Cheers and Fears: N.M. golf courses can sell alcohol – but with head-scratching limitations

Feature photo: Ladera Golf Course had a small beer stand outside of its snack bar on Friday on the first day that N.M. courses were allowed to again start selling alcohol (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports).

Mark Smith

Enchantment Sports

Editor in Chief

You can once again buy a beer at New Mexico golf courses.

Just not on the courses.

On some courses, in fact, you can’t buy anything to drink — alcoholic or otherwise.

And if you want to enjoy a burger and beer with your playing partners after the round, you’re probably out of luck.

At least, that’s how the new policy reads:

“People can not sit and congregate with (alcohol) in an area, like the clubhouse, restaurant, patio, etc.”

“We’re still learning and trying to understand all the new policies,” said Bill Harvey, director of golf at Ladera. “We just want to make sure we’re doing everything right. But there are some things we’re not sure about.

“The way we understand it, you can’t congregate with any alcohol. If someone wants to get a beer after the round and go to the driving range, I guess that would be OK. But you can’t have a beer and congregate, and you can’t take alcohol off the premises.”

Or bring it — or any other food or beverage — on the premises.

That has always been the case, and courses, like Ladera, have had to close gates, disallowing golf carts in the parking lot because some people were trying to sneak booze on to the course.

During the weekend, I spoke with pros at four courses around the state, and all said they are a little unclear about the new policies, but agreed with Harvey’s assessment.

All said they have reached out to officials in hopes of learning more about the policies this week.

Here are the guidelines that were released May 22:

beer1. Alcohol can be sold on a “take away” basis only, which means people cannot sit and congregate with it in an area like the clubhouse, restaurant, patio, etc.

2. Alcohol can NOT be sold from a beverage cart.

3. Alcohol can only be sold from a concessions-type area, where golfers can get the product and then go straight to the golf course.  The goal is to avoid and eliminate the congregating of people that alcohol can promote.

The most controversial, bothersome and just plain silly policy is No. 2:  “Alcohol can not be sold on beverage carts.”

More confusing is whether carts are even being allowed on the course — with or without alcohol.

Some courses around the state are using them while others aren’t.

“I honestly don’t know if we are allowed to have them, but I don’t have one out on the course,” said Colby Reddoch, director of golf at Albuquerque’s Los Altos. “Once alcohol sales are allowed to be sold from a cart, I’ll have one back out.”

The snack bars, which are still take-out only, can serve alcoholic beverages — maximum of two per player — that can be taken on the course.
Team Up logo

But what if you didn’t feel like buying a beer when you paid for your greens fees, range balls and cart, then decided 90 minutes later — while on the fifth tee in the 95-degree heat — that you’d like a brew?

Well, then you would need to tell your partners — and all the groups behind you — to please hang tight for about 15-to-20 minutes while you drive to the snack bar, wait in the socially-distanced line, make your purchase and drive back to the tee.

Sure, the 24-plus players behind you would all completely understand while they social distance themselves down each fairway from the first through fourth holes — and all put their games on hold.

Obviously, that wouldn’t be the case. Your partners are going to play on without you and tell you to catch up on the next hole. But it’s still a nuisance for you.

And that’s if you have a cart. If you’re walking, you best call it a day.

Now, back to the beverage carts.

If they are allowed, which, apparently is up in the air, what sense does it make that they can only sell soft drinks and not alcohol?

Is there more danger of contracting COVID-19 from a can of beer than from a can of cola?

Thinking about it, maybe I did hear Dr. Fauci make that claim last week while he was deciding if he should put a mask on.

Favorite Watering HoleWindsor

But let’s put aside this booze biz for a moment.

What about simply trying to hydrate?

I can’t imagine even Flip-Flopping Fauci or Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham would consider drinking water or lemonade a COVID-19 health risk.

Last week, I teed it up at Ladera with my 9-year-old son, Brock.

We each bought a Gatorade at the snack bar before the round, then consumed them by the third hole in the mid-afternoon blaze.

No problem. There’s a water fountain on the fourth tee, right?

Sure is.

But like all water fountains on all New Mexico golf courses, it is required to be capped during this coronavirus transition period.

Did I mention we were walking the course?

And it was packed?

And sweltering outside?

Yes, we could have purchased a couple other bottled drinks to weigh down our bags while they warmed to 90-plus degrees.

Or we could have picked up a bag of ice, further weighing down our clubs then soaking our bags and us.

But we didn’t do either of those things, and we were thirsty as heck.

And there was no beverage cart around.

I left the following suggestion with the pro shop:

Ladera has a restroom where the No. 6 and No. 15 tee boxes cross over. Would the new policies allow for a concession stand there to sell beverages – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic?

It seems like a no-brainer, and I was told that would be considered.

If it gets up,  hopefully state troopers don’t come bust it down.
Dreamstyle

I can’t think of any similar strategic spots at either Los Altos or Arroyo del Oso that would cover both nines with one concession stand, but that’s where a beverage cart is a necessity.

Look, I get it.

I am a 62-year-old lifelong germophobe with OCD, and I have underlying health conditions.

Like most, I am concerned with catching the virus.

But I don’t want to ruin my life by trying to save it.

I wear a mask and gloves where I should, and I soak down more than I should with sanitizer and disinfectant wipes — even at a golf course.

Think Niles from “Frasier.”

With Type 2 Diabetes.

But I also get thirsty.

Sometimes for diet soda or tea. Sometimes for bottled water.

And yes, sometimes, even for a cold beer on the 15th tee.

And I certainly don’t fear getting coronavirus while getting a Corona Extra from a beverage cart.

Guess we’ll all find out more after Memorial Day weekend.

THE GRASS IS GREENER: I received a few queries of late about whether Ladera only has artificial turf on its driving range tee boxes.

You could call that artificial news.

Ladera did install a strip of synthetic turf, but only for use in the winter. That area is currently closed.

Ladera range
Ladera has artificial turf, lower left, on its range, but it’s is only used in the winter, The rest of the range is all grass. (Mark Smith/Enchantment Sports)

The entire tee area at Ladera — as well as the whole driving range and the rest of the well-groomed course — is grass.

Maybe the vast amount of green fooled people who remember the Ladera of the past. But it is all grass, folks.

OTHER POLICIES: When you’re on the course — beverage or no beverage — please remember these other new policies that were required when New Mexico golf courses reopened in early May.

And please understand that golf course workers didn’t make the rules, so try to be courteous to them.

It’s fine to register a complaint, but the pro shop isn’t the place to stage a sit-in. There are folks waiting to check-in who want to get on the course.

After the round, by all means call your representative.

And do it from home, so you can relax and grab a cold one. 


Mark Smith has worked in New Mexico sports media for more than four Mark Smith mugdecades, and is one of the most decorated sports journalists in state history. Smith has won more than 30 combined awards in print, television and radio and has been honored nationally for investigative reporting. He is the editor in chief of Enchantment Sports. Contact him at mark.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.

 

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