I have been through New Mexico many times usually driving on the way to some place else. Of those trips, places like Sante Fe during Easter, or Taos for the arts, or even Sedona with its red rock are towns that are stuck in my memory. But Ruidoso was not a place that I had heard of before The Golf Club at Rainmakers joined the Silver Signature Program. I had heard of White Sands National Monument and I had heard of Roswell (ooh, extra-terrestrials). Both of these towns were an easy drive from Ruidoso so I knew about where this town was located (basically in the middle of nowhere). I learned Ruidoso was a year-round tourist destination offering golf, skiing, horseracing, hotels, cabins, resorts, hiking, and camping. How could I have missed this place?
My reason for going there was to review The Golf Club at Rainmakers to confirm through an on-site review that it had met the criteria of the Signature Program. Going up a mountain at dark is not a choice I normally would make, but a little incident along the way slowed me a bit during that 3 hour drive southeast of Albuquerque through lonely high desert to a small town called Alto, near Ruidoso. The club manager, Reeves McGuire, said he would meet me at a determined turn-off and lead me in to the community. Sounded ominous but as night fell, I was glad he was there waiting for me. It was pitch black, and I could not see what was beyond the edge of the two-lane roadway I was driving on.
But the next morning, all was revealed. The 18-hole Robert Trent II-designed golf course is actually located in the southern Rockies of south central New Mexico within the Lincoln National Forest at nearly 7,000 feet above sea level on 125 acres of juniper-pinon pine woodlands. With panaramic views of the 12,000 foot peak of Sierra Blanca and the Sacremento and Capitan mountains, the property is bounded to the east by the Fort Stanton Area of Critical Environmental Concern managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
The golf course itself sits on the southern slope of the Rainmakers residential community which is located on a total of about 1,000 acres that were relatively undsitrubed. Rainmakers has set aside 135 acres as a wildlife habitat and conservation area. The name of the development and its image was in recognition of the first residents of this acreage. Before the project was begun, at the groundbreaking, the land was blessed by a Mescalero tribal leader and medicine man. Entry into the community is through a set of iron gates with an iron macaw standing guard. In honor of the tribal heritage, all of the streets have been named after Indian Tribes.
Although I had followed Rainmakers construction through photos, this was my first visit to the site, and I was stunned by the scenic vistas at each golf hole. It was hard to move on from hole to hole. Not only were the mountains hypnotic, but the 40-foot deep arroyos running along many of the fairways seemed to pull me toward them. Next to one particualrly steep area on hole #6, I encountered a rock wren and its mate jumping around in and under rock ledges. They were making noises as if to say “Which rock do you like best?” since I supposed they were looking for a nesting site. It was interesting that they were not in the least disturbed by our presence.
Protection and conservation of natural resources at a residential golf community in New Mexico is quite challenging. Ruidoso is semi-arid and recieves less than 2 inches of rain per month throughout most of the year. To address this challenge, Rainmakers employs many water management and design techniques. Among those are:
- Unlike traditional sprinkler systems which turn themselves on at a specified time and deliver a pre-specified amount of water, each of the sprinkler heads on the golf course is digitally tied to an on-site weather station that monitors rainfall, humidity, etc. and reduces or suspends sprinkler activity based on locally-falling precipitation.
- The arc and angle of each sprinkler head is also independently controlled, placing the right amount of water exactly where it needs to go. Only 67.1 acres or 54 percent of the course acreage is being irrigated.
- Natural polymers were incorporated over the greens and fairways while the course was being built. Each time the spinklers are turned on and whenever it rains, the polymers soak in the water and expand 500 times in size, keeping the soil moist and healthy long after the water stops coming down. This saves Rainmakers an estimated 30 percent of its annual water consumption on the course. The polymers are 100 percent environmenally, human and animal safe.
- The landscape architecture includes a wide variety of indigenous flowers and grasses that complement the southwestern ecosystem requiring less water for survival and less labor for their management. In addition, 90 percent of the re-vegetation on and around the course was accomplished with plants that originally grew on the site thereby preserving the local gene pool.
- For holes such as #3 that has a steep elevation change and where the hole plays over a ravine, an additional 18 inches of soil was added to the fairway so as to eliminate the need to cut trees growing up in the ravine. This allowed line of site for the hole without additional disturbance.
- Both surface and subsurface drainage was directed away from the many dry arroyos and the lake, and discharged over the native and naturalized areas. Swales were constructed and lined with stone to slow velocity of any run-off before discharge into vegetated areas.
- Storm water is collected to drain into rocky basins and infiltrate back to the water table.
With the golf course’s certification, Rainmakers now joins other certified Signature Sanctuaries in twenty-nine US states and five countries including China, Portugal, Spain, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Congratulations Rainmakers! Great job!
I may have missed Ruidoso before this trip, but it is on my radar now. I plan to return there the first opportunity (and maybe even drive over to Roswell?)