Newly renovated Blue golf course at Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park: A quirky shot-maker's pal
LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. - Upon reaching the 11th tee, the only player in our group with new revamped Blue Course experience remarks rather ominously, "Now we get into the scary holes." Heed this warning as you ma.
For there's no doubt the freshly renovated and in some parts completely retooled Blue Course at Wigwam Resort takes on a twist between the 10th green and the 11th tee box.
This is where a Robert Trent Jones Sr. original design turns a little funky, goes from being just another golf course to taking on the character of that kooky aunt who dresses a little younger and wilder than anyone else her age. Restoration architect Forrest Richardson completely changes some of the holes down this stretch, but manages to maintain that same crazy character while doing it.
The $5 million renovation is crucial to the Wigwam. Long the linchpin in a once isolated West Valley golf zone, the Wigwam now finds itself located in what has emerged as the biggest growth spot in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area. The West Valley is suddenly the home to several new courses and clearly the most likely locale for future golf development.
West Valley golf is getting trendier by the day. It's where hackers tired of the usual Phoenix-Scottsdale golf scene can find a new experience. The Wigwam doesn't want to be left behind.
This was the first major golf publication to see the Wigwam Blue Course after the golf complex's $5 million makeover, playing it just days after it came out of overseed. Many of the golfers out on the course experiencing the new Blue for the first time seemed even more bewildered by it then the old Blue. Which is saying something.
"It gets a little gimmicky for my taste," said Tucson golfer Jason Dickinson. "I don't remember it being quite this gimmicky when I played it a few years ago.
Trent Jones Sr. would undoubtedly be pleased. Wigwam's Blue Course has always labored under space limitations. With the signature Jones Gold Course roaming long and far, the Blue Course is a like a twin that's endured his sibling sucking up most of the nutrients in the womb.
Trent Jones made up for any score ease in the tight squeeze by forcing golfers to hit shots into small spots. Richardson only built on that accuracy burden with his new hole.
Starting with No. 11, you play five straight holes that are all under 330 yards from the back tees. Time to stow that beloved driver and put some of the long-forgotten clubs in your bag to use. It's all about shooting into small windows, touch over brawn.
Is it gimmicky? Sure. Is it fun? Sure. As long as you're not a Neanderthal obsessed only with brandishing your big stick. It might be especially enjoyable if you're a short hitter who's been losing to a mammoth masher at super-sized course after super-sized course.
"She beat me," Robert Weiss said rather glumly pointing at his smiling, diminutive wife.
Yes, the Wigwam Blue Course can even equalize a golf marriage.
Not that everyone is going to see it that way. Wigwam Blue most reminds of British Columbia's Furry Creek, another course full of strange yardage holes that may be the most debated love-it-or-hate-it track in all of Canada. Wigwam Blue doesn't possess Furry Creek's natural scenic wonder, but it does force you to hit a five iron or so off par 4 tee.
This Jones and Richardson influenced 6,000-yard, par 70 will make you try shots you didn't know you had in your arsenal.
No. 11 is a 323-yard par 4 with its green up on a slight ridge that makes just blasting away a recipe for a big number. No. 12 is a 329-yard, dogleg left par 4 with water to the left, just enough in play to snare ill-advised blasts off the tee.
Richardson actually put in a completely new back tee on No. 13, throwing a longer par 3 (218 yards) at golfers in the middle of all the short par 4s. On No. 14, Richardson almost completely revamped the hole, making the green very reachable, but tucking it away behind big bunkers left to bring plenty of risk assessment into going for i.
It's all just prologue to No. 15, the new 132-yard island green that's already become the talk of the Blue Course.
"Put water around the green and golfers tend to freak out," Wigwam Director of Golf Craig Allen said.
That may be true, but in this case a little freaking may be warranted.
"It's an awfully small green for an island," vacationing golfer Cheryl Weiss said, warily staring it down from the tee.
Giving yourself too much club is just as sure a flight to splashdown as using too little. This is a fun, dramatic hole, one of the clear ways in which Richardson's made Wigwam Blue better than it was in its 1960s heyday.
Yes, it's quirky. But what fun would it be if every golf course followed the same staid script.
Blue Course at Wigwam Resort: The verdict
On this review round, Wigwam Blue was just coming out of overseed, just reopening after renovation really. The greens were still ragged and inconsistent (you truly needed to hit it to get a putt to the cup). Yardage markers were sometimes nonexistent.
Yet even in this infancy condition, it was apparent this is a course with plenty of promise. It's not for everyone with its very un-monster-like modern yardage of just around 6,000 yards. But for those who relish being forced to make shots, to play a more subtle game, it's suddenly a course that cannot be ignored in the Phoenix-Scottsdale are.
Wigwam Blue is anything but a desert course. It's so green it could have been transported from the Midwest, though there aren't that many trees. The holes are very close together with some fairways running parallel, providing plenty of margin for error.
"It's very different than the other courses around," said regular Arizona golfer Jason Dickinson. "It's nice to see all the green."
It's nice to see Wigwam Blue back as a conversation starter in Arizona golf.
December 12, 2005