Whirlwind Cattail – Arizona Golf Courses
There are two outstanding golf courses, both designed by Phoenix architect Gary Panks, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, and Cattail the one where American Indian heritage is displayed most prominently. Panks, who is among Arizona’s most heralded designers, worked closely with the Gila River Indian Community to preserve and respect this land, where its ancestry can be traced back 2,000 years. The tribe takes great pride in what was created, obvious in the pristine condition of both courses, draped across 242 acres of desert landscape. Native American workers maintain the surroundings while the resort’s signature wild horses and other wildlife prance in their unspoiled habitat.
Cattail, which is the newer and tougher of the two courses, hosted a Nationwide Tour event from 2003-05. It spreads out across open desert weaving its way through mesquite and Palo Verde trees and saguaros, past the now-parched Gila River that once was the lifeblood of this community. They have even constructed a two-mile replica river here, where guests can climb aboard boats and be ferried from one part of the resort complex to another. Deep canyons, pristine lakes and flowing streams, stocked with cattails and other natural vegetation, accent the course in the shadows of the South and Estrella Mountains, creating stunning views. But the beauty of this layout, which opened in 2002, isn’t limited to aesthetics. Panks did a nice job of creating a course friendly enough to suit the recreational player and challenging enough for the tour pro. In doing so, he built in the kind of variety that makes golf rounds memorable.
Each of the par-3 holes are strong, topped by No. 10, which plays at 245 yards from the tips and starts the toughest three-hole stretch on the course. It not only requires length but also accuracy because what you can’t see from the tee is water that wraps around the back of the green. Aim left-center, but not too far left because a large bunker waits on that side. Next up is a 481-yard par 4, the toughest hole on the back nine. It requires a strong drive but an even more challenging second shot as the entire fairway slopes right, into the deepest dry canyon on the course. Two words: Stay left. This diabolical stretch ends with a 581-yard par 5. Aim at the large mesquite tree on the left and don’t mess with the bunker and canyon on the right. On the approach, avoid the fairway bunker short and left of the green, but shots too far right are destined for a water hazard. Make it through this stretch at even par and you’ll feel like you conquered Amen Corner. No. 18 is the toughest driving hole, with bunkers on the left side of the primary landing area and a deep pot bunker right. Golfers who choose not to hit driver off the tee then face a long, uphill second shot on a 450-yard par 4.
There are five sets of tees ranging from 5,394 to 7,334 yards, and the course is rated at 73.6 with a slope of 133 from the tips. Pay close attention to the yardage book and you might even learn a new language. Each hole shows its name in both the English and the Gila Indian translations. The first hole, for example, is Arrow Shot, or “Lipa Kyaam.” Two Mesquites translates to “Gohk Kui,” Gila Monster becomes “Chiadagi,” and Coyote Leg is “Bahn Kayio.” In any language, this golf experience is “Suh-weet.”