We-Ko-Pa’s two courses, Cholla and Saguaro, have much in common – both are meticulously maintained, both have received high praise from the golf media and consumers alike and both offer a tranquil golf experience free of houses and roads, thus preserving the unobstructed mountain views of the Sonoran Desert. That is where the similarities end. The Cholla course is recognized as the reference course for the quintessential target style desert golf course. Whereas, the Saguaro course was designed as a more traditional style golf course where greens are close to tees, ideal for walking, and the course follows the natural movement of the land.
The single most important characteristic of the best golf courses from around the world is that they are just as pleasurable for the higher handicap golfer to play as they are for the championship player. The goal at We-Ko-Pa from the very beginning was to create golf holes that are beautiful and thrilling to play! Which is always the result of having desirable terrain and exceptionally talented architects… and We-Ko-Pa is fortunate to have both. We believe variety is everything in a memorable golf experience and We-Ko-Pa is filled with strong and demanding par fours, short and incredibly intriguing par threes, multi-tiered putting surfaces and elevated tee boxes along with split-fairways. All of which creates wonderful drama within our natural desert environment.
The architects of each course were handed approximately 450 acres of undisturbed and serene desert and given complete freedom to create their preferred routing and yardage distances with one single request: “strive to achieve everlasting beauty and create a sporting intrigue!” And, this is the foundation of the “magic” that makes We-Ko-Pa such an indelible golf experience. Below you will find more detailed descriptions of each course that provide the architects perspective into the elements that make We-Ko-Pa’s two courses distinctly different.
The Cholla course was designed and built in 2000 and 2001 by noted golf course architect Scott Miller who tutored for ten years as a design associate with the Jack Nicklaus Design firm before starting his own design firm in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1988.
It was Scott who selected a tract of land that is dominated by a series of natural desert washes that originate in the nearby McDowell Mountains. And it is within these washes that Scott chose to route the majority of his golf holes either “up or down” these native waterways and displayed an amazing imagination in moving some 500,000 + cubic yards of material to create the wonderful course we enjoy today.
It is a testimonial to Scott that any and all of the landforms his team built have been so expertly created that a stranger playing the course today is unable to distinguish them from nature itself. And it is within the unique environment of these lower elevations that the player is able to view and truly experience the many and varied forms of native desert plant life such as the cacti, creosote, brittle bush and the Mesquite and Palo Verde trees. While the Cholla course can play to a demanding championship length of 7240 yards, the other four sets of available tee boxes and the 84 acres of manicured turf grass, allow for a multiple of options if a player so chooses to avoid the “heroic path” that constantly tempts each player.
The immense popularity and success of the Cholla course was the “father of the idea” to create yet another unique golf experience at We-Ko-Pa. The internationally renowned design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw was engaged to create the Saguaro course in 2005 and 2006 with the intention of providing a completely different look and feel than the Cholla course.
Their respect and enthusiasm of the natural beauty of our desert was evidenced by the fact they continuously walked the land of the new golf site for two months in an effort to locate the most desirable green sites before deciding upon their routing plan. They ultimately decided upon the present day routing plan because it afforded them a front nine loop moving clockwise and a back nine that played in a counter-clockwise motion moving in and out of the hundreds of large Saguaro cacti that dominate this site. This routing also allowed for a sufficient blend of short and long par four holes along with an interesting collection of four par three holes running in all four directions of the compass playing to a wide array of distances. And finally, this routing plan reveals the rather important fact the prevailing southwesterly wind direction blows across or sideways to the majority of the holes all the while this course plays in a direction that is across the natural drainage of the site.
Saguaro is yet another excellent example of Coore and Crenshaw’s design philosophy that the “lay of the land” dictates their end result because they moved less than 25,000 cubic yards of material to create 68 acres of turf grass that plays to a championship yardage of less than 7,000 yards.
Upon arrival at We-Ko-Pa, the overwhelming largeness of this native desert golf site is evident to all. However, we are proud to boast two uniquely different layouts that are of such appropriate proportion, symmetry and uniformity, that the golf blends so well into the surrounding environment, it is impossible to determine where nature ends and the art of golf course architecture begins! We invite you to play both courses at We-Ko-Pa so you can experience these two very distinct layouts first hand.