Kokopelli Golf Club needs something else to stand out in Phoenix-Scottsdale

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

GILBERT, Ariz. - In southwestern U.S. Native American culture, Kokopelli is a humpbacked, flute-playing fertility spirit. To Bill Phillips, designer of Kokopelli Golf Club, he is apparently the spirit of the uneven lie.

Kokopelli Golf Club - 12th Hole
Water squeezes the tee boxes on both sides at Kokopelli Golf Club's 12th hole.
Kokopelli Golf Club - 12th HoleKokopelli Golf Club - PondKokopelli Golf Club - Mounds
If you go

That's what you get, in spades, on this golf course in Scottsdale's shadow.

There are tons of little mounds in the grass. It's like the fairways erupted with a bad case of acne.

"I like all the uneven lies," Chandler golfer Martel Adams said. "They make you think a little."

In truth, they also make your day a little easier. Wayward shots kick off the bumps and back into the fairways, or at least away from the brush. You have to work to lose more than one ball in a Kokopelli round.

It all adds up to a relaxing day. Kokopelli is a Phoenix-Scottsdale-area course to play when you don't want to be beat up, the type of place a heart surgeon could recommend to patients who can't take too much excitement.

That isn't as much of a slap as it sounds. Everyone needs a low-key round now and then, an afternoon where you'll find your ball and have a chance to stick some shots on the green.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about Kokopelli. It's not in great shape, but it's not in bad shape. It's not uninteresting, but it's hardly riveting.

"Um ..." local golfer Bruce Purcpury said when asked what brought him here. "Everything else is pretty much closed for overseeding."

Hey, everybody needs their niche.

Kokopelli shows plenty of water on the scorecard, but it's not in play all that much. The par-5 first - actually one of the tougher holes on the course - is fairly typical. There's a narrow tee-shot opening between mounds, and there's a lake on the dogleg you'll navigate on the second shot. But the lake's not too close. You need to truly sail one to go splash.

The best hole is easily the 426-yard, par-4 12th. There's water on both sides of the tee boxes extending into the fairway, forcing a somewhat precise landing.

Of course, this being Kokopelli, there is a downside. No. 12 runs parallel with busy McQueen Boulevard. Cars whiz and honk by just past the fence. That's Phoenix-area golf. If a course has been around since 1993, like this one has, urban sprawl is going to have all but engulfed it.

That means plenty of houses, traffic noise and other intrusions. Stadium lights loom high above the wall on one hole; another is lorded over by the aluminum siding of a warehouse. This is golf in the middle of it all.

There's even a big Costco a few good drives away. If the course didn't excite you, maybe a special on 50 packs of paper towels will.

Kokopelli Golf Club: The verdict

Kokopelli Golf Club is the type of course that needs something to make it stick out in the Phoenix-Scottsdale golf mecca. If it treated golfers really well it might become a semi-favorite. Unfortunately, it's sort of blah in that department too.

On this afternoon sprinklers shot up around the course even though it was still well before 5 p.m. No one turned them off when golfers approached a green. You had to rush your shot between sprinkler twirls or get soaked.

For our group this all but ruined one of the best holes on the course, the 346-yard third. Your second shot can be extremely interesting on this go-for-it par 4 with a pond-guarded green - unless there are two sprinklers soaking the fairway, and you, right in front of the pond. So much for respecting your customers.

Maybe Kokopelli's management figures its golfers just don't know any better. There were tons of college kids out on the course.

Nothing wrong with that. Unless the course is having trouble attracting other golfers.

"It's too expensive in the winter," Martel Adams said. "One hundred and forty bucks for this course isn't worth it. But in the off-season, I'll play it."

That's the thing about Kokopelli. It's not a bad course, but it doesn't stand out enough in design, service or price to warrant a recommendation.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • I agree - Stay away

    Mike wrote on: Nov 17, 2006

    I agree. Don't play this dog track unless ALL other courses are closed. Poor golf course, bad service, poor conditions and bad restaurant. I wouldn't play this one for free.