Coming Up for Cool Air at New Mexico's Angel Fire Resort

By: Steve Habel

These days, when escaping the heat is seemingly at the forefront of the minds of many Americans, finding someplace cool and cool is a worthy goal. Located in its eponymous hamlet in north-central New Mexico, Angel Fire Resort and Country Club offers such a respite.

Angel Fire Resort & Country Club

Angel Fire is set in the Moreno Valley, high in the heart of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Overlooking the facility to the west is Wheeler Peak, New Mexico's highest mountain at 13,161 feet. Eastward is the Cimarron Range with peaks over 11,000 feet tall. Between these prominences is a spot where the air is clean and fresh and the golf is a joy.

Angel Fire, for years a secret Texas hideaway that became just too good to contain, is a wonderful spot to beat the heat for a lingering weekend, a week-long vacation or an extended stay. Up here, the light created as the morning sun reflects off the dew-covered leaves of the aspens dotting the mountainsides gives the area its name and many stunning vistas.

In the fall, those trees display beautiful golden hues dramatically set against the evergreen backdrop of spruce and Ponderosa pine in the adjacent Carson National Forest.

The course at Angel Fire meanders out and back from an expansive new clubhouse set at about 8,700 feet, offering mountain golf with two distinct flavors. The front nine works its way through towering trees, while the inward side winds over mountain meadows and features rolling fairways, meandering streams and plenty of bunkers. Added to the mix are the track's elevation changes and, with the seemingly never-ending wind, Angel Fire can be a bear.

Water comes into play on 16 holes and, although the track extends only 6,660 yards from its back set of four tees, there's a bevy of tests on the tight and demanding routing.

The Green at Angel Fire Resort's 6th Hole

Be Focused or Be Punished

Designed by Paul Ortiz, the original nine (now the back) at Angel Fire was built in 1961, while the second side (the front) arose in 1976. The golf course can lull you into mistakes because it doesn't appear that outwardly difficult. Upon further examination, however, the fairways and greens are bordered throughout by little creeks - some are no more than ditches, and its greens are hard to read. There is lots of out-of-bounds that make the holes even more constricting. Bunkers are prevalent and greens' collars contain gnarly two-inch rough.

The second (a 377-yard par-4) and third (a short three-shotter of 497 yards) holes are tight and unforgiving, thanks to the water hazards that border the left edges of both. The course's signature hole is the 250-yard par-3 sixth, which tumbles more than 200 feet from tee to green and plays over a canyon. Swing away here as any timid tee shot hit will end up in the hazard.

The 303-yard par-4 10th is a dogleg-right that plays uphill to a well-protected putting surface, while the 384-yard par-4 11th is a downhill dogleg-right with three huge pines guarding the port side of the corner. Placement of all shots here are imperative; otherwise you will be hitting lots of lay-ups.

The par-5 closer is a 507-yard downhill, then uphill, gem. The hole is wide-open off the tee, but the second shot has to be placed on the left side of the fairway. Closer to the raised two-tiered green the fairway gets squeezed by thick forest.

The golf course at Angel Fire, located south of the resort's ski area on Highway 434, is open May 1 through the third Sunday in October.

First Hole at Angel Fire Resort

72 is the Number

It's been quoted that Angel Fire is one of the few places a golfer can shoot 72 (par for the course) in 72 degrees during July and August. Cool throughout the summer, this place provides a real summertime break. Affordable stay-and-play packages are available at the nearby 150-room hotel, which boasts facilities for dining, fitness, swimming, mountain-biking, and horseback riding. For golfers who want some culture, artists, galleries and museums are situated nearby.

In May 2010 Angel Fire Resort unveiled a new 27,000-square-foot clubhouse, which faces Mt. Wheeler. "We could not be more pleased with the outcome of this project," said Pat Brunstad, Angel Fire Resort's CEO, about the new clubhouse. "There is nothing like this in Northern New Mexico. The new country club reflects the best of Angel Fire's alpine community along with all the modern and upscale features and provides a world-class facility for our visitors and members."

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Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's national correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also the managing editor for Texas CEO Magazine and works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports. He also writes a blog (, which features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another ( on his many travels, which took him across the nation and to 105 different golf course in 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.