Cholla Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort

As part of a golf vacation to Tucson, Scottsdale, and Palm Springs, my family stayed at We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center. The stay included a fantastic round of golf, some excellent food, a comfortable room, and a winning streak in the casino!

We-Ko-Pa Resort is a AAA Four Diamond resort. It’s located on 40-square-miles of Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation property in the Sonoran Desert. It’s only about 24 miles from the Phoenix International Airport.

We-Ko-Pa means “four peaks” in the Yavapai Nation native language. The Resort features spectacular views of Arizona’s majestic Four Peaks and the iconic Red Mountains alongside the free-flowing Verde River. The sacred four peaks rise from the desert floor to an elevation of more than 7,000 feet. They offer majestic vistas from just about anywhere on the resort or golf course.

We-Ko-Pa Resort has an excellent stay-and-play package with reasonable rates.

The Golf Courses at We-Ko-Pa Resort

Saguaro golf hole

We couldn’t wait to get up and play golf on our first morning at the resort. We had heard from several people that the We-Ko-Pa Resort golf courses are among the best in Arizona. In fact, the We-Ko-Pa Resort courses have earned more than 50 prestigious awards, some of which include:

  • #1 Public Access Course In Arizona (Golfweek)
  • #1 Course to Play Solo (Golf Magazine)
  • Readers’ Choice Resort (Golfworld)
  • Best Modern Courses (Golfweek)
  • Must-Play Course (Golf Magazine)
  • Top Ten America’s Best New Public Courses (Golf Digest)
  • Top 50 Courses For Women (Golf For Women)

If that’s not enough to get you excited, you might consider playing miniature golf.

Each of the courses— the 7,225-yard, a par-72 Cholla Course, and the 6,966-yard par-71 Saguaro Course—have unique personalities. They feature excellent conditions from the tee box to the cup. These include spectacular views of the Sonoran desert landscape and the surrounding McDowell Mountains, Red Mountain, Four Peaks, and the Superstitions. A 21,000-square foot club house with an award-winning and well-stocked Pro Shop is a delight. There’s also a grill with a great patio, locker rooms, and excellent service. The golf course includes very good practice facilities, an ideal blend of doglegs and straightaway holes, and a mix of slender and ample fairways. You’ll also get a balance between benign and rugged green complexes; lots of shot-making opportunities; and, most of all, a fun and memorable golf experience.

Pro Shop at We-Ko-Pa Resort
club at Wo-Ke-Pa Resort
Patio at the golf course at We-Ko-Pa Resort

The Cholla Golf Course

We played the Cholla course and rated it a 9.6 out a possible 10. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

Scott Miller designed the Cholla course. It’s recognized as the quintessential target-style desert golf course. This is due to washes, arroyos, and native desert landscaping that can play into most of the holes. You’ll see plenty of wildlife, a wide variety of prickly cactus, creosote, brittle bush, and Mesquite and Palo Verde trees.

Cholla Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort

Scott moved more than 500,000 cubic yards of desert to sculpt a course where no two holes are the same. Furthermore, all require a good mix of club selection, course management, and shot making. You’ll encounter lots of forced carries off the tee as well as heavily sloped and contoured fairways with generous landing zones. Every hole on the front, but not from the forward tees, contains forced carries, making the course playable for women and high handicappers. The course also features strategically placed bunkers, well-guarded raised greens, several elevation changes, split fairways, dog legs left and right, blind shots, some risk-reward opportunities, and several Kodak moments.

Read our review of Cholla to learn more about this outstanding golf course.

Cholla golf course
Cholla golf course

The Saguaro Golf Course

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to play Saguaro and can’t wait to get back to We-Ko-Pa Resort to play that 18. The internationally renowned design team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed the Saguaro course as a more traditional-style golf course where the course follows the natural contour of the desert through hundreds of large Saguaro cacti. Some of the cacti are imbedded with golf balls.

Saguaro has a desert links-style feel to it. They made the course ideal for walking and created an excellent blend of short and long par four holes along with an interesting collection of four par three holes.

Coore and Crenshaw’s design team also designed other award-winning courses including Bandon Trails, Sand Hills, Friar’s Head, The Golf Club at Cuscowilla, and Barnbougle Lost Farm.

Saguaro Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort
Saguaro golf course
Saguaro golf course

We-Ko-Pa Resort Accommodations

Both Cholla and Saguaro are open to the public, but why not take advantage of the Golf Stay & Play Package We-Ko-Pa Resort offers? You can spend a couple of days at the resort and play both courses.

suite at We-Ko-Pa Resort

During our visit, we stayed in a Junior Suite and loved it. We had one bedroom with two queens, a flat screen TV, lounge chair, dressers, and a large bathroom. Plus, there’s a living area with a couch, two chairs, work desk, flat screen TV, high-speed wireless internet, kitchen area with a refrigerator, coffee maker, and an in-room safe. And there’s a fantastic view of the mountains and pool area. The room was clean, comfortable, and reasonably priced.

