• Image about Socorro Peak
After teeing off, the intrepid participants add a hearty mountain hike to their game.
At the Elfego Baca Shoot, golfers need to conquer just one hole. But this is no ordinary hole.

Surely alcohol had something to do with it. No one sober would invent teeing off atop a rock-strewn mountain to an indiscernible hole more than a mile away … would they?

Apparently they would.

Welcome to the Elfego Baca Shoot, an annual rite of masochistic competition masquerading as golf. Every summer, as part of the Socorro Open in Socorro, N.M., golfers tee off for a one-hole shoot. But that solitary hole comes with a major catch: It’s more than three miles from the tee box, which is 2,550 feet up a mountain and 7,243 feet above sea level. And instead of mundane hazards like lakes or wicked rough, there are possibly deadly threats like rattlesnakes and mountain lions.“Right before the event, you question your sanity,” says Mike Stanley, associate director of New Mexico Tech’s Applied Research and Technology Division. “You remember how bad it was the year before and think, ‘Why am I doing this again?’ When you reach the hole, you think it’s over. Unfortunately, you’re sore for three days afterwards.”

The Elfego Baca Shoot, Saturday, June 11, 2011, runs concurrently with the annual Socorro Open. Information: www.socorroopen.com/pages/elfegoshootout.html
Golfers who plunk down the $100 entry fee to take on the Elfego challenge need as much pluck as luck to win the event, which is open to any golf enthusiast over 18. They and their teams (an official scorekeeper and three ball spotters each) are driven up the stomach-­churning, rough road to the top of Socorro Peak near New Mexico Tech, about 75 miles south of Albuquerque. Home to elk, mountain lions, coyotes, more than a dozen cactus varieties, copious gnats and — let’s not forget — rattlesnakes, the mountain is challenging. Adding to the frustration, a ball can strike a rock and ricochet back up the hill. The good news is this desert course has no water hazards. The bad news is that it is one colossal sand trap.

Each player gets 10 balls and must finish with at least one (each lost ball costs a stroke) for what is arguably golf’s longest and toughest hole. Even with a 20-foot flagpole, the hole — a 50-foot-diameter painted circle — is invisible from the tee. The hole — 2,550 steep feet down — only comes into view partway down the mountain.

To play the hole averages four hours. The temperature may be 80 degrees for an 8 a.m. tee time, but it could be well into the 100s by the time the first golfer reaches the hole. Because of the unforgiving terrain, players are allowed to tee up for each stroke and without penalty can move the ball laterally or backward — as when it plops into an ocotillo cactus or is wedged among immovable rocks.

A pleasant stroll down a manicured fairway it’s not, and all for a first-place purse of $750.