As an Army brat, Jason Baldwin traveled the world with his military father. The family landed in Alamogordo in 1980 when his dad was stationed at Holloman Air Force Base. Growing up, he was a multisport athlete who discovered golf in his teens and turned pro after just five years in the game. He’s now the golf pro at Desert Lakes Golf Course, in town. When he’s not on the course or giving lessons, he’s often exploring the southern New Mexico city’s abundant outdoors scene.
I started golfing when I was 15 years old. I started to play on courses on the Air Force base and on the military installation at White Sands. Both are now closed. I turned professional in the sport when I was 20, but I got out of the business when I was 29. I got back into it when I was 38 and have been a golf pro since 2011.
It’s one of the most challenging sports that you can play. People that surround the game are also some of the best people in the world. Golf is about challenging yourself, not taking other people down. It’s a game of integrity and sportsmanship.
When people are relocating, I find they tend to ask about the public schools, the infrastructure, then the golf course. Desert Lakes is a quintessential public golf course. It looks easy, but it’s really challenging. It’s kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde course. You never know what to expect.
The number-one thing for me is the weather. We can play year-round. This past winter, we only had to close for five days due to snow. We have some 320 sunny days a year.
Our restaurant, the 19th Hole Grill & Bar, has become a go-to spot for locals to eat, have drinks, and sit on the patio for views of the Sacramento Mountains. In town, the Mexican food places are always go-to’s, like CJ’s Sí Señor and Margo’s Mexican Food. Off the Wall is a great place for sandwiches. Picacho Peak Brewing Co. and 575 Brewing Company have popped up and are doing really well.
Alamogordo is uniquely situated for the outdoors. Within 15 minutes, you can be at 9,000 feet in the Sacramento Mountains, and if you head in the other direction, you’re in the desert. A lot of my early memories of camping and hiking were from the Capitán area of the Lincoln National Forest. More recently, I’ve been heading up to Cloudcroft, because it’s closer to town. I like the Rim Trail. It’s 31 miles, one of the longer trails in the area. It traces the edge of the peaks, and has lookout spots where you can see west over the Tularosa Basin, White Sands National Park, and all the way to Las Cruces.
Growing up in sports, White Sands was a popular place to go for team bonding. But as an adult, I’ve discovered there’s a lot more to do out there than sled down the dunes. My wife and I enjoy the nature walks and the ranger-guided stargazing and full-moon nights.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park is another beautiful camping & hiking destination, and historic site at the base of the Sacramento Mountains. In the spring, I like to go to the Valley of Fires Recreation Area, where a volcano covered miles of the Tularosa Basin in molten rock. There’s runoff from the mountains and things are more green. At the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site, there’s a 30- to 40-minute trail that takes you to see thousands of ancient petroglyphs that date back to 900 to 1400 AD.
ATVing has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. We have so much public land that people can just hop on a quad or a side-by-side. There’s so much to discover on the way to Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, in the Sacramento Mountains, and beyond.
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