Exploring the Magic of We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Golf Course

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Sonoran Desert landscape lies We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, a golfer’s paradise offering two distinct courses – We-Ko-Pa Saguaro and We-Ko-Pa Cholla.

Each course boasts its own unique character, challenges, and stunning views, making it a tough decision for golf enthusiasts to choose between the two.

In this comprehensive review, we’ll delve into the magic of We-Ko-Pa Saguaro golf course. We’ll also look at Saguaro’s sister course, Cholla. Plus, a roundup of opinions on both courses from reputable experts, along with personal anecdotes from my own experience visiting this stunning golf club.

What is We-Ko-Pah Golf Club?

We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, set against the vast, untouched landscape of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Scottsdale, Arizona, stands as a beacon to golf enthusiasts seeking a pure, undiluted golfing experience.

This prestigious golf facility is a public course owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, inviting both locals and tourists alike to revel in its natural beauty and challenging gameplay.

Men’s Journal, a highly regarded publication known for its lifestyle content tailored to the modern, active man, recently bestowed upon We-Ko-Pa Golf Club the prestigious title of the best golf course in Arizona.

Comparing We-Ko-Pa Saguaro vs. Cholla Courses: A Closer Look

In the sections that follow, we will take a more detailed look at each of the two courses offered by We-Ko-Pa Golf Club – Saguaro and Cholla. By exploring their unique characteristics, challenges, and the breathtaking views they offer, we aim to provide a clearer picture of what makes each course distinct.

Whether you’re a seasoned golfer or a novice looking to experience the splendor of golf in the Sonoran Desert, understanding the nuances of We-Ko-Pa Saguaro and Cholla will help you decide which course calls to you.

The Magic of the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course

The We-Ko-Pa Saguaro course, designed by the renowned team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, epitomizes the essence of traditional desert golf.

With its wide fairways, strategic bunkering, and subtle undulations, choosing to play Saguaro will give players a test of skill and strategy amidst the rugged beauty of the desert landscape.

One of the defining features of the Saguaro course is its seamless integration with the natural terrain, where players are treated to panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and desert flora, including the iconic Saguaro cactus after which the course is named. Truly, the quiet surroundings create a magical vibe.

A trio of Saguaro cacti at We-Ko-Pa Saguaro golf course with mountains visible in the distance

We-Ko-Pa Sagauro’s Sister: The Cholla Course

In contrast, the We Ko Pa Cholla course, crafted by esteemed golf architect Scott Miller, presents a more rugged and challenging layout, characterized by tighter fairways, dramatic elevation changes, and strategically placed water hazards.

The Cholla course rewards precision and accuracy, demanding players to navigate through narrow corridors lined with mesquite and Palo Verde trees.

Despite its formidable reputation, the Cholla course offers golfers an unparalleled golfing experience amidst the raw beauty of the desert landscape, with vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.

What do the Experts Say About We-Ko-Pa Saguaro and Cholla Courses?

To provide insight into the nuances of each course, we sourced what reputable golf experts have said about We-Ko-Pa:

  • According to Golf Digest, “The Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa offers a classic desert golf experience, with wide fairways and strategic bunkering that allows players of all skill levels to enjoy the game. On the other hand, the Cholla course presents a more challenging layout, with tighter fairways and elevation changes that will test even the most seasoned golfer’s skills.”
  • Renowned golf course architect Bill Coore shared his thoughts, stating, “The Saguaro course was designed to celebrate the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert, with wide fairways that encourage players to take in the breathtaking scenery. In contrast, the Cholla course offers a more demanding test of golf, with narrow fairways and challenging greens that require precision and finesse.”
  • Golf Magazine adds to the conversation, noting, “The Saguaro course is celebrated for its player-friendly design, offering wide fairways and minimal forced carries, making it accessible for golfers of varying abilities. Meanwhile, the Cholla course stands as a testament to the traditional desert golf challenge, with its tight fairways, strategic bunkering, and the punishing desert landscape waiting to claim errant shots. Both courses, in their essence, capture the thrilling complexity of desert golf.”

My Experience at We-Ko-Pa Saguaro

Having had the privilege of visiting We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, I can attest to the unique charms and challenges that each course presents.

On a recent round at the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro course, I found myself mesmerized by the tranquility of the desert landscape, with towering Saguaro cacti dotting the horizon as I made my way around the course. In fact, I had to work to refrain from my urge to take photos at every turn and keep my focus on the game. The views are really that incredible.

The wide fairways and forgiving landing areas provided a welcome respite from the challenges of the Cholla course, allowing me to relax and enjoy the game without a ton of stress.

On another occasion, I visited the Cholla course with my husband and another couple, all eager to test out golf skills on its notoriously challenging layout. From the moment I stepped onto the first tee, I knew this would be a true test of golf aptitude, with narrow fairways and strategically placed hazards demanding precision and accuracy on every shot.

