Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in Sandia Park is being renovated by its new owners, New York based investors and golf enthusiasts, Tony Alvarez and Bryan Marsal, who are looking to improve the quality of the course, expand and improve the restaurant, and offer accommodations.

After renovating Hogs Head Golf Club in Ireland, Alvarez and Marcel tapped associate Pat Fogarty to find a suitable golf property in the United States to create another destination golf experience.

Fogarty said he looked for over two years before recommending Paa-Ko. The course, which opened in 2000 and was ranked first among 230 new courses at that time, was acquired by Alvarez and Marcel in early 2018 for an undisclosed amount.

General manager Rob Murray, who has worked at the golf club since its inception, told The Independent the project is being carried out in three phases.

The initial phase of improving the condition of the 27-hole course has recently been completed, Murray said.

Murray said they spent the winter thinning and pruning overgrowth, providing work for a local tree service and club employees. Fogarty said that part of the first phase cost $170,000.

Fogarty said they consulted turf specialists who recommend a blend of three varieties of blue grass for the tees, fairways and roughs, and a bent grass variety for the greens. They are more disease resistant and drought tolerant, requiring less water, according to Murray.

The new seed was inter-seeded into existing grass last fall, and “we were blessed with a great winter,” Fogarty said. That part of the project cost $200,000 he added.

Watering of the course is accomplished with over 3,000 sprinkler heads of various sizes which have now been GPS mapped, inspected, repaired, aimed and adjusted for maximum efficiency, reducing water usage, according to Murray. Fogarty put the cost of that part of the project at $150,000.

Murray said they have 27 holes on 100 acres of irrigated turf, less than the average of 18 holes on 130 acres. “It’s much less irrigation than most golf courses; it was designed to save water,” Murray said.

Original developer Roger Cox acquired the water rights of two agricultural wells in the Estancia Basin, initially transferring one to Entranosa Water and retaining a second well which is used only in the summer when the golf course is irrigated, according to Entranosa CEO Jack Crider.

Murray said in phase two, which is about to begin, clubhouse renovations will devote the entire facility to dining.

Murray said patios will also be expanded for outdoor seating. Fogarty said there will be an area for golfers, separate from other diners.

Award-winning Albuquerque chef David Ruiz will join the staff, Murray said. “This restaurant will be one of the best in the state, a top-of-the-line restaurant,” he said.

The new owners anticipate opening the restaurant by early summer next year, according to Murray. Other plans include a greenhouse where they will use “vertical hydroponics to grow produce and greens,” he said.

A view of Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course. Photo by Thomas Campbell.

Fogarty said the investment for restaurant renovations is expected to be around $5 million.

“We will put retail and a pro shop in a different location close by,” Murray said, “and after that we’ll start the lodging. It’s already been zoned for 80 units of lodging, [which will be] a lodge and casitas combination probably.”

Fogarty described the third phase as a work in progress, and said the zoning allows for 80 units on two parcels. “One is a six and a half acre piece, the other is a two and a half acre piece,” he said.

“Half of our play is from out of state,” Murray said, “we have people from all over the country and from all over the world coming here. It has really brought a lot of people up and down the highway 14 corridor from both directions. Lodging will really make this a destination.”

Murray said, with the new owners, “We’ve been able to keep more people [employees] year around, put more people on salary, offer more people benefits.” He said, including part-time employees, the club now employs 60 to 70 people, 30 of them full-time.

Murray said many part-time employees come from East Mountain High School, explaining Paa-Ko has a special relationship with the school since it was built on land donated by Cox.

Murray said the new owners are trying to source everything locally for the project.

Fogarty said they spent a $1 million for new course maintenance equipment and $350,000 for new golf carts, all purchased through local dealers.