Playable Heritage golf course is a standout at Wigwam Resort in Phoenix
PHOENIX -- Playing golf in Arizona can be a daunting task. The desert and golf balls don't get along, and many of the state's top courses seem to believe a fairway is defined as "a narrow strip of grass between 20,000 cacti."
That's why Wigwam Resort and its three courses -- the Gold Course, Patriot Course and Heritage Course -- is such a nice change of pace. The Wigwam, which is located in Litchfield Park about a half-hour west from downtown Phoenix, is parkland golf.
Spray the drive 30 yards to the right? No problem. You can play it from the next fairway. Hit your approach shot over the green? No worries. Just hit a good chip.
There's no cholla, no cacti, no clue that you're playing golf in the desert.
Wigwam's Heritage Course exemplifies what the resort is all about. The 6,852-yard par 72 weaves its way through pine and eucalyptus trees, with streams and canals bisecting the holes. It's the easiest layout among the three; the fairways are wide, the greens generous and the sand traps so shallow it's possible to play a true chip shot because there's no lip to get in the way.
Some might call the Heritage mundane. The first 15 holes tend to blend together, meandering back and forth, rewarding good shots but not truly penalizing bad shots. There's not an unforgettable view or hole like one sees in so many Arizona golf courses.
But that's the way designer Robert "Red" Lawrence wanted it. The Heritage is a straightforward, traditional layout.
"It's kind of a parkland course, with rolling fairways and open areas to the greens," said Wigwam Director of Golf Operations Leo Simonetta. "It's very playable for just about anyone of any skill level. That's why it's very popular with the locals. You can get around it very quickly."
How quickly? Well, a twosome that went off first at 8 a.m. recently completed 18 holes in two hours and 50 minutes.
The one characteristic that could set a scorecard back are the greens, which are sloped from back to front. Any shot short of the green will check up and not reach the putting surface. But any shot long leaves a lightning-quick downhill putt. The sage advice: Better to have a 25-foot uphill putt from just off the green to a 15-footer from above the hole.
Just when a golfer might think the Heritage doesn't have anything special to offer -- boom -- the last three holes hit like a freight train in the dark.
No. 16 is a 454-yard, dogleg-left par 4 with an elevated green protected by bunkers and water to the right and back. Par there is a terrific score.
But that's just a warm-up act for no. 17, a 254-yard par 3 -- yes, 254 yards -- with a bunker to the right of the green and a canal snaking up the left side. The best play is to lay up just short of the green rather than bringing the trouble into play.
No. 18 is a terrific finishing hole, a 591-yard par 5 that requires a precision drive to the right of the left dogleg, an accurate second that that must dodge two lakes connected by a stream, and an approach shot that has to navigate trees on both sides of the green and a canal on the left.
The scorecard won't get healthy on the final three holes, but it could -- and often does -- take a beating.
"It's just a real good finishing stretch," Simonetta said. "No. 18, you really have to think your way through the first two shots. It's easy to drive it into trouble and hit your second shot into trouble."
Of the three golf courses at Wigwam, the Heritage is probably the least distinctive. But it's a playable and enjoyable 18 that's a welcome respite from the desert courses that dot the state.
"You have to remember, most players in the game are a 15 to 20 handicap, and the Heritage is very playable for players of that level," Simonetta said. "You're not going to lose a lot of golf balls."
April 3, 2012