by Ben Reynolds
Player-Experience Coordinator - We-Ko-Pa Golf Club
We want our players and guests to have the experience they’re looking for and something that matches the value of the land itself and creates a unique test based on each player’s unique playing ability. But we also want the golf experience to remain at the same, extremely high level regardless of the season. Simply bringing a tee box up further in the winter could actually make the landing zone much tighter, which, for resort guests, will make for a less enjoyable round. For the championship player, a dead-solid-perfect, 300-yard drive in the summer might roll out to only 285 yards and instead of carrying that bunker, the player is now penalized for hitting their best shot. Without careful consideration of all these variables and a player-first mindset, the experience could differ from season to season. On overall playability at We-Ko-Pa: The Cholla course – coming up on its 20th anniversary in December – embodies some of architect Scott Miller’s favorite design philosophies. Traditional landing zones are relatively large. Trouble is easily identified, well defined and not terribly penalizing. And if players don’t feel comfortable over the ball and want the added benefit of a bail-out area, they can usually find it fairly easily. Cholla is more “traditional desert golf” than its Saguaro counterpart. There are some forced caries and clear landing areas – especially on par-5 second shots. Unlike other Scott Miller tracks, however, Cholla is not an ultra-forgiving “resort” course. Players will have to pick their spots. One of the more interesting things about Cholla is there is always a “tiger line” in that every tee shot presents a risk/reward opportunity cut a corner. You can always play to the middle
Overseeding season is upon us, and golf courses throughout the Southwest and other Southern regions are preparing for milder temperatures, dormant bermudagrass and lush, deep-emerald rye fairways. The resulting iconic two-toned grass pattern players are accustomed to here in an Arizona winter represent not only a change in aesthetics of the golf course, but also a possible change in playability of the golf course if left unattended. Winter grasses, timely shadows and cooler temperatures affect the player experience in an understated, yet noticeable way. And to ensure each player who steps on the first tee has an unparalleled experience, the agronomy team and course operators make subtle changes to their day-to-day operations – and the golf course – to match the shift in season and deliver consistent playability throughout the entire year. Especially in the winter, the agronomy staff picks up extra responsibilities. They are not only charged with creating and maintaining exceptional playing conditions that match the uninterrupted serenity of the untouched Sonoran Desert for which We-Ko-Pa is known. They also must think about how seasonal changes affect how a player interacts with the course itself during the round. Winter temperatures affect how far the ball will carry which impacts landing zones. Dormant bermuda surrounding bunkers will affect how often a ball will roll into the hazard. And shorter playing windows due to seasonal changes in daylight condenses the playing window which puts extra pressure on the fairways. Operators and greenskeepers must account for all of that. The best example of these subtle changes is how we choose to setup the tee boxes and how the courses play from each set. The tees from which many resort guests and snowbirds play are roughly a combined 1,000 yards from the back tees by the time the round is over. It would be easy to just move everything up and take all the teeth out of the course for those playing from the forward tees, but that experience isn’t exactly what players are looking for at We-Ko-Pa. Sure, shorter holes make for a more manageable round, but We-Ko-Pa Golf Club golf wouldn’t be fun if it was easy. If the round isn’t an interesting challenge and an Seasonal changes affect more than just grass, as seen by the shadows cast by excellent walk in the park, it won’t match the setting western sun on the ninth hole of the Cholla Course. the value players expect from We-Ko-Pa.
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