Course Review: We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Cholla)

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of visiting We-Ko-Pa Golf Club for the first time and playing the Saguaro Course. On most major course ranking sites and in golf magazines, it is typically rated as one of the top public courses in the state of Arizona. Usually not too far down the list is its sister course, Cholla, which I was able to go back and play yesterday.

I actually know a lot of golfers who prefer Cholla over Saguaro. I really liked Saguaro back in March and I had an open invite to come back and play Cholla, so I was excited to experience it for myself and round out the complete We-Ko-Pa golf experience. Knowing the summer season (and turf transition) is just around the corner, I wanted to get out there again before the end of May. So, I planned a day trip out to Arizona to play Cholla and a couple other courses that I will review separately.

I booked a 6:30 tee time and was in the first group out along with a threesome of local regulars. It was nice as they were reasonably quick players and they shared a lot of course knowledge that was helpful for this sometimes tricky layout. We set a good morning pace of about 3.5 hours and never really saw any groups pushing from behind.

Now that I have played both courses at We-Ko-Pa myself, I think I have to add myself to the list of people who actually prefer Cholla over Saguaro. Both courses are excellent and beautiful. The fact that there even can be a debate goes to show how great this golf facility is. They have two pretty distinctive courses that complement one another, but offer pretty different golf experiences.

I’d categorize Saguaro as more of course that bigger hitters will enjoy. It is more out in front of you and plays pretty long. Cholla, on the other hand, is more of a target style course designed by Scott Miller. It requires some more strategy and accuracy. Longer hitters may find themselves laying up more than once because you have to play the angles and stay out of the trouble.

One interesting thing I noticed about Cholla is that there are very few holes (not counting par-3s, of course) where you can clearly see the green from the tee box. We were playing the forward white tees, and things are only more obscured the further back you go. I wouldn’t say the tee shots are blind because you can usually see fairways you want to hit and bunkers that you want to avoid, but some of the tee shots are a little disorienting at eye-level. Thankfully, the carts have a nice GPS system that helps.

Like Saguaro, the fairways here are much more forgiving than they appear from the tees. Once you are out there on the Cholla fairways, then you will be able to see the rest of the hole and play into the greens without too much trickery. Saguaro is kind of the opposite as you can usually see where you need to hit from the tees, but then the approach shots are very demanding with more elevated/undulated greens and deeper bunker complexes.

The greens on the Cholla course are big and have plenty of undulation, but definitely not as exaggerated as on Saguaro. The bunkers will still provide plenty of challenge. However, they are a bit less menacing on this side.

All the par-3s on Cholla are nice. Both on the front nine are beautiful desert designs and the signature 14th is definitely one of the most scenic points on the course

Both finishing holes are nice on each nine and feature the only water hazards in play on either We-Ko-Pa course. The round is capped by the 18th, which has kind of a split fairway and then plays over the hazard lined with waste bunkers to a very well-protected green.

The 8th and 18th are also really neat par-5s with long, winding fairways. My other favorite hole was the short par-4 15th that will be drivable for many. It’s a fun risk/reward design that will pay you off if you execute but punish you greatly if you don’t.

Course conditions did not disappoint and I timed my return trip well. The course was in excellent late spring shape with the temperatures being so mild (so far) this year. The tee boxes were great. They were just starting to brown out a tiny bit in spots. The fairways were pretty much perfect. They were lush and green throughout. The rough was still semi-dormant bermuda that was cut down super tight and easy to play from. They were out spraying the fairways and rough with what is either fertilizer or likely whatever agent they apply to start killing off the overseed grass. It smelled more like fuel than fertilizer, so I get the sense they are getting ready for the summer transition soon.

The bunkers were excellent. The greens were firm as expected, but maintained nicely and rolling true. Just a bit on the slow side this time of year.

It’s safe to say that I easily recommend either course at We-Ko-Pa and your preference of course will likely depend on your style of game. Both feature gorgeous desert settings and plenty of drama to enjoy. It will cost you a pretty penny to play here in season, but good deals can be found throughout the shoulder seasons and summer months for my fellow thrifty golfers.

Some pictures from We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Cholla) (5/30/19):

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