Course Name: We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (Saguaro Course)
Designer: Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw (2006)
Location: Fort McDowell, Arizona
History: Five years after Scott Miller’s Cholla Course opened in 2001, We-Ko-Pa opened a second eighteen called the Saguaro Course designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Both courses are highly regarded, with the Saguaro Course earning the following accolades:
- #52 Best Public Course in North America – Golf Magazine (2021)
- #78 Best Public Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
- #60 Best Resort Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
- #6 Best Casino Course in America – Golfweek (2021)
- #18 Best Course in Arizona – Golf Digest (2021)
- #5 Best Course in Arizona – Golf Magazine (2023)
- #6 Best Course in Arizona – Top100golfcourses.com (2020)
- #1 Best Public Course in Arizona – Golfweek (2022)
Conditions: 9/10, We-Ko-Pa was in excellent shape when I played with fast, true greens, firm fairways, and well-conditioned teeboxes and bunkers.
Value: 6/10, As with most desert courses, We-Ko-Pa’s rates vary by season with prices ranging from $95 to $325 depending on the month. While expensive, it is competitive with other nearby public courses and provides better value than many of them. Arizona residents get discounts as well.
Tee Par Yardage Rating Slope
Saguaro 71 6966 72.0 137
Purple 71 6603 70.2 132
White 71 6252 68.8 125
Composite 71 5786 66.9 120
Green 71 5061 67.0 109
Hole Descriptions: A common critique of desert courses is that they feel artificial and not connected to their environment. Purists scoff at these courses that are often lined by houses and usually not walkable. Coore and Crenshaw’s Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa is an anomaly and really stands out for this reason. A thoroughly enjoyable course, the Saguaro Course features gorgeous views of the surrounding landscape with no houses in sight and an easily walkable, intimate routing. As I’ve come to expect from these architects, the variety here is strong in terms of both strategy and length and the greens complexes are excellent. Combined with very strong conditions, We-Ko-Pa Saguaro is undoubtedly one of the best public options in a very busy Scottsdale golf scene and is a borderline top 100 public course in the U.S. for me. I highly recommend it and look forward to playing again soon.
The Saguaro Course opens with a strong, dogleg left 443 yard par 4 that plays downhill on the teeshot with an 170 yard forced carry over desert. This fairway is generous but lined by desert on both sides and three bunkers down the right beginning at 255 yards. About 100 yards short of this green, the fairway ends with a patch of desert golfers must cross on their uphill approach. This waste area makes for an interesting lay-up for shorter players and those in bad position off the tee. This green runs both left-to-right and back-to-front and is lined by a deep bunker right. Par is a strong score here.
We-Ko-Pa does an great job mixing short and long par fours and this is evident early when you arrive at the reachable 299 yard 2nd hole. An interesting hole providing golfers numerous options off the tee, this fairway requires an 150 yard forced carry and is lined by sequential bunkers at 200 and 250 yards down the left and 210 yards down the right. Those who find the fairway will be left a short pitch into an excellent left-to-right sloped green defended by a bunker right.
One could argue the 3rd is the most boring hole on the course as a 383 yard dogleg left par 4. Playing flat, this generous fairway bends left around 225 yards with a bunker down the right at this point. This green is defended by bunkers short on either side and runs primarily back-to-front.
At 609 yards, the 4th is the longest hole on the course and the number 1 handicap for this reason. This par 5 begins with a beautiful teeshot to a fairway split by a midline bunker around 225 yards and defended by another bunker down the left between 240 and 270 yards. After this point, the hole snakes through the desert and runs slightly downhill towards an elevated and relatively flat green lined by bunkers on either side short.
The 5th hole is We-Ko-Pa’s first par 3 at 159 yards. Playing slightly uphill over the desert, this pretty hole features a large back-to-front sloped green containing numerous plateaus defended by bunkers short on either side.
The course ramps up the intensity a bit on the next few holes beginning with the 406 yard par 4 6th. A strong design, this hole plays as an uphill dogleg left with an 140 yard forced carry to a semi-blind fairway. A pair of bunkers runs down the left between 205 and 260 yards and this slab of fairway ends around 320 yards. From here, your approach continues uphill towards a back-to-front sloped green defended by tight lies and a serious false front.
Although just 305 yards, the par 4 7th hole continues uphill and is rather intimidating. This teeshot is almost completely blind and requires at least 110 yards to carry the desert and a devastating bunker. Unbeknownst to the first time golfer, this fairway becomes quite narrow around 230 yards with a pair of bunkers right at this point and another midline bunker at 250 yards. This narrow green is one of the more difficult on the course running both front-to-back and right-to-left defended by two bunkers short left. There are numerous ways one could make a big number here.
