The We-Ko-Pa Golf Club has two terrific courses and this review will address the older one, the Cholla Course.
How this for a quick jump out of the box? Sports Illustrated named the Scott Miller-designed Cholla Course at the We-Ko-Pa Golf Club one of the “Top 10 New Golf Courses in the World” just two days after it opened. Often such lofty ratings are difficult to live up to. Well, the Cholla Course is pretty darn good and actually I consider it still among the best desert golf courses you can play in Arizona.
Owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, the Cholla Course opened in 2001. It plays in an unforced way across desert washes and atop ridges that command expansive views of the Verde and Salt River Valleys, and the Red Mountains and Superstition Mountains. It is this expansiveness together with Scott Miller’s routing that imbues each hole with a separate naturalness that captivates me. Green sites are tucked into desert arroyos and hillsides that create a naturalness to the challenge. Here you will find no out-of-bounds stakes and nary a house in sight – a welcome change from the housing-oriented layouts that populate the Phoenix-Scottsdale area.
Speaking of challenge, Miller provided plenty of it on a layout measuring more than 7,200 from the tips. Besides the gorgeous vistas, gnarly cactus and bunkers adjoin the usual landing areas and even a few middle-of-the-fairway obstacles. There are several beastly holes such as the 469-yard fourth, the virtually unreachable par-five 8th, and the 472-yard sixteenth, but there are birdie holes as well. All along there is a natural simplicity to the design that tempts you to take chances, but a more conservative approach is usually recommended if you want to win your match at Cholla.
Fagan Grade: B+ The Cholla Course is usually ranked among the top two or three best public courses in Arizona and a Top 100 Public contender nationwide. I agree and highly recommend the layout. With its younger sister course, Saguaro, it combines for a most impressive offering – my favorite combo in the area.