The Phoenix area has plenty of 36 hole resort courses — Troon North, Greyhawk, Talking Stick, and in this case We-Ko-Pa. And if you’re in the area looking to pick one to spend a 36 hole day at, I can’t totally suggest which one to make tee times at, but playing a full day at We-Ko-Pa will never be a bad choice.
Story time From the Morning
From the AirBnb we were staying at in this baller little community in Phoenix with sweet looking one-story houses and tons of palm trees, we had about a 40 minute drive to the course. Now here’s some advice when you’re deciding which tee time to make. If you have the option of 7:40 or 8:50 tee time, you gotta pick 7:40. Biggest help of the day is that we didn’t have any traffic to the course which definitely would have been an issue for the 8:50. And if you’re playing 36 holes in one day, early tee times give you more time between rounds and also make sure that your first rounds cruises since you won’t have too many groups in front of you. (Also, if you’re playing golf in the morning, make sure to stop at a Dunkin and get a sausage-egg-and-cheese-on-a-sesame-bagel and medium iced coffee with cream and sugar. Perfect breakfast in my opinion.)
I got to the clubhouse at 7, paid, looked at all the apparel they have there with the We-Ko-Pa logo, and walked out to my cart to find my bag already loaded. Time to note one of the best things about We-Ko-Pa: they have so many carts that they don’t care if a group is using three carts by themselves. Granted, golfers are usually so nice that getting paired with randos isn’t a big deal if you have to share a cart, but it usually takes a little while to become friends with playing partners, which means sitting quiet and awkwardly at 7:30 in the morning isn’t completely ideal. Oh also, you’re not required to bring the cart back after your first round, which worked out perfectly because the We-Ko-Pa carts are charged enough so they won’t run out of energy when playing the entire 36 holes.
At 7:10 I drove up to the driving range which is a giant field with two levels of tee areas, really good grass, and pyramids of golf balls. Grass was in excellent condition and the range has a great feeling not only for warming up, but it also an ideal practice range. Considering I’d been hitting the ball like trash the past week (and past month really), I decided to just hit as many balls as I could before the round rather than hit a few putts to figure out the speed. This was the best decision ever for me considering I finally, finally figured out some swing thoughts and was hitting the ball way better than before. Remember people… keep your head down with your eyes looking straight at the ball, and stay in posture as much as you can, then you’ll hit it great. With that said, hitting putts beforehand is probably something I also needed to do considering I had four 3-putts that first round and thought of a GOTM Tip of the Day.
While I was striping the range balls for 10 minutes, a ranger called my name and asked if I wanted to tee off at the 7:20 tee time with the players who were already on the first tee of the Saguaro course. Since I didn’t know who I was supposed to play with for either tee time, I said screw it and was off to the first tee.
One thing to mention here is the length of time I take before I write these course reviews. In this case, I played at We-Ko-Pa about 3 weeks ago and I definitely wasn’t willing to write this review right away, even though I did have opinions about the course on the drive back to the AirBnB. When you do anything, such as playing a new course, going to a store to buy new clothes, thinking about changing to a new job, listening to new music artists, you’ll right away have a first impression either positive or negative. Over time, your reactions can change and there’s nothing wrong with that. Stop here before you keep reading and try to think of something that you’ve started in the past and initially loved doing, but you began to view more negatively over time. Now think of something you weren’t a fan of initially, but then became a favorite of yours. Talking about your early opinions happens so much that you need to label those as initial opinions so people know those can change.
A great example of this type of modeling for reviews is YouTube user BIGQUINT who has tons of entertaining videos about his opinions of rap / hip hop albums with over two hundred thousand subscribers. If you want some examples, check out his review of Frank Ocean’s Blond(e) (I’m a huge fan of the album). The first three quarters of that video is his initial reaction to all the songs on the album with him dancing and talking about the difference between songs. During the last quarter of that video, he talks about his full reaction after listening to the album “25 to 50 times.” Another one of his great reaction videos that’s a few days old is about Kendrick’s new album DAMN. (I’m a big fan of that album too). Considering Kendrick’s album had so much hype that BIGQUINT felt the need to post a video about his initial reaction right away, he’s splitting up his initial reaction video with another one coming for his full reaction. First reactions exist, but those can change over time. Another example of the mindset is from this New Yorker article about the NYT restaurant critic, who mentions how he goes to all the places at least three times before being able to write the review.
On my end, these reviews that I’m writing here are somewhere in the middle — I’ve only been able to play the courses once, (they’re in different parts of the US, somewhat expensive, and need to make sure to make tee times in multiple days), but I also take my time before writing about them so I have full thoughts and am not just talking about an initial reaction. Sometimes when I’m writing, I even imagine I’m out there on the same holes again, this time hitting perfect shots. My initial reactions count, but these articles are my full reaction.
