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Monday, August 06, 2007


WeKoPa Saguaro

6912 Yds, Par 71, Slope 138, by Coore & Crenshaw

They Say: "Saguaro, which opened December 16, 2006, is a desert golf experience unlike any other. Integrating design elements not commonly found in the desert, the course is built for walking and has more in common with older, more traditional courses where greens are close to tees and the course follows the natural movement of the land.
To assist those choosing to walk, battery powered Speedcarts are available to transport your clubs.
Coore and Crenshaw are the design team behind such highly touted courses as Bandon Trails in Bandon, Oregon, Sand Hills in Mullen, Nebraska, Friar's Head in Baiting Hollow, New York and the Golf Club at Cuscowilla in Eatonton, Georgia.

"This piece of land has some very interesting natural movement to it," said Crenshaw of the new We-Ko-Pa course. "I think this golf course will be pretty unique for the desert. People will be induced to play different shots and find solutions to new challenges when playing this course.""

Definitely, another candidate for Best In the Valley of the Sun. Imagine the very linksy Talking Stick courses laid down on rollicking hills, instead: huge greens which sizes dwarfed the contours of the greens, making them very difficult for me to read; threatening saddlebacked fairways (turned narrow-ways to repel shots, rather than wide-ways to funnel shots back to the fairway); hugely uphill fairways terminating in elevated greens; blind 2nd shots on par 5s; long, long carries over the trash; huge link-style bunkers, tiny pot bunkers, fiendishly placed in the fairways and greenside.

I hit a great drive on #1, but when I got to my ball I realized it was still 240 yds away: my drive had ploughed right into the steep uphill landing area, wet with last nights rains, and just stopped. My 3wood came off a little thin and caught that bunker on the left, just past the arroyo. I managed to hit a half-wedge out the trap which lip loomed over my head to the back of an even more uphill green, for a 3putt double-bogey. I knew then I was in trouble. I need that roll . . . hardest opening hole I ever saw . . .
Thus hoodooed I fungoed the short par 4 #2 for another double bogey -- some of it might have been the pre-7am tee-time . . . dunno . . .

I tried to sling my drive around the corner on the manageable par 4 #3, but still wound up 155 yds away in the fringe on the left, with a wide-open look at the pin between those two bunkers . . . still went into the right bunker with a weak 7iron. Tap-in Bogey.

The par 3s on this course are largely breathers -- the #18, #17, #15, & #10 handicapped holes -- entirely necessary since even the short par 4s are usually steeply uphill, ridge-backed, and strategically bunkered. Not pushovers, necessarily, but the three par3s I hit in regulation I parred easily.

It'd be an interesting point of discussion as to why the par5 #8 is the #7 handicap hole when the par5 #4 hole is the #1. I hit my drive into the target circle they draw on the yardage book, up in that narrow neck of the fairway, but my 2nd shot, a beeline 4iron down the middle of the fairway bounced left into the fringe next to that little fairway bunker on the left . . .this was to be my first experience of several this day, standing awkwardly on the edge of a bunker trying to hit an approach to these uphill, blind-shot greens. In this case, I guarded too much against a jerk-left and flared it right, almost in the trap. Bogey.

At the turn we had to wait a while for the group in front of us . . . they must have dashed over to the main clubhouse for refreshments . . . there is a halfway house right there between #9 & #10, but it was not open . . . but let me say: that will be the most opulent snack shack in the history of golf when it is open . . . better than many course's club house: large clean restrooms, a bar with stools, chairs and tables, inside & out, a putting green, and architecture that matches the main clubhouse.

Possibly, tho', the delay that afforded me the time to examine this awe-inspiring edifice threw off my timing on #10 . . . I hit two balls into the desert, then chunked into that little pot bunker cut like a slice of pie out of the green. I was up in the pointy end of the bunker with no stance and hardly room to swing a cat, much less a golf club, I was grateful for the snowman.

