Just 30 miles west of Phoenix something magical is happening in the desert; not a mirage but a golf oasis. Having spent the first part of December in the West Valley of Phoenix the weather felt more like San Diego than Arizona, in fact compared to my warm humid climate in Central Florida it was a bit chilly. At night, a jacket wasn’t optional but a must, I had packed both golf shorts and pants but quickly realized I would be more comfortable in pants. The no-humidity highs in the 70s of Arizona were a welcomed change over the humid high 80s I have grown accustom to in Orlando this time of year. Many of you probably aren’t familiar with the West Valley, when it comes to Arizona golf, Scottsdale and Tucson generally get all the publicity. Well, I am here to tell you, the big boys better watch out.
The West Valley features several golf options that appeal to golfers looking for a great vacation destination or a place to call home. For golfers looking for a first class, Golf Aficionado approved destination then your best bet is going to be Wigwam. The Wigwam, originally built in 1918 as a gathering place for the Ohio-based executives of Goodyear Tire & Rubber. Years earlier, Goodyear discovered the West Valley of Phoenix was a prime location to grow pima cotton which it used to strengthen the rubber used in making Goodyear tires. Over its 86-year history, Wigwam has hosted some of the world’s most recognized public figures and sports legends and maintains a reputation as one of the Southwest’s landmark resort destinations. In December 2009, The Wigwam was purchased by JDM Partners, led by sports icon Jerry Colangelo. JDM Partners promptly completed a multi-million-dollar rejuvenation project that included upgrades to the resort and it’s three 18-hole championship golf courses.
The Wigwam’s three 18-hole championship golf courses offer a diversity that cannot be matched by any other Arizona resort. At Wigwam, Golf Aficionado had their pick of not just one or two courses, but three 18-hole courses – Wigwam is the only resort in Arizona with 54 holes of championship golf. The Gold and Blue courses at Wigwam are Robert Trent Jones, Sr. creations which opened in the mid-1960s. The popularity of the resort led to the creation of the Red Course which was designed by Red Lawrence and opened in 1976.
All three courses at The Wigwam are worthy of a visit but the crown jewel is the original, the Gold Course. Commissioned by the executives at Goodyear, Jones Sr. was tasked with trying to one-up his famed South Course at the Firestone Club in Akron, Ohio. The Goodyear executives couldn’t stand the fact that one of their closet competitors had their own golf course, so they commissioned Jones Sr to build not one but two courses.
The Gold Course, nicknamed Arizona’s Monster plays at more than 7,430 yards. This long and winding par-72 course will challenge even the best golfers and has hosted several prestigious events. However, high handicappers shouldn’t fear, after the renovation work led by Tom Lehman in 2015 the course is more playable following the elimination of more than 30 bunkers and the reshaping of several existing bunkers to fit the modern game. However, proper tee selection is key. Don’t bite off more yardage than you can chew, or you’ll quickly find out why they call it Arizona’s Monster!
If you’re looking for a permanent change and want to relocate to the dry air and warm climate of Arizona you won’t find a better option than Verrado. Located in the heart of the West Valley, Verrado is a master-planned community meant to resemble the charm of a 1950s town with the modern conveniences of the 21st century. Verrado is composed of four distinct areas featuring diverse neighborhoods all surrounding a central Main Street thus connecting the community. Verrado has about 4,000 homes, more than 70 parks, and an astonishing 30,000 trees; this isn’t your typical desert community. Verrado has something for everyone; an all-ages development, that also includes one district, Victory at Verrado that is just for those 55 and older. Prices within Verrado range anywhere from the mid $200,000s to more than $500,000s. Some of the premium mountain-view and golf course lots can go from the $900,000s.
Verrado Golf Club
Golf Course lots, so that means their must be a golf course within Verrado, right? Let me introduce you to Verrado Golf Club, featuring 36-holes of spectacular desert golf. PGA Tour star and Ryder Cup Captain, Tom Lehman has made his mark on the West Valley of Arizona. Verrado Golf Club features 2 Tom Lehman designs, the Founder’s Course and Victory Course. The Founder’s Course, built in 2004 is the centerpiece of the Verrado Community featuring a stunning clubhouse and the Verrado Grille which offers a menu that matches the amazing views from the patio.
Lehman utilized massive rock outcroppings, large desert washes, picturesque box canyons, and dramatic elevation changes to design a course that everyone can enjoy. The conditions on both the courses at Verrado Golf Club are top-notch, you would be hard pressed to find one blade of grass out of place. Playing at nearly 7,300 yards from tips the Founder’s Course is long enough to challenge the biggest hitters, but with five tee boxes to choose from you’ll be able to easily find the yardage that matches your skill level.
With generous landing areas, you’ll find the Founder’s Course to be very forgiving off the tee. The biggest challenge on both courses will be around the greens. I constantly struggled to hit greens in regulation, any approach shot left a couple yards too short of the green will immediately checkup and fail to release onto the green. On the other hand, any shot into the firm greens is likely to roll out and not hold the putting surface. Once on the green, they are extremely difficult to read, I’d say the ball breaks toward mountain but who knows which one.
During my visit to the West Valley, I had the most fun playing the brand-new Victory Course. The second of Tom Lehman’s designs at Verrado Golf Club has been opened for less than a year. It’s so new that you might catch them still completing some of the final touches around the course. Located inside the Victory at Verrado community the course has a sprawling design that meanders throughout the community. The sprawling design results in long distances between green and tee, providing each hole with a unique level of isolation and separation. Nestled amongst the new homes being built in the active adult community, the course offers an ideal backdrop to residents looking for golf front property.
The clubhouse at the Victory Course is better known as the cliffhouse. It’s built atop a cliff that overlooks the 18th hole of the course from several hundred feet above. It’s a stunning setup with an even better view. The cliffhouse features a well-equipped pro shop and open-air dinning.
On the course, Victory is by far the easier of the two courses at Verrado Golf Club, but also the most dramatic. Chances are high that you’ll have the most fun and best score during the trip playing the Victory Course. As I previously mentioned, all the trouble is around the greens not on your way there. Surrounded by the White Tank Mountains, the Victory Course features several high peaks and views you’ll never forget and will have you seriously considering a permanent move to the West Valley!
Interested in visiting the West Valley and staying at the Wigwam? You can find all the latest information and their must current offers by visiting their website.
Considering a permanent move to the West Valley area? Learn more about life in Verrado and visit their website to find your new home.