Wednesday, June 22, 2016

We-Ko-Pa Saguaro

"Sting" is putting it mildly Ben. Set in the rolling Fountain Hills just outside of Scottsdale, We Ko Pa's Saguaro course has a LOT of bite to it and will test any amateur golfer.

Almost every hole necessitates a carry over desert scrub brush and/or gullies. The only way to truly attack this course is to drive it long and straight, otherwise you will be picking cactus needles out of your ball all day.

Since the course is set amongst rolling hills, you are often hitting to the tops of hills and if not, you are looking at blind second and third shots.

Unlike its sister course "Cholla", the hole and all of its danger is clearly in front of you. It is one of the ultimate target/execution desert courses you could play in Arizona. There are zero houses surrounding the course (a rarity from what I learned from my Arizona playing companions) and you really are out in the middle of nowhere playing golf.

Just like Talking Stick, my favorite Coore Crenshaw hole at Saguaro was the split fairway par 5, always an interesting challenge especially in a harsh desert landscape.

You will notice the course is very green which is a function of the course being on Indian land and thus having different water rights than other local courses. If you playing golf during the Summer in Arizona, definitely look at places like We Ko Pa who will have top notch conditioning. 

The grass on the greens was kept long to keep it from dying in 115 degree heat but the greens were very consistent so once you nailed the pace you could do pretty well on the greens.

My driver really wasn't working on the day I played the course so it was a pretty frustrating experience playing a course that requires long and straight drives but once I got to 150 yards and in, I could score pretty well. It all comes down to the boom stick here but my incompetence aside, I could see why Saguaro is constantly ranked in the top 5 golf courses in Arizona (considering the amount of courses in Arizona, this is no small feat). 

The staff were all super friendly and the routing kept things interesting throughout. This course is truly a class above in Arizona.

For more info on We Ko Pa, check it out here:

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Talking Stick North

When you think desert you think sand. One of the biggest things about playing Talking Stick North is trying to avoid the sand at all costs, which isn't easy as the duo has sculpted the course so you find your way into bunkers very easily. 

Bunkers, bunkers everywhere and where is my rake? (its a famous poem for sure).

Arizona has a problem; it has a ton of amazing golf courses but very few of them are not in housing developments. So when you can play a course that just sits in the desert and is surrounded by the mountain beauty of Arizona it is a true joy and C+C make a really nice desert course that sits in this landscape and let's you enjoy nature.

This design philosophy is no more apparent than on the Roadrunner hole

which actually has a roadrunner hanging out on it.

I got such a kick out of this and if you play TSN definitely be on the lookout for all manner of wildlife as prairie dogs, birds of all feathers and even a random coyote are present for your round.

The common complaint about Talking Stick is that it is very flat and there isn't a lot of variety in the holes but for the North course I will have to disagree. While there are similar design features on multiple holes (the most notable are forced carries across the desert scrub on tee shots):

those design features are actually interesting and add variety to a flatish terrain. Plus, I would argue that not every course has to have rolling hills and valleys to keep a golfer interested. I quite liked TSN and my favorite definitely has a lot of character to it:

I am a huge fan of split fairways, probably due to growing up and watching the split 8th hole at Riviera. Here at TSN it is a fantastic hole with a real risk/reward depending on which way you play it.

I gambled, went left and barely cleared it (maybe with a generous desert hop or two). The split continues almost all the way up to the green and makes for a really fun hole.

The green conditions were good and as I played this course on the leading edge of Summer, the grass was longer to stave off death so the putts rolled slower but true.

One of my other favorite things about TSN was the pace of play. I was allowed to go out as a single and I got around the course in about 2.5 hours. Even 3somes/ 4somes I saw got around in under 4 which is great. The staff is really friendly as well and I had an enjoyable time at Talking Stick.

Overall I say the course is well worth your time if you are in the Scottsdale area and I look forward to my next visit!

For more info on Talking Stick check it out here:

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Talking Stick South

Arizona is a weirdly beautiful state. Most of it looks like it stepped out of John Ford Western with its miles of scrub brush and towering rock formations. People have harnessed the power of the rivers to turn this desert into a place of grass and trees and none of this is more evident than playing Talking Stick South.

Unlike many of its Arizona brethren,  TSS feels much more like an Eastern Course than a desert one.

The routing is on rather flat terrain which leads to complaints of a lack of variety amongst some of the Arizona golf community but even with a straightforward layout Coore and Crenshaw add in some signature touches like their bunker sculpting:

This course does lay it all out there in front of you that is for sure but Coore and Crenshaw try to take par away from you at every turn by subtle design work which shows up the most around greens. Many of the courses I have played recently have placed their pins in tight positions so if you miss on the short side of the green you are in trouble. Well at TSS, many of the holes increase the penalty for missing the green on the wrong side with severe slopes which make it close to impossible to knock the ball close to the hole:

The real jaw dropping feature of the course is water! Water plays into many of the holes on the back 9 of the course and having played several Arizona courses, this is a rare sight indeed:

Overall I liked TSS and appreciated C+C's attempts to gin up rather uninspiring terrain to give every golfer a test. It is a little weird to be playing a parkland-like course in the middle of Arizona and the pace of play lags a bit but TSS can give you great tee shots and beguiling approaches to the green to keep you interested.

Talking Stick also has a North course designed by the duo, which will be reviewed as well on this site, and is a true desert course that more embraces the surrounding terrain but if you get a chance, play 36 just for the mind trip of playing an Eastern course in the desert.

For more info on Talking Stick South, check it out here: