The We-Ko-Pa Golf Club lies to the north east of Scottsdale on a site developed by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and it offers daily fee golfers the use of two spectacular 18-hole layouts, the Cholla (opened in 2002) and the Saguaro (which debuted in 2006).
Situated on property totally untouched by residential or commercial buildings, the courses here offer a fantastic desert golf experience in the shadow of Red Mountain, Four Peaks and Superstitions.
As co-designer Ben Crenshaw said when talking about Saguaro: “this piece of land has some very interesting natural movement to it. I think this golf course will be pretty unique for the desert. People will be induced to play different shots and find solutions to new challenges when playing this course.”
Interestingly, the three par fives on the scorecard at holes 4, 8 and 14 are rated stroke index 1, 3 and 2 respectively so length really does matter in this instance in terms of scoring difficulty. The last of the four par threes is also a tough hole when played from a back tee that measures all of 255 yards to the green.
In comment to a previous review, for a true golfer that appreciates what the land has to offer, the Saguaro Course at WeKoPa is a true gem. This is Arizona remember and this is a PUBLIC course. Conditions during most of the year are well above average. If you look at the courses that rank in the top 10 in Arizona, this is the ONLY public course. Greens are true and run at average around 10-11. The layout is spectacular for a C&C design. Tee boxes accommodate all skill sets. The views, without any houses on the course and 4 Peaks from the San Francisco range is a gorgeous backdrop. I play here often enough to be able to offer a solid opinion, not a onesy golfer who states he would never pay to play here again. Come to WeKoPa, play this course and the sister course, Chollo. You will not be disappointed.
I enjoyed Saguaro, however, I am surprised that others have rated it so highly. It was extraordinarily windy when we played and the GHIN subtracted from our scores as the conditions were so nefarious.
The first hole is a long par four, other than a generous landing area, not welcoming. The 2nd is a good birdie oppty, a short par four. Favor the right side off the tee. The 3rd is a dogleg left with a fairway bunker on the outside elbow and the green has bunkers front right and left. The first par five is the number one handicap hole, I am not really sure why, other than just being long. There is a cross bunker to contend with off the tee. Couple of fairway bunkers left and then greenside, but…The first par three is mid-length with two front bunkers. The 6th is a tough long two shotter, favor the right off the tee. The 8th is a par five that is over 100 yards shorter than the 4th, but I think it was tougher. Drive over a wah and then uphill. Some fairway bunkers and cross bunkers and then deep greenside bunkers. Of course, going bunker to bunker increases the level of difficulty. The 9th is the shortest hole and a bit devilish, especially when the pin is tucked right behind a deep greenside bunker and the wind is blowing 20+.(and you skull your tee shot)
The back starts with a kick, a driveable par four. From my perspective this is the best hole. You guessed it, birdie. The 11th is a ho-hum par three. However, 12 and 13 are grab you by the throat (or elsewhere) long par fours. The 14th is the number two handicap. It is a split fairway par five and is reachable from the right side, but you certainly will earn it. The 15th is the longest par three at 255 yards, thank goodness it was downhill, but into the wind with my driver I was still woefully short. The 16th is a good birdie oppty, favor the left off the tee as right is death or at least desert. As we were heading into a wind vacuum the adjectives we used to describe 17 and 18 are not appropriate here. For illustrative purposes, 18 is a par four over 500 yards. How does a well struck drive, a good five wood and an excellent 8 iron sound to get on in 3?
Of the 15 courses we played on this trip I had it rated 7th. Good not great, I will not pay to play again.
As I mentioned in my separate review of the sister Cholla course -- the absence of housing clearly adds to the experience when playing. The usual circumstances for much of the golf found in the Phoenix / Scottsdale area is for housing to play too dominant role in most routings.
The Saguaro course opened a few years after Cholla and the layout is a fine mixture of holes but the core detailing one finds at other Coore / Crenshaw courses is just not as comprehensive here.
The talented duo has provided ample fairways on many of the holes but the advantage gained from being on one side of the fairway versus the other is not as well defined or needed for players to attain scoring success.
The sum total of the putting surfaces is also good but the kind of detailing one finds on another C&C public layout like Bandon Trails is not as prevalent at Saguaro.
The opening hole is a strong one -- going downhill the long par-4 requires one's complete attention to get things started in a positive manner. You then arrive at the short par-4 2nd and typically such holes at other C&C layouts are engaging and quite special. The 2nd is fairly ho-hum and lacks any real pizzazz.
The outward half really only gets going at the par-4 6th which is a challenging two-shot hole. The final three holes on the front are a quality mixture with a short par-4 at the 7th, a birdie opportunity at the par-5 8th and a vexing uphill short par-3 at the 9th.
The inward half retreats slightly with the short downhill par-4 10th and the fairly formulaic par-3 11th.
Once you reach the 12th hole the intensity meter and design attributes do ramp up considerably.