Allll that being said, my opinions of the Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa are exactly the same as I had the day I played out there. So sometimes opinions don’t change. Time for the full reaction on Saguaro!
Saguaro is a tournament style course, full of mini-doglegs that require thoughts about what to hit and where to aim off the tee, and full of changes in fairway and green style depending on how long the hole is. These types of designs constantly require correct planning and shot selection, which is ideal for tournaments and adds thought to a round of golf that you won’t usually find on other courses.
As I mentioned just above, one of the first things you’ll find on tournament courses are something I’ll call mini-doglegs. Overall, doglegs come in two styles. The first is the ‘standard’ dogleg which you’ll often find on tree lined courses, especially up north. Hit your drive dead straight with whatever club makes you stay just short of the end of the fairway, and then hit your second shot something like 60 to 80 or even 90 degrees to the right or left. Famous examples of holes like that are number 11 at Augusta National (drivers straight since it takes a lot of driving distance to fade it around the corner), 18 at Augusta National as well, number 1 at Brown Deer (course I play all the time), 15 at TPC Sawgrass, 8 at Erin Hills (check out the US Open there this year, though there is a slight possibility for hitting drives over the hill, but keeping it in the fairway that direction is very tough).
In general, all Florida courses are the same — they’re flat, have mini lakes everywhere with cattails everywhere, and they have houses on all sides of every hole. World Woods is not like that.
The club is based an hour north of Tampa, meaning that the land is as hilly as a course in North Carolina. There are a few lakes, but definitely not a main part of the course. And luckily, you’re not able to see any houses to the side of any hole (incidentally, they do have stay and play villas, but they’re 6 miles from the courses). Oh, and Tom Fazio knows how to build unique and tournament-esque courses, both of which you’ll find at World Woods.
Despite the name of the club, I was a huge fan of playing out there. Being a single player, I got paired with a father and son in the first round who were really friendly. We were one of the first groups off in the day and we cruised around so quickly, never had to wait, and we never cause the group behind us to wait either. We got along so well that we even decided to flip tee times for the second round of the day so we could play together again. Unlike the first round however, the afternoon round was packed and slow. However, this was not a big deal because the weather was (somewhat) warm, and we were in carts which makes 36 holes super easy.
I’ll admit, I’d never heard of World Woods at all before I got a suggestion to play there from the guy I played with earlier in the week that Palm Beach par 3 course, the first full day in Florida. I hadn’t heard of the club before, and wasn’t exactly sure about the quality considering how unique, and frankly odd, the name of the club is. Which is funny because there’s another famous club in Florida with an odd name, but more on that in a later post.
Now, if you ever talk to someone who’s played the courses there, expect the following quote where the player tries to make it obvious that they’ve played there, and that they know what the designs of the courses are.
Oh yeah, World Woods, I’ve played there before. Really cool courses. One of them is designed like Augusta National, and the other like Pine Valley. I could totally tell that was the case on my own when I was playing the courses, because I know a lot about what those top courses are designed like. And I’m definitely not claiming that because I was told about the comparisons before I played. I figured that out on my own.
This quote is a lie. If anyone ever talks about playing World Woods, the first thing they’re going to say is that Rolling Oaks looks like Augusta National, and Pine Barrens is designed to look semi like Pine Valley. Which means that 1) they’re only saying it to try to seem smart, and 2) make you think that they know course designs better than you. Incidentally, this is also the first thing that I’m writing about the courses here, so I guess I fall into that bucket of “being smart about course design” as well. My bad.
Though these differences are actually the case, Rolling Oaks does look like Augusta National does on TV cause I haven’t actually played there unfortunately. They both have wide and beautiful sloping fairways, wavy greens the way that basically every MacKenzie course is designed like, and bunkers that have the same edges that you’ll see at the Masters. Pine Barrens on the other hand has slightly tighter fairways, surrounded by more pine trees along with smaller greens, and more wide and semi-waste area bunkers, which I assume Pine Valley is like because I’ve never played there either.
- Two courses
- both different enough to be distinct
- slightly far away from main areas in Florida
- cheap enough to be a great deal compared to other courses in Florida, ~$170 for playing 36 in one day
- and if you go, plan on playing 36 holes in one day. You get a cheaper replay rate and can bolt afterwards.
Considering I hadn’t heard of World Woods before, and also wasn’t exactly sure when I’d be close enough to that area, I just called them a few days before my round and was given a tee time on both courses within less than a minute of talking to a guy behind the desk. I rolled up early in the morning, went in and paid for the first round. Like I mentioned above, the courses themselves are really cool and in great condition, but damn did that clubhouse look like one at a not-too-expensive municipal course. Or maybe a clubhouse that courses build cheaply while constructing their fancy / giant clubhouse that most courses of this nature have. I’ll take great courses over a great clubhouse however, so I didn’t mind that at all.
I hit some balls, went over to Pine Barrens course before the starter realized they told me I was playing Rolling