You can't help but notice the Southwestern scenic vistas that are everywhere at Twin Warriors, says Derek Gutierrez. (Photo: The PGA of America)
Local Knowledge: Twin Warriors Golf Club
Derek Gutierrez, the PGA Head Professional at Twin Warriors Golf Club, discusses why his unique Southwestern facility deserves all the accolades it gets and why golfers everywhere should consider it for a unique vacation of golf, food and culture.
The PGA Professional National Championship returns to Albuquerque area and the Santa Ana golf gems Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club for this year’s PGA Professional National Championship.
The host course, Twin Warriors Golf Club, will host one of the two opening rounds for each player and then the final two rounds of play. Viewers will get a glimpse of this Southwest gem but, according to Derek Gutierrez, the PGA Head Professional at Twin Warriors, the course and the surrounding region are something that all golfers should experience in person.
PGA.com: As a native New Mexican, it must be a proud occasion for you to be the host professional at the PGA Professional National Championship. How does that feel? I did see you doing some items with The Golf Channel. Though Twin Warriors is a nationally renowned golf course, it’s got to be a good feeling to get this kind of national media attention for the facility and for you.
Gutierrez: I was fortunate to be an assistant professional here in 2003 when we hosted this event for the first time and it was exciting then to watch what progressed over the days of that championship. Since then, I’ve gotten my Class-A membership and been named Head Professional here, and to host this championship, OUR national championship, and to be so involved with the planning and preparations, to see the players finally here and the PGA of America leaders here, it really is a huge honor and I’m so proud to be a part of it.
And as for the media attention, first and foremost, Pueblo Santa Ana deserves the recognition. They had the vision and foresight to build these two great courses, and to run them properly and do this great job in getting the word out about this great facility. So yes, it’s fun for me, but the real spotlight should be on the courses and for that, I’m very grateful.
PGA.com: What can you tell us about the Twin Warriors course -- what can the players expect? Most people don’t realize we’re at some elevation here, too. What will that mean for the players?
Gutierrez: We’re about the same elevation as Denver so players are going to see around 10% more carry than they might be used to, say, at sea level. The course itself is lengthy -- almost 7,500 yards this week -- and challenging, with thick rough and fast greens. It’s routed around 20 ancient cultural sites and some really great scenic vistas that I know the fans watching on TV this week will appreciate greatly, but it’s really something to see in person.
PGA.com: Derek, you know this course as well as anyone. Is there a critical hole, or stretch of holes to look for, ones that absolutely have to be negotiated well to find success here this week?
Gutierrez: This course requires a lot of thought. There are some holes where you need to just really beat it and hit it as far as you can, and there are some par 4s and 5s where you are better served laying up or dialing it back is actually required. Hole No. 10 is maybe the first hole where the course can really jump out at you. The longer hitter can’t just rip away at the tee or you’ll find yourself with an uneven lie or in a drywash or an arroyo. Holes 17 and 18 will play into the prevailing winds so those are going to play tough and will be deal breakers or deal makers for players as they come in.
PGA.com: You have a number of signs up around that reminds golfers that there are some various forms of wildlife around, including snakes. Kind of makes your hazards a bit more hazardous?
Gutierrez: We’re located on the Pueblo Santa Ana and there is a large amount of wildlife in the area. We are very proud of that and do everything we can to preserve that appeal of this region. So yes, you’ll see rabbits and snakes and hawks and eagles and things of that nature. We don’t really have a problem with snakes, but we do want to remind people that if you are out looking for golf balls in the native terrain, you definitely want to be careful for sure.
PGA.com: To be honest, Albuquerque doesn’t jump foremost into my mind when many golfers think about golf destinations, but it’s kind of an emerging gem. You are an officer at the Sun Country PGA Section -- can you tell us a little about the golf community here?
Gutierrez: Our state has recently become noted as a golf destination, we’re very pleased with that. There is a lot of great golf here, as well as culture, food, recreation, tourism -- there’s a lot of see. Our facilities, Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club, are part of the Golf on the Santa Fe Trail Cooperative, which are eight of the best golf courses along the Rio Grande corridor. The feedback that we’ve been getting from the public, the media and others in the industry -- it’s been very impressive and a good reason to be excited.
PGA.com: And what would be the ideal way for players, families, fans and media to remember their time here when the week is over?
Gutierrez: I want them to remember that we were friendly, hospitable and accommodating. I want people to remember the excellent course conditions. I want them to remember how nice the hotel here is, the food, the culture of the region. This area has so many great things to enjoy, I hope everyone leaves with fond memories and even more, a desire to come back and visit again.
Derek Gutierrez, the PGA Head Professional at Twin Warriors Golf Club in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico, has worked for the Santa Ana Golf Corporation since 1996 and been a PGA Professional since 2004. Gutierrez was also named Head Professional at Twin Warriors in 2004. Gutierrez was the Sun Country Section PGA Apprentice Chairman and officer from 2004-2006 and is currently Secretary of the Sun Country PGA Section.