Nobody in our group played their best golf that day, but despite the challenges, the thrill of conquering the Cholla course was unmatched, and you leave with a sense of accomplishment and a newfound appreciation for the artistry of golf course design.

Is We-Ko-Pa Saguaro an Award Winning Course?

Indeed, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club is recognized for its award-winning courses, epitomizing the pinnacle of golfing excellence. Its accolades are a testament to the meticulous design and the captivating beauty of the Sonoran Desert setting. Some recent awards bestowed upon the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro and Cholla courses are:

  • Golfweek’s Best 2021: Both the Saguaro and Cholla courses were ranked among the Top 100 public golf courses in the United States.
  • Golf Digest’s America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses 2022: The Saguaro course made the list, emphasizing its status as a must-play for golf enthusiasts.
  • Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2020/2021: Cholla was acclaimed for its challenging yet enjoyable layout, making this coveted list.
  • Arizona Golf Association’s Course of the Year 2021: The Saguaro course received this distinguished honor, recognizing its superior quality and commitment to excellence in golf.
  • Golf Advisor’s Golfers’ Choice 2022: Both courses were highlighted for providing outstanding golf experiences as voted by the golfers themselves.

Both the Saguaro and Cholla courses have received high praise for their challenging yet fair layouts, seamlessly integrating the natural landscape with a world-class golfing experience.

These awards underscore We-Ko-Pa’s commitment to providing an unforgettable golf adventure to players of all levels, further cementing its status as a premier golfing destination.

Desert Wildlife at We Ko Pa Saguaro: Coyotes on the Course

A coyote walks across the driving range of We Ko Pa Saguaro golf course.

Aside from two amazing courses and stunning scenery, one of the most memorable aspects of playing at the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro course was encountering wildlife amidst the desert landscape.

My husband and I were warming up at the driving range before a round on Saguaro when a cool coyote strolled on past us with hardly a second glance. We were starstruck as it was early in the morning and pretty magical to see this desert creature stroll by.

Later, when we stopped at the turn, we saw even more coyotes. Shockingly, (or maybe not!), one of them grabbed a sandwich right off another player’s golf cart.

While coyotes are a common sight on the course, they are known to mainly congregate around the mid-course clubhouse, where food is prepared. Although these curious creatures may add an element of excitement to your round, they generally keep their distance from players and pose no threat. Keep your food secure, though, or you might lose your lunch along the way.

Which is better: We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Course or Cholla?

Choosing between We-Ko-Pa’s Saguaro and Cholla courses is like picking between two masterpieces, but if I were to lean towards one, Saguaro takes the edge for me.

One primary reason is its unique design that encourages walking, which is rare in desert golf, giving players a closer connection to the stunning landscape.

The Saguaro course, designed by the renowned golf course architect duo Coore & Crenshaw, also emphasizes strategic play with wider fairways and multiple angles of approach, appealing to both the strategic thinker and the aesthetic seeker.

Additionally, the seamless integration of the desert environment into the course layout make each round at Saguaro not just a game, but an experience.

While Cholla presents its own set of challenges and breathtaking views, Saguaro’s design philosophy, playability, and walkable option offer a pure golf experience that I find more compelling.

Travel Checklist for We-Ko-Pa Saguaro and Cholla Golf Courses

Planning travel to We-Ko-Pa Saguaro Golf Course begins with careful consideration of logistics and accommodations to ensure a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Start by booking accommodations in the vicinity of Fort McDowell, Arizona, where the golf course is located, allowing for easy access to the course and other nearby attractions. There is a casino resort on site, making it extra convenient for those who don’t want to rent a car.

We stayed in nearby Fountain Hills at the Adero Scottsdale Resort, which I highly recommend. There are plenty of other excellent options in nearby Scottsdale and other surrounding areas as well.

You will most likely need a rental car to navigate the greater Phoenix area, as it’s a sprawling expanse and not conducive to public transport. Research rental car options or transportation services to facilitate travel to and from the course, as well as exploration of the surrounding area.

Additionally, make tee time reservations well in advance to secure preferred playing times, especially during peak seasons. Pay attention to the prices, because they can increase significantly when other events are happening in the area, even if the events aren’t at We-Ko-Pa.

Finally, pack your golf essentials, including clubs, balls, shoes, and attire suitable for the desert climate. I highly recommend a golf travel bag to protect your golf clubs during a flight or longer drive.

Check out my Golf Travel Checklist for a list of additional items to pack. With careful planning and preparation, your trip to We-Ko-Pa Golf Club promises to be a memorable golfing adventure amidst the stunning Sonoran Desert landscape.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, the choice between the award winning golf courses at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club ultimately comes down to personal preference and playing style.

Whether you prefer the wide fairways and panoramic views of the We-Ko-Pa Saguaro course or the rugged challenges of the Cholla course, one thing is certain – both courses offer an unforgettable golfing experience amidst the unparalleled beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Just a short drive from the Scottsdale area, but a world away in terms of tranquility, you won’t regret booking a tee time and discovering the magic of We-Ko-Pa Golf Club for yourself.

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