despite the course’s average length, you’ve got to work the ball around the golf course,” Wickliffe said. “It’s not a long course but you have to be pretty precise to score well.”

Peppered with ponderosa pines and cottonwood trees, sloping fairways and small push-up greens, the course provides a challenge to all levels of golfers.


Golf Course Community Building Update

Construction on the new $5,390,000 Golf Course Community Building/Clubhouse is scheduled to begin May 2012 and will continue through April 2013.

“Our goal is to continue to provide excellent customer service for golf course patrons and the public during this time,” Wickliffe said. “There will be plenty of signage directing traffic and pedestrians safely around the construction area.”

County staff and operations will continue to be housed in the renovated former Golf Course Pro Shop until construction is completed.

For more information or to register for one of this year’s golf programs, contact the Los Alamos Golf Course at 662-8139.


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