Two good par-4s are followed with the superb split fairway 14th. The long par-3 15th plays as a quality counterpoint although the hole plays a bit shorter than the listed 255 yards because of the downhill approach.
The final three holes comprise par-4 holes and the sum total is a mixed bag. The 16th moves to the right and has an uphill approach to an elevated green. It's fine but nothing that lights a fire. The penultimate par-4 17th does move the emotions as you must find the left turning fairway while being ever mindful that the longer the shot from the tee the narrower the fairway becomes.
The closing hole is often touted and when played into the prevailing southwest wind can be a lengthy chore for most golfers. The 500+ yard par-4 hole does turn left and provides a bit of a turbo boost for golfers successfully able to gain the top of the rise before heading downhill. Some have compared the hole to another C&C design at Sand Hills but frankly the only commonality is that both holes turn left and then go uphill with the approach. The Nebraska hole is without question the better of the two -- both strategically and aesthetically.
Saguaro has its moments but there are also clear lulls. Given the high standard of design that is the hallmark of C&C creations the sum total here is a bit underwhelming. That's not to say the course is not worth playing. Where others have opined that Saguaro is superior to Cholla - my viewpoint is that both courses offer c;lear distinctions yet are at the same level of interest.
C&C have done a number of gold medal designs. Saguaro, while good, is not at the same level of altitude as those others.
M. James Ward
Great Course, A must play if you PHX to golf. If you are driving from north, It is on way from south from Holbrook. A big draw is no houses on courses. Beautiful driving range, great cart staff.
A very scenic course, Great conditions-green speed was hard to figure out.
A really solid desert course and one of the very best in the Scottsdale area. Clubhouse was top notch with excellent food but an expensive pro shop. The course itself afforded fabulous views of the nearby hills and was well conditioned with fairways very lush and nice fast running greens. To be honest no holes really stand out but the overall vibe was of great quality and definitely a cut above other public access courses in the valley, of those we played anyway. Very enjoyable beers on the balcony watching the setting sun.
Wow I really enjoyed this course. I played both courses at We-ko-pa and I thought the Saguaro to be both the stronger of the two courses and much more fun to play. The course is in magnificent condition and has a wonderful combination of short and long par 4's, par 3's of varying lengths and challenge, and par 5's that range from the 600 yard plus 4th hole to the shorter 498 yard 8th protected by a steeply sloped green and well placed bunkers.
The start was interesting beginning with a long par 4 that plays downhill and then a nice short par4 at the second. Three was a pretty mundane dog leg left par 4 but things really started taking off around the par 4 6th. The course began flowing into some really nice rolling terrain that the designers used to great advantage to create interesting and challenging holes. The last three holes encapsulated everything I loved about the course. 16 was an uphill dogleg par 4 that plays around 300 yards. Options galore are available from the tee depending on the way the player wants to attack the hole. 17 is a shorter par 4. A well placed drive down the right side opens up the approach to the large sloped green. 18 is a massive par 4 that appears to me to resemble 18 at Shinnecock.
This was a fun challenging course that I would readily return to play. Probably the only downside is that the greens were not as challenging as some of the other Coore/Crenshaw courses I've played. On the good side even though the holes wound through some significant elevation changes you could walk this course without any problems. This is a beautiful, natural layout that I would seek out and play any time I was in the Phoenix area.
It was a demanding and long day this one. Very early in the moring I was the first one to tee off on my own at Eagle Mountain GC which I found a very good and friendly option, very close to the WeKoPa GC. After breakfast I arrived to this Club and was able to give a full look to the Cholla Course which I didn´t play but found maybe tougher from the tee than Saguaro and some kind friendlier with the approach shots.
But all in one two similar experiences which of course are ones worth if travelling here.
Played with a very friendly local guy and in the middle of the round we joined 2 more golfers to make it a more fun afternoon.
I had my butt kicked in the front 9 without hitting bad shots, it just happened that I made too many silly mistakes and the course just doesn't forgive one single error. The front 9 are some kind of easier, with much more level changes and some holes really to remember like very long par 3 15th and short 15th up the hill.
18th was one of the best holes, some kind of 480yds downhill with a nice forced carry for the tee shot. I ended the round with no birdies, putting not that bad but it just happened I was not good enough for them.
On the front 9 there are someshort good holes like par 4 7th and short par 3 9th with very small greens.
Despite being in summer, course was in decent shape and I liked it, but again need my pictures to really remember some of the holes.
It is one of those you have to play if coming here, but you will not find it easy to remember many details if not using your camera.
Make sure your driver is working on this course and Coore and Crenshaw offer forced carries on many a hole. The course has stunning visuals and as it resides on a Indian reservation, has access to order to keep it lush and in top shape.
The course doesn't try to disguise its danger, Coore and Crenshaw lay it all out there in front of you but also offer several ways of playing the hole that bears repeated visits.
The desert scrub is thinned in places so you can recover from mishits and after finishing up on 18, you will feel like going out and playing another 18, a true testament to one of the best courses in Arizona.