Last time, we looked at some major Scottsdale and Tucson resorts for great golf getaways. Now lets look at some daily-fee courses with intelligent designs that raise the bar not only in the state, but the entire country.
The great story of We-ko-pa Golf Club, (http://www.wekopa.com), in the Fort McDowell region of Scottsdale is beginning to spread, and We-ko-pa is more than ready for its close-up. We-ko-pa (Yavapai for 'Four Peaks,' the name of a nearby mountain range) is not just another pretty resort in the desert in the desert. At the Cholla Course Scott Miller has produced his most daring and interesting work to date. At the Saguaro Course, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore built a stellar rejoinder to their other Scottsdale minimalist masterpiece at Talking Stick (North Course). In both cases, the Yavapai Indian Nation had the courage to think out of the box and embrace one of the wisest trends in the golf industry: spend less money, and move less earth to get a better golf course.
Miller used diagonally placed dry washes as the bulk of the Cholla course's hazards. On many holes there are hazards in the direct line of flight between the tee box and the green: sometimes a bunker, sometimes a dry wash, other times a stately specimen Saguaro cactus. Fairways can be as wide as 80 yards, to accommodate ways around these center-line hazards, offering multiple angles of play both to the left or right. You could also try to pound one over the hazard or lay up short. Miller also uses optical illusions, frequently placing bunkers thirty yards short of the green, while making them greenside from the fairway.
For an encore, the Yavapai hired Crenshaw and Coore, who had already scored significant successes in the desert with Talking Stick North, to build the second course and make the entire facility one of the connoisseurs choices in a hyper-competitive market flush with great golf.
Although the course is minimalist, it preserves and showcases the sites stunning natural features. It doesnt bulldoze them into oblivion, said Scottsdales Brian Roswig. Coore and Crenshaw are also masters of strategic bunkering, and their use of diagonal hazards creates cunning holes where you really have to play smart golf. It rivals The Boulders, I think.
If youre going to see one Coore and Crenshaw in the Valley, you might as well see two and play Talking Sticks North Course. Once again, the designers moved almost no earth in routing the golf course. By recreating the firm, fast conditions of the U.K., there is a lot of bump and run, one bounce and on iron play, and feeding the ball to hole locations. The course is so flat and open, that it plays havoc with depth perception.
Most greens are open in front to promote the bump and run. As its public golf, we wanted some spots that are forgiving for the public player, said architect Bill Coore. It was a totally flat property and Ben and I wanted to have the course reflect that in its contouring. In order to make it blend with its surroundings, we made wide holes. There is a lot of latitude, but we still were able to present interesting playing concepts, he explained. Take one of my favorites, the short par-4 12th, they all could drive the green or hit it out of bounds or can make birdie by playing safe.
Both We-ko-pas and Talking Sticks broad general appeal and reasonable price show exactly how good a course minimalism can produce. Less is more.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.