At 498 yards, the par 5 8th is another excellent risk/reward hole. Despite playing over 100 yards shorter than the 4th, this might be a tougher hole playing uphill the entire way with an immediate 165 yard forced carry. This fairway is initially quite generous but narrows around 270 yards with a bunker down the left. After this point, the fairway turns left and continues uphill with another prominent bunker down the right about 135 yards short of the green. This green slopes severely back-to-front and is lined by bunkers on either side. Anything above this hole will be hard to keep on the green!
The front 9 closes with a vexing 130 yard par 3 playing slightly uphill. An all-or-nothing one-shotter, this narrow green is well-defended by bunkers on either side and short and runs back-to-front.
I’ve seen various criticisms of the 10th hole online, but personally really enjoy the 322 yard par 4. Featuring another 170 yard forced carry, this short par 4 features a Cape fairway that turns right as soon as it begins. A giant bunker lines the right between 180 and 215 yards and the golfer must decide how much distance to bite off with another right bunker at 265 yards narrowing the fairway. This green is a Lion’s Mouth, with a severe back-to-front sloped surface wrapping around a deep midline bunker. While not terribly difficult, this gorgeous hole features two templates and gives the golfer numerous options.
The 11th hole is a solid 194 yard par 3 playing slightly longer uphill. This hole is quite photogenic and features a subtle back-to-front sloped green defended by two deep right bunkers.
We-Ko-Pa Saguaro features several lengthy par fours on the back 9 beginning with the tough 461 yard 12th hole. Playing level, this hole requires an 180 yard forced carry to reach a fairway lined by desert on both sides and three bunkers running down the left between 230 and 275 yards. This fairway actually widens as you near the green, but a large midline bunker just short of this large back-to-front sloped green leaves a very difficult up-and-down.
The 13th hole is another difficult par 4 playing 457 yards as a slight dogleg left. Although the fairway is very generous here, it again requires an 185 yard forced carry just to reach and a small bunker at 270 yards in the middle of the fairway awaits unlucky golfers. This green slopes right-to-left and is lined by a bunker right.
The 14th is a fascinating hole and likely the most memorable at We-Ko-Pa. As a 527 yard par 5, this hole features a split fairway divided by a midline waste area. The right fairway begins at 170 yards, is narrower, and ends around 315 yards. You have a better chance of reaching the green from this side. The left fairway requires a slightly longer forced carry at 200 yards but is more generous. If you find the right fairway but can’t go for the green, you’re left a difficult lay-up uphill over the waste area to a narrow portion of the left fairway lined by bunkers most of the way. This green runs back-to-front and is lined by bunkers on either side. I guess this hole is somewhat polarizing but I enjoy it.
No matter the tee, the 15th hole is a very long par 3 ranging between 209 and 255 yards. From the tees I played, this hole plays 233 yards but slightly shorter downhill. Seemingly featuring the largest green on the course, this putting surfaces slopes right-to-left and is defended by numerous bunkers well-short.
After five lengthy holes in a row, the 16th hole offers some relief as a 315 yard par 4. Another interesting risk/reward design, this hole plays as a semi-blind uphill dogleg right with a generous fairway lined by three large bunkers down the right between 140 and 250 yards. This back-to-front sloped green is small, difficult to hit, and lined by large bunkers short on either side.
The 17th hole is a more straightforward par 4 playing at 372 yards. This hole is notable for a generous fairway that slopes right-to-left and features a speed slot at about 250 yards. This green is elevated, defended by a deep bunker short left, and slopes severely back-to-front.
At 490 yards, We-Ko-Pa closes in very difficult fashion with a lengthy par 4. Featuring another long forced carry of almost 200 yards, this fairway contains numerous undulations and is lined by a huge bunker complex left. Many will need to lay-up here and this is not easy with four giant bunkers down the right and another midline bunker about 75 yards short of the green. This green runs back uphill and slopes back-to-front lined by a bunker right. Par wins this hole more often than not.
General Comments: As you’d expect from a top-tier resort with two courses, We-Ko-Pa features an upscale clubhouse and excellent practice facilities. The course is easily walkable and pace of play was good when I played.
Verdict: One of the very best public options in Scottsdale, We-Ko-Pa’s Saguaro Course is an excellent Coore/Crenshaw design featuring great variety, strong conditioning, and a beautiful unadulterated setting. I highly recommend this course to all visiting the area.