Conjure up good karma at Whirlwind Golf Club's Cattail golf course in Chandler

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

American Indian heritage is on proud display at playable and challenging Cattail course at Whirlwind Golf Club at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Arizona.

Whirlwind's Cattail Golf Course - Hole 3
The par-3 third "Mud Hen" at Whirlwind Golf Club's Cattail course plays 162 yards with some tricky pin placements.
Whirlwind's Cattail Golf Course - Hole 3Whirlwind's Cattail Golf Course - Hole 4Whirlwind's Cattail Golf Course - Hole 15Whirlwind's Cattail Golf Course - Hole 14
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Whirlwind Golf Club - Cattail

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The Cattail Course opened in the fall of 2002. It complements the Devil's Claw but lends a whole new flavor to championship golf at Whirlwind. While the Devil's Claw features high mounding and significant elevation changes on fairways, the Cattail's challenge is in its deep canyons and pristine lakes.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 72 | 7334 yards | Book online | ... details »

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- You start on lipa Kyaam and end on Oichkam. Collectively it's called Ut'Vagi.

We know it as the Cattail at Whirlwind Golf Club at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, one of two golf courses at the resort.

Lipa Kyaam means "Arrow Shot" in the Pima-Maricopa Indian language, and it's the name of the first hole. Oichkam means "last one," and as you might guess, is the name of the 18th hole. You'll find all this information in the yardage book of this Gary Panks-designed golf course, which opened in 2002. How much it helps your golf game is debatable. How much it helps you enjoy the golf course isn't.

The reason is that while many golf courses name their holes, few are done by the people whose ancestry can be traced there for 2,000 years - at least in the United States. Wild Horse Pass is a special place. Not only have these folks survived centuries and decades of hardship and triumph, but they also take a special pride in their heritage.

Here, you'll see the native people working at the resort and the golf course, proudly displaying their heritage in a myriad ways. It was important for them to educate resort guests in their culture, and that extended to the golf courses, as well.

In a sense, one can't help but think if you read the hole descriptions and take a few moments to say aloud the American Indian words for these holes before you played them, you just might find it easier to read its tricky greens. Maybe a few more putts would fall. Maybe you would find a few more fairways.

Whirlwind Golf Club's Cattail course: Playable but challenging

From 2003-2005, the course hosted the Gila River Golf Classic on the Nationwide Tour. The course can be set up fairly easy, as it is for resort guests, or difficult by growing the rough and positioning pins on the edges.

Panks did his part to make this course very resort friendly while also following the terrain of the land more closely than he did at the club's other golf course, The Devil's Claw. While the double breaking putts might throw you for a loop, off the tee, there is ample room to swing freely with the driver. And if you do find the rough, it's not very severe.

The greens, on the other hand, are not only tricky to read but they are also firm. So coming in from the fairway to impart spin after the first bounce will help you hold a few greens.

Whirlwind's Cattail course, which plays to 7,334 yards from the back tees, has a nice variety of holes. You also won't find any homes on it - which is always a bonus.

There are long par 4s and long par 5s and short par 4s and short par 5s. The par 3s are all different, and Planks incorporates some nice risk-reward scenarios, which can be found on almost any good golf course.

For example, following the No. 1 handicap hole - the 471-yard, par-4 Whitetail Crane (Vakuan) - comes Lucky Shot (Shmma Kyaam). With a lake fronting the green on this dogleg-left, 332-yard par 4, if you pull driver, you risk going into the desert if you are too far right or putting it in the water if you don't carry it far enough. Most players - especially if they are playing the course for the first time - will pull out the driver. What other choice is there?

There really isn't a bad hole on the golf course. Perhaps the trickiest, however, is the short, par-4 11th. With fairway bunkers on the right and a large lake to the left, committing to a tee shot is a challenge. Hit a short club to avoid both, and you'll have a long shot over water to a semi-island green. Hit driver, and you risk water left and bunkers right, unless you can blow it over the bunkers, which may be the best option.

The par 3s here are all unique, none more perhaps than the 15th, which appears to be dug out of a quarry. The hole features an elevated tee to a wide green perched below and surrounded by sand.

After a good risk-reward par-5 17th, the course ends with the difficult "Last One." With deep fairway bunkers looming off the tee, getting the tee shot in play is critical to this 450-yard par 4.

The Cattail at Whirlwind Golf Club: The verdict

You hear the phrase "playable golf course" often, especially when it's associated with a resort course. In this case, playable and enjoyable are apt descriptions.

With five sets of tees, anyone can have fun here. Tee shots are generally not intimidating, and there are no forced carries. Going around a hazard is always an option.

Operated by Troon Golf, the golf course is also in terrific shape. You have to work hard to give yourself a bad lie, especially with the wide fairways and light rough.

Less skilled players probably won't like the firm greens, but better players will know to expect release on their shots, especially on mid and long irons.

Whirlwind Golf Club: Practice facilities and lessons

Like many high-end resort courses, the range is both big and well grassed with hitting areas on both ends. There are two bunkered chipping greens and three practice greens.

Group and individual lessons are available through the on-site Bird Golf Academy.

Dining and stay-and-play

Both golf courses are part of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa.

The 8,500-square-foot Whirlwind Clubhouse provides a full-service golf shop, locker rooms, a clubhouse bar and the Sivlik Grill, which serves chophouse-type fare with an American Indian flair.

The 500-room resort is Arizona's only American Indian-owned luxury resort. It features the Aji Spa, Koli, an on-site equestrian center and the resort's signature restaurant, Kai, which means "seed" in Pima.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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