Originally published by Hobbs New Sun, 7/12/18

Rockwind Community Links has been named the third-best golf course in New Mexico.

During Tuesday’s Hobbs Community Affairs meeting, Rockwind’s head professional and general manager Linda Howell announced Rockwind had moved up to become the third-best golf course to play in New Mexico by Golfweek.com.

According to Golfweek.com, its team of more than 850 golf course raters survey more than 3,600 courses annually, grading each on a strict standard of evaluation. The top two golf courses are No. 1 Paa-Ko Ridge in Sandia Park, east of Albuquerque and No. 2 Red Hawk near Las Cruces. Piñon Hills (Farmington) and Twin Warriors (Santa Ana Pueblo) round out the top five. Sandia (No. 7) and University of New Mexico’s championship course (No.

8) were the only Albuquerque golf courses in the top 10. Inn of the Mountain Gods, located near Ruidoso, is No. 9.

Hughes said Wednesday that it’s quite an honor for Rock-wind to move up to No. 3, considering that golf courses don’t normally jump up or down so drastically.

“That’s a humongous jump. Golf courses don’t usually do that,” Hughes said. “They gradually get better or get a little bit worse. This move is a great testament to a wonderful staff from the pro shop to the maintenance and an outstanding design by (Rockwind architect Andy Staples), and people are starting to notice that. It’s quite the honor.”

Hughes said golf course officials were notified about the annual ranking in April. He said the evaluation takes in a lot of criteria including a rating of the course and its staff, but also other factors like the cost of play ($15 green fees), the amount of merchandise available in the pro shop, the fact that other events like banquets, weddings and concerts have taken place and are available. Howell said in the past year the golf course has held disc golf, college cross country and high school state golf tournaments and a recent Pro-Am golf tournament. The nine-hole par-3 course has a Foot Golf course, where players kick a soccer ball to a large hole that is situated near each green.

“It’s like when you go to a restaurant and everything gets looked at from the glasses, to the service to, of course, the food,” Hughes said. “It’s about the whole, overall experience that a person has at Rock-wind.”

Howell told the advisory board the maintenance crew took a hit when the oil industry rebounded.

“We lost people because they wanted to make that oilfield money and you can’t blame them for that,” Howell said. “We have been able to maintain our course on a smaller staff and that’s got everything to do with their dedication.”

Hughes said his potential staff is 12, but is currently at eight seasonal and full-time employees. He spent part of Wednesday on a mower cutting grass, not the place for a course superintendent who should be managing the course.

“You have to do what needs to get done,” Hughes said. “I don’t mind mowing. I actually like it. But when you have a short staff, the work still needs to get done. And we have a staff who is bought in and dedicated to our mission for this course.”

Howell also told the board the golf shop is considered one of the best in the state and has been named the top merchandiser by the Sun Country Section of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, which includes New Mexico and El Paso.

“The merchandiser of the year was given to us locally and we are also nominated nationally,” Howell said.

Golf course merchandising is the result of what products are bought at a course, from golf balls and tees to apparel, golf bags and clubs. That number is then divided into the number of annual rounds to produce a dollar amount of merchandise sold per round.

“Nationally, you do about $5 per round in merchandise sold at a municipal golf course,” Howell said. “Some like (nationally recognized) Torrey Pines does about $15 a round. This last year, we went from $15 to $20 a round. We increased sales by over $100,000, and that’s the golf shop staff.”

Todd Bailey can be reached at editor@hobbsnews.com