Pinon Hills Golf Course

History of Pinon Hills

Piñon Hills is Born

"I knew it was a good site. It was a big piece of property… the thing that made it exciting to work on was that there were no restrictions as to where to build it within the perimeter of the 1,000 acres. Half of the 1,000 acres weren't usable because it was too steep. The city told us to 'put the course where you think it fits best.' We focused on the 300 acres on the northern portion near San Juan Community college."

Ken Dye, Piñon Hills Golf Course Architect

So it was in the small rural northern New Mexico town of Farmington in the late 1980's. Especially, when it came to civic and community projects to enhance the landscape and livability of this desert climate where three rivers meet. There were a number of citizen groups that were pressing for more recreational facilities. There were golfers, swimmers, wilderness enthusiasts and youth soccer all requiring a place to get out and play. Jeff Bowman, the Director of Farmington's Parks and Recreation Department recalls how all them achieved their goals collectively and Piñon Hills was born. Below is his account of how things happened.

"In the early 80s several task forces were formed because of requests from citizens (with a chairman from the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs Commission) who wished to see additional recreation facilities built. There were soccer field, golf course, swimming pool, riverine, and wilderness park interest groups who met to discuss their individual projects. Is there a legitimate need, and if there is, where they could be built and how they could be financed? Each task force was charged with surveying the community, finding suitable locations, and determining approximate costs of construction for each of their projects. Each task force wrote a report outlining their findings and presented it to the Commission and the City Council. It was determined by the Director of the PRCA department that by joining forces each project stood a better chance of being funded through some sort of tax initiative rather than have each project try to meet the electorate's approval on its own."

"As important to me as a quality golf course architecture, designing a good golf course on a reasonable budget is a difficult challenge. We had to take advantage of every cost savings possible…from moving land, irrigation system, grasses selected, greens shape, overall contouring, cart paths, parking lot and club house. The city built the entire golf course and supporting facility with $2.7 million 20 years ago. $1.7 million for golf course and the other $1 million went to everything else."

Ken Dye, Piñon Hills Golf Course Architect

So, a committee was formed to combine the reports of each task force and determine a way to market these projects to the public. It was determined that since approximately 60% of all gross receipts tax revenue is received from non-residents and that many of our facilities are used by non-residents and tourists, it was suggested that a sales tax rather than a property tax implementation would be the prudent course of action. This new committee then set about marketing the concept to the public and an election was held in March of 1987 which passed by an approximate three to one margin. The Director and the Commission believed that a strong selling point to the public would be that this tax would be collected with the specific purpose of funding the five projects selected rather than have it go on indefinitely. It was decided that collecting the tax over five years would net enough money to build the projects and that five years would be quite palatable to the public. So a sunset clause was built into the initiative. The tax was 1/4 of one percent and was collected from July 1, 1987 to June 30, 1992. The soccer fields was the first of the projects to be completed because the building cost was the smallest and since this was a "pay as you go" tax–in other words, no bonds were involved–after a few months we had enough to begin and complete that project. The golf course was the next project and the Aquatic Center was the last. The golf course opened in November of 1989 while the pool opened in April of 1994.

"Working for the city we knew we didn't have a huge budget. So we had to utilize the quality features that nature had presented us. The slope of the land was such that we didn't need to move a lot of land…maybe 100,000 cubic yards modest in comparison to course design by today's standards. The terrain dictated the routing – designing this course because of budget and natural features made this a true exercise in routing. The the tee sites, fairway landing areas and greens were dictated by the rolling and undulating shape of the land, and natural desert features and formations."

Ken Dye, Piñon Hills Golf Course Architect

The beauty of this method was that the golfers realized that if they wanted a golf course they would have to team up with the swimmers and soccer players, etc. to support all of the projects. Likewise, the swimmers,while they may not be interested in a golf course, knew that they needed to support it if they wanted to see their pool built. By combining all potential users we were able to amass enough voters to overcome those who were opposed to the tax.