Winter golf escape west of Phoenix

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Saturday, December 30, 2017

ARIZONA (KGO) -- Northern California's rains have yet to hit. Inevitably, they will.

When fairways get soggy, wedge shots splash mud on your glasses, and balls plug into greens like fingers in cookie dough, you may be in the mood for some sun searching.

Try a quick getaway West Valley region outside of Phoenix, Arizona.

Using the venerable, historic, and newly renovated Wigwam Resort as a base, some friends and I visited the region for our annual meet-up, and were not disappointed.


We began at The Golf Club of Estrella in Goodyear, a Jack Nicklaus, II, design that ranks consistently as one of the better public courses in Arizona. Typical of desert golf, it plays tougher than it looks, with wider, more receptive fairways, generous, interesting greens, and well-placed bunkers that yielded consistent, fair outcomes. One would expect nothing less from Troon Golf, which manages the operation and maintains a high standard on their courses, nation-wide.


For a visual and aesthetic contrast to desert golf, we stayed close to home for a parklands experience at The Wigwam, with 54 holes including the newly renovated Gold Course. It's lush, challenging, and all-the-more interesting due to irrigation canals that pre-existed the course and now play into the architecture. They wind, capture errant shots, and even have fish swimming inside of them.

The Wigwam is a fascinating property that used to serve as a retreat for executives from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.

You will find history, everywhere, even in the pane patterns of wooden windows. They mimic a now-antique Goodyear tire tread pattern.

My room? A casita steps away from the course. And yes, I did hit a few balls into the darkness after midnight.


In Buckeye, Arizona, we explored the two courses at Verrado, a still-expandingmaster-planneder community of some 12,000 residents.

The Founder's Course, there, used to go by another name, The Raven. It's another high-ranking course. With five sets of tees ranging from 5142-7528 yards, you can make this course as hard as you can handle, or ease up on yourself.

First timer? Take the shorter tees.

Verrado's newer course, called Victory, offers an entirely different experience.It opened in early 2017. Lehman pretty much manufactured and sculpted this course between giant granite boulders and rock faces that formerly served as proving grounds for the Caterpillar Tractor Company. You will face some blind and unnerving tee shots, but trust that Lehman left plenty of room for safe landings on the other side of them..

The par-5, 410-590 yard, 18th, is destined to become a famous finishing hole. You will not forget this one. Begin with a 200+ yard drive from an elevated teeing ground across a water-filled quarry. Your second must be long, avoiding bunkers left and more water to the right. Your third will be slightly downhill to a beautiful green nestled between desert, boulders, and bunkers.

How perfect that this last hole of the week was also my favorite.

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