When you play golf in Los Alamos, you’re pretty much guaranteed to hit the ball further than you normally would. Why? Not because the Los Alamos Golf Course makes you stronger, but because of the course’s elevation.
Located at the base of the Jemez Mountains on top of the Pajarito Plateau, Los Alamos Golf Course is at an elevation of 7,300 feet, which makes it one of the highest courses in New Mexico. The 18-hole, par-72 course covers 6,500 acres, and although players can easily gain yardage, it’s known as a challenging track due to its sloping fairways and small push-up greens.
High-Altitude Advantages On the Golf Course
The higher up you go, the thinner (or less dense) the air is, so there’s less friction, and the golf ball flies a greater distance. This especially impacts players who tend to hit the ball at a higher trajectory; on a highly elevated course, the higher you hit the ball, the farther it will travel.
The dry air in the mountains can also positively impact a golfer’s yardage. Air with a high concentration of water vapor – more commonly referred to as high humidity – will slow a ball down by providing resistance, and that’s something Los Alamos players rarely have to worry about.
Challenges to Consider at Los Alamos Golf Course
As fun as it may be to hit the golf ball farther than you typically would, it comes with unique challenges. For example, if you’re trying to decide which club to use when approaching a green, you’ll likely want to use a smaller club than you’d normally select, or plan on hitting a low, bump-and-run shot.
This problem has been known to stump professionals like Tom Watson and Fred Funk during tournaments at other high-altitude courses, so you’re not alone if these conditions make your round a bit more difficult. When playing a course with thin, dry air, Golf Digest suggests subtracting 10 percent off your estimated yardage to determine the “true” distance – if you’re 160 yards from the middle of a green, choose the club you’d normally hit from 144 yards away.
Another potential obstacle: Bunkers, out-of-bounds stakes or water hazards that may normally be out of your reach when teeing off could come into play in Los Alamos. Knowing your yardage is critical in these situations (if you want a low score, that is), so be meticulous when determining your distance from problem areas, and be prepared to put down your driver in some cases.