There are 246 rooms at We-Ko-Pa Resort. These include a mix of king and double queen beds and regular guest rooms, junior suites like we stayed in, and executive suites. The executive suites include 1,025 square feet of space with separate bedrooms and a large living room, a balcony with either a mountain range or pool view, and a kitchenette. All of the rooms include complimentary high-speed wireless internet; 37″ flat-screen LCD HDTVs with HBO, ESPN, On Demand channels, pay-per-view movies and Nintendo games; and Simmons luxury beds. You’ll also get hair dryers, coffee makers, irons/ironing boards and bathrobes, Delta five-spray, adjustable showerheads, and oversized bathrooms with Asira brand amenities.

The Fort McDowell Casino

Fort McDowell Casino at  We-Ko-Pa Resort

Shortly after we checked into our room, we bounded down the stairs and over to Fort McDowell Casino to see if we could win enough to retire. Or, at least buy a cold beer.

The Fort McDowell Casino includes:

  • A large gaming area with state-of-the-art video slot machines
  • A 1,700-seat bingo hall
  • Live keno, poker tournaments, pull-tabs, and blackjack and gaming tables
  • Free live entertainment at Lucky 7 Saloon
  • A live card room with Vegas-style blackjack and jackpot poker games
  • 24-hour table-side food service
  • Weekly and monthly tournaments with daily prizes

After spending some time on the slots and at the blackjack table, we walked away with a huge win of $2.25. We immediately headed to the Lucky 7 Saloon to listen to a good country music band and spend our winnings on cold beer.

Dining at Fort McDowell Casino & We-Ko-Pa Resort

sushi at the casino

When the band stopped playing, we must have spent 30 minutes trying to decide where to have dinner because the Fort McDowell Casino offers such a wide variety of dining options:

  • A New York Deli with fresh Brooklyn-style deli sandwiches
  • Cafe 87, which is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and has a $2.99 Breakfast Bonanza Special
  • Noodles Sushiya offers Chinese and Vietnamese noodles and a sushi menu
  • Red Rock Buffet is a buffet with a little bit of everything
  • Silver Platter offers old-fashioned burgers and shakes

After checking out the menus, we settled on some Vietnamese Pho soup and a tasty spicy noodle with a vegetable bowl and excellent sauce. That was followed by a couple more hours at the slots and the blackjack table where I went on a winning streak. In fact, I went back to our room with an extra $10 and had entertained myself for over two hours. But my wife has a different story that we don’t want to talk about.

Southwestern Cuisine at We-Ko-Pa

The next night, we had some delicious Southwestern cuisine at We-Ko-Pa Resort’s Ahnala Restaurant, just outside the Resort’s front door.

Ahnala Restaurant at Saguaro Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort

We had an excellent meal that started with a wonderful Mango Citrus Shrimp Ceviche Martini with cilantro, mango, oranges, lemons, avocado, green and red pepper, shrimp, and plantain chips (wow!). It also included a tasty Caesar salad. The Ahnala Halibut is a pan-seared halibut over butternut squash risotto and topped with fresh chile mango habanero avocado salsa (delicious!). I had a 12-ounce ribeye served with blue cheese pistachio hollandaise and scallop potatoes, which was tender and cooked to perfection.

the ribeye at Ahnala Restaurant

We wobbled to our room and immediately fell asleep.

The ambiance at Ahnala is outstanding with views of the majestic Four Peaks Mountain from the bright and airy dining room, or out on the garden terrace. The inside of Ahnala is cool with a large stone and handmade tile fireplace, soothing natural color tones, warm wood furnishings, rich fabrics, and old-world tapestries.

Ceviche Martini at Saguaro Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort

I don’t know how or why I did it after such a big meal the night before, but I was hungry early the next morning and went back to Ahnala for breakfast. They have lots of good choices. We selected Yogurt and fruit and a huge plate of Migas with a delicious salsa.

We-Ko-Pa Resort Amenities and Things To Do

In addition to 36 holes of some of the best golf in Arizona, We-Ko-Pa Resort has a number of other amenities and fun things to do. For example, you can:

  • Work out the kinks or get a facial at the state-of-the-art Amethyst Spa, which offers a wide variety of services and treatments
  • Get rid of some of the calories from all the good food and drinks at the titness center
  • Soak up some rays at the desert oasis heated outdoor pool with two whirlpools
  • Have a drink and enjoy the views at any of the conversation areas with fire pits
  • Buy a souvenir at the gift shop
Pool at Saguaro Golf Course at We-Ko-Pa Resort
fit pit and conversation area
fitness center

Just minutes away from We-Ko-Pa Resort, Fort McDowell Adventures features a 25,000-acre desert recreation area. They specialize in adventures for corporate events, reunions, parties, and other group events. The public is also welcome to take advantage of some of the adventures, such as hiking and biking, ATV rides, kayaking, horseback trail rides, segway tours, and more.

atv tours at Fort McDowell Adventures
kayaking at fort mcdowell adventures
trail ride at fort mcdowell adventures

For corporate events, reunions, weddings, or big parties, the adjacent Wassaja Conference Center at We-Ko-Pa Resort has 25,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting and event space.

Mike Sharp
Author: Mike Sharp

I have a passion for travel and outdoor activities, and now I'm enjoying retired life. I will continue my traveling, golfing, boating, and enjoying life all across the great state of Texas.

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