University of New Mexico Championship Course - balloon
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - balloon
During the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, golfers playing the University of New Mexico Championship Course in October can sometimes enjoy the spectacle in the air. Courtesy photo
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 1
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 1
It's downhill on the par-5 first hole at the University of New Mexico Championship Course. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - walker
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - walker
Although the University of New Mexico Championship Course is quite hilly and very demanding, it can be walked. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 8
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 8
The par-3 8th hole on the University of New Mexico Championship Course can stretch as far back as 267 yards. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - 9th tee
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - 9th tee
Color splashes the 9th tee on the University of New Mexico Championship Course. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - plane
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - plane
Planes heading to the nearby Albuquerque International Sunport regularly fly over the University of New Mexico Championship Course. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 10
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 10
The 10th hole is one of the most memorable on the University of New Mexico Championship Course, climbing uphill off the tee to a fairway that sweeps right and ultimately tumbles downhill for this view. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 11
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 11
A small water feature protects the 220-yard 11th hole on the University of New Mexico Championship Course. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 12
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 12
The par-4 12th on the University of New Mexico Championship Course provides a nice view of downtown Albuquerque. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 15
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 15
The flag on the 15th green on the University of New Mexico Championship Course peeks through the trees on this outstanding short par 4, which hooks left around a pond. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 16
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 16
The 16th hole is the easiest of the par 3s on the University of New Mexico Championship Course. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 18
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University of New Mexico Championship Course - hole 18
The par-5 18th finishes off the University of New Mexico Championship Course with a risk-reward scoring opportunity during tournaments and events. Jason Scott Deegan/GolfPass
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Championship golf at the University of New Mexico

This Albuquerque gem is one of the tournament capitals of collegiate golf.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Fall is tournament season at the University of New Mexico's Championship Course.

And that translates to rough - lots of it - with slick greens to match. Playing between the William H. Tucker Invitational, the second-longest-running men's collegiate event, on Sept. 22-23 and the second stage of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying scheduled for Oct. 19-22, I found the rough on this Red Lawrence design to be every bit as daunting as what I've encountered during media days for major championships I've attended in the past. It's that grueling and penal.

But rarely does a big score like the one I shot detract from playing such a dynamic and beautiful course, which has also hosted four NCAA Division I men's championships (1950, 1976, 1992, 1998) and one women's (1987). Put it this way, the UNM Championship Course has every bit of the same killer instinct and feel as Bethpage Black in New York. It's a brawny ballpark capable of testing the best.

The 7,555-yard course sits on a hillside overlooking downtown. It's very hilly despite the proximity to the runways of the Albuquerque International Sunport. Walking isn't easy, but one of my playing partners attempted it.

Lawrence dialed up elevated greens at every turn, notably on the front nine where the par 4s from holes 5-7 range from 428 to 520 yards. Between the ever-changing terrain, awkward lies up and down the slopes and golf at elevation of more than 5,000 feet, choosing the proper club and hitting the right shot remains difficult.

Starting at the ninth, a banana-shaped par 5, the layout brims with personality. The 10th, which climbs uphill to the fairway before falling downhill to the green, might be the toughest par 4 in the city. The short par-4 15th bends around a pond and a grove of trees tempting longer hitters to get aggressive. One final risk-reward moment - whether to go for it on the uphill par-5 18th - brings the round to a dramatic closure.

Topping out at $103 on peak season weekends, it's also a bargain, if your ego doesn't mind a beating.

"The routing of holes is exceptional," wrote GolfPass user 'David1684852' in a 2019 review. "The holes flow well. It's one good hole after another."

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Championship golf at the University of New Mexico