Golf course architect Bill Coore, ASGCA and golf course builder Landscapes Unlimited created the Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation in Scottsdale, Arizona, protecting and enhancing the course’s natural Sonoran surroundings through careful routing amongst its washes and desert terrain. Located in a beautiful desert environment, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club offers two 18-hole courses: the original Cholla Course opened in 2001, and construction on the Saguaro Course took place from 2005-2006.

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the club’s management, considered sound environmental design to be a significant part of the course’s development. Foremost in the environmental effort was to route the course without intruding upon environmentally sensitive dry creek beds. Coore circumnavigated these washes, creating a layout that utilized the site’s best terrain for golf.

Hole 18 during grow-in, Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Scottsdale, Arizona

Hole 18 during grow-in, Saguaro Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Scottsdale, Arizona

With a routing in place, studies were undertaken to ensure no historically significant artifacts were located within the areas of construction. The examination confirmed a previous study’s assessment that the golfing corridors were free of artifacts. It also provided additional information about the farming techniques and plantings carried out by ancient civilizations on the site.

The golf course design team made a point to salvage existing plant material for later use, thus allowing the club to economically landscape the facility with native plants. An erosion control plan consisting of silt fence and hay bales was also implemented to protect the washes and to avoid wind erosion of the arid soils.

Due to the washes and the site’s undulating character, efforts were also made to provide wide landing areas to contain errant play. Alternative methods employed to accommodate wayward shots included building contours to hold running shots; using perimeter bunkers to collect shots running down slopes beyond margins of the fairways; and selectively clearing vegetation from tee to fairway and along sides of holes to allow easy recovery shots from the desert.

The project also incorporated the Nation’s previous wastewater treatment plant into its routing. Per a request from the Tribal Government, the outgrown facility was removed, and the land was restored with desert vegetation and incorporated into the golf course. Coore reshaped the formerly heavily engineered site to be compatible with the natural contours of the surrounding ground.

The Saguaro course was gently molded into the desert terrain of Arizona, with a mere 30,000 cubic yards of earthwork. Plant salvage, careful preservation of the native habitat, and rehabilitation of the wastewater treatment site helped to protect and enhance the golf course’s surroundings, giving the course a rugged, natural quality and a comfortable feel.

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