That waste area on the right looks much larger and the fairway landing area looks much smaller from the tee than this illustration. The change in elevation is only 30 or 40 ft, but I found it very disorienting . . . this is one of the few holes I knew I could do better on, given a second chance. . .

#12 is a long par4 nearly 500 yds long -- at least it's relatively flat -- with an outsized green, the 2nd largest on the course. These are all large greens but this one makes 3putts seem the norm . . . I suppose someone that could reach the green in two would be grateful for the large green, but I hooked just off into the desert behind a tree, trying to muscle-up, then bollixed my 5iron safety shot trying to get too much out of it. Unable to see what I was hitting up I just laid up right of the the trap with a 5iron then tried to wedge up close enough for a 1putt bogey. No such luck.

#13 shows more typically what one sees from the tees on many of these holes: the hog-back fairway with rounded shoulders that pushes even good shots off into the desert. Not Fair. Once again I hit my mark, just left of the little pot bunker in the middle of the fairway . . .I had just over 200 yds left, but I hit my 3wood instead of my 5wood, a line-drive that skipped just past the greenside bunker on the front all the way over the green. I had a simple downhill chip back down to the pin, but my distance control on these huge greens was flummoxed. The greens were fast enough to be very careful with, with breaks made subtle by the size of the green. Bogey.

I don't know if that right side of the split fairway on #14 is usable or not . . . all 4 of us decided to go left instead . . . it didn't seem like that hard of a choice. . . I could be wrong, I guess, since my blind 2nd shot 4 iron wound up on the edge of a bunker again, leaving me with another awkward stance, and a blown par opportunity -- I don't call them birdie opportunities anymore, it just didn't seem that likely, when I kept hitting goods shots into trouble. A bogey, but only with grinding effort after a bad approach.

The par3 #15 is the only one I didn't par . . . my 3wood came up a little thin and short, so the fairway pushed it over into the heavy rough between that giant grap and the fairway . . . I had to stand in the trap and take a baseball swing . . . not a baseball-like swing, a totally flat and level swing . . . smothered it right into the trap, chunked it up onto the green, 3putted for a 6 -- THIS is the largest green on the course, and you can see it perfectly well from the elevated tee, but it still looks scary because of the way the whole hole slopes right to left . . . I was so sure I was just going to glide my 3wood onto the right edge and have a birdie chance -- er, uh, par . . .

The par4 #16 plays as the #14 handicap hole. "Finally! A breather!" I tho't, and confidently hit my 3wood up to the left side of the fairway, since there were no bunkers over there . . . but my 9iron caromed off that tier in the middle of the green and rolled off into the tall rough between the green and the bunker on the right. Another awkward lie, shortsiding the pin. Should still have been an easy par, but I bogeyed. WIth a shrug of defeat I turned to watch Mrs Cactus try for par. . . She'd hit 3 straight shots up the right side (even tho' she was aiming left, away from the traps) and wound up pin high, 6 ft away . . . sure enough she rolled it right in the heart. She was pleased, and I am awestruck by her rapid progress, but I don't think she realizes yet what an awesome par it was . . . some of those holes had beat her up pretty well (on #4 she had a 12, on #14 a 13), but she had a good 4 on the long par 3 and this par, back-to-back.

On #18 I finally hit a great drive . . . I'd hit good drives all day, but most with a tad too much hook, rather than a tame draw, and a lower-than-I-like tragectory, which meant the mud took all the steam out of 'em, but this one flew high and long, leaving me only 200 yds to the pin . . . Since my last 3wood had gone over the green I went to my 5wood, but this hole is more uphill and I came up short . . . just as well, since it didn't draw for me and stopped just short of the bunker on the right. Another lob 20 ft short of the pin, another tapin bogey.

A great course, long and unrelenting in its challenges, surrounded by awesome desert scenery, in lush condition (tho' there were a lot of bare spots on this summer day), with large fast greens that roll true.

Wound up with a 45-50=96 -- no birdies, and just the blow-ups on #10 and #15 . . . I gotta believe in drier conditions I'd do better, but OTOH, I might do worse . . .

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