Fort McDowell, Arizona (2001, Scott Miller)
We-Ko-Pa seems to be the quintessential Scottsdale golf club, but it’s not in Scottsdale. Ribbons of green wind through unspoiled desert terrain that will never see residential or commercial development. It’s peaceful and serene, with awesome views of surrounding mountains.
We-Ko-Pa’s two courses sit on land owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, located just east of Scottsdale and Fountain Hills. Cholla is the original course (2001). The Radisson Fort McDowell Resort also includes the Saguaro Course, a 246-room hotel and nearby casino.
Two out of five sets of tees are rated for women, at yardages of 6,114 and 5,289. It’s a long course and not made for walking, but beautifully conditioned. Wide-open fairways for the most part, except for the occasional tree blocking the forward tee, notably in front of No. 2 and No. 17.
Accuracy wins out, and women can score well by keeping the ball in the fairway. Real trouble lurks in the surrounding desert. Hence the “desert rule”: For shots hit into the desert, the player may drop a ball within two club lengths of the point where the ball went in, under penalty of one stroke.
Mild weather contributes to an enjoyable round in this beautiful setting, especially from October to mid-May. Green fees drop as temperatures rise. Native American artifacts decorate the clubhouse and Grill, which opens onto a large covered patio with comfy seating and a great view. Fully one-half of the Grill menu is appetizers, salads and “lighter fare.”
High season green fees (Jan. 14-Apr 1) are $175 for 8-90 days in advance, and $195 for 0-7 days, comparable to, and even slightly less than, other resort courses in the area. Value diminishes when cart-path-only is enforced, usually in November and December. (There are few yardage markers near cart paths.)
We-Ko-Pa earns high marks for aesthetics, for clubhouse ambiance (especially the two female bartenders), for pro shop merchandising and helpful female sales clerk. An average player may struggle, but will probably insist on returning to give Cholla another try. We’d call it: Fab for Women.
This review first appeared in the February 2011 edition of GottaGoGolf Magazine.