The new Golfweek Best in State rankings are in for 2021 and We-Ko-Pa is once again at the top of the list. The Saguaro course designed by world-class architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw retained its No. 1 position once again making it the best public golf course in the state for 14 of the last 15 years. Cholla remains firm at No. 7, making We-Ko-Pa the highest ranked 36-hole facility in the state.
In order to get an inside look into what the rankings mean to different people affiliated with We-Ko-Pa Golf Club – Arizona’s Ultimate Golf Experience – we sat down with two We-Ko-Pa officials and a We-Ko-Pass holder to host the first ever We-Ko-Pa Rankings Roundtable.
Ryan Kreizenbeck (Ryan)
Director of Maintenance at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
Eric Dettman (Eric)
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club’s Head Golf Professional
Jamie Rice (Jamie)
We-Ko-Pass holder for the last seven years
What do you think is the main reason for We-Ko-Pa’s continued rankings success?
“Most people would expect me to say the condition of the golf courses, but obviously, it’s more than just superior turf conditioning. That certainly plays a huge part in the rankings. But not all of it.”
“I would say it’s a commitment to the little things. It’s easy to fall into a trap and only focus on big things like budgets or courting big groups. But if you do the little things right, the big things take care of themselves.”
“One thing? Tough call. I would say it’s the freedom of being out there in the natural environment. It’s a calming experience. Too often, even on great golf courses, you feel the houses and buildings pull you back into the rat race. Golf is an escape from the world, and you really feel that in your bones at We-Ko-Pa.”
Do you think travelers and local players take the rankings into account when they are searching for places to play in Scottsdale?
“I think it might help some people for sure – especially if this is their first time in the Phoenix area. I’ve been in the game so long and in the Valley for so long, I know from experience where the best tracks are. If you’re from out of town or new to the game, I bet that information helps them make a decision.”
“Oh, without a doubt. There are so many great golf properties here it’s hard to choose from 2,000 miles away. When you see that No. 1, and No. 7 at the same place, it makes it a lot easier.”
“I sure hope so. If not, it should. I know I did when I was first scouting out places to play when I moved here from Minnesota.”
How does it make you feel knowing you’re going to work – or play – on Arizona’s No. 1 golf course and two courses in the Top-10?
“Proud for sure. Proud of my guys. Proud of the effort they put into this place, but we’re never done. That’s just what it is. There’s always something to learn – something to improve.”
“Of course we’re thrilled to have that honor, but we’re more excited about the experience we can offer our guests and the value they receive for their hard-earned money. It’s more than just the on-course experience to us. It’s about the whole package. The entire visit has tremendous value and we’re proud of that.”
“Are you kidding me? I brag about it all the time! I say to my friends ‘you played where? You should have come to We-Ko-Pa. it’s literally the best.’”
What kind of effort is required to maintain this position for a decade and a half?
“I won’t say the rankings don’t matter, but that’s not what gets us out of bed at 3 AM. We wouldn’t change our work ethic if no one wrote about it. We appreciate the recognition, but we’re ultimately focused on making We-Ko-Pa better today than it was yesterday.”
“The rankings, especially the No. 1 position, is a result of a concerted effort to ensure we’re always providing value in every aspect of the experience. It’s not something we chase, and the rankings don’t change how we do things. It’s just a positive result of a commitment to providing tremendous value. The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation provides us with phenomenal support and the flexibility to react to trends – both long-term and short-term. We’re extremely thankful for their assistance and encouragement.”
“I imagine it takes a ton of work. As a business owner for 25 years, I knew I had to invest in the right people and make sure there were clear expectations from our employees. And of course you want to always celebrate the success of your staff. When I walk around We-Ko-Pa, I see a lot of the same things that made my business in Minnesota a success.”
How much does course design and/or designer and layout affect the rankings?
“I imagine design, layout and overall playability are huge factors in the rankings. Both courses have well-known designers, and they both have an incredible mix of holes – elevation changes, the ability to play different shots. I’m confident the routing and overall design is one of the chief factors of We-Ko-Pa’s rankings success.”
“A lot. A whole helluva lot. Coore and Crenshaw who designed Saguaro are just about as desirable as any golf course architects in the world right now so that helps. And I would say Cholla is one of Scott Miller’s best designs in the world. Most properties with two or more golf courses have very similar tracks. At We-Ko-Pa, our two tracks are completely different and provide really different golf experiences. That’s unique for sure.”
“Even my friends who aren’t on social media and don’t read the golf blogs like I do know about Coore/Crenshaw design. Even if the name of the golf course doesn’t ring a bell with them, I tell them about the designer and they can’t wait to play. I’m sure it makes a huge difference in the rankings.”
One of Golfweek’s ranking criteria is “the walk in the park test.” How do you think We-Ko-Pa stacks up in that regard?
“I know it’s my favorite place to ‘hike’ and I get to do it every single day. There aren’t a lot of golf properties in Arizona that are truly out in nature like We-Ko-Pa. It’s just a different experience.”
“If you’re talking about a ‘walk in the park’ test, you have to mention you can actually walk the Saguaro course. It was built for it, and something fairly unique to golf in the desert. I think the ‘traditional’ layout helps add to that part of the criteria for sure.”
“When I’m out playing at We-Ko-Pa, I’m not thinking about anything else. I could try and try to think about my business or my upcoming meetings or doctor’s appointments or whatever, but I can’t. I am fully immersed in the experience. Like nothing else in the world as far as I’m concerned.”