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Open to the public, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club offers two eighteen hole courses on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. With the Resort’s original Cholla course having opened in 2001, Coore & Crenshaw was commissioned to construct the second Saguaro course for opening in late 2006. Bill and Ben had already built two courses at Talking Stick Resort where the flat ground lent well to ‘theoretical golf’. The potential ground available for Saguaro was no less harsh as a desert environment, but possessed much more topographic relief, including numerous washes and a view to the Verde River Valley surrounded by foothills and mountains, near and far. Given the Yavapai Nation’s sovereignty, Fort McDowell was not required to adhere to the full spectrum of environmental regulations. Yet, they and their management intended to develop their latest course with utmost respect for the natural surrounds.

Foremost to the environmental effort was routing the course without intruding upon numerous washes categorized as ‘404’ by the Army Corp of Engineers. Of these, only a small portion could be mitigated or disturbed. As they were spread throughout the property, there was ample space to circumnavigate the washes, play alongside or across them as hazards or avoid the most severe channels altogether. To protect and enhance the fragile, slow growing environs, Native Resources International was employed to salvage trees, saguaros, and a variety of smaller cacti from future fairways for later revegetation. Moving a mere 30,000 cubic yards of earthwork allowed for almost no disturbance outside the fairways, and preserved the site’s naturally rugged quality. An additional benefit of the project was the incorporation of Ft. McDowell’s previous wastewater treatment plant into the routing, which was demolished and refashioned as the eighth and tenth fairways, as well as incorporating the adjacent irrigation lake.

Through careful routing amongst the washes and desert terrain, Coore & Crenshaw was able to mold Saguaro’s par 71, 6,912 yard layout gently onto the land. Measures such as plant salvage, careful preservation of the existing habitat and rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment site helped to protect and enhance the Sonoran surrounds. Bypassing some of the more severe land, along with short walks from green to tees, allows for a compact routing and rare walkable desert course. While ample turf in landing areas and around greens provides great playability, every effort was made to route and shape the course to minimize water consumption. Thus, the total acreage of maintained turf is just 61.6 acres, well below the 80 acres typically found on desert designs. Along with beaucoup design awards that lead to full tee sheets in the winter tourist season, Saguaro has achieved a local following for its thoughtful, walkable and accessible golf.


WeKoPa Golf Club . Fort McDowell . Arizona

Images By

Lonna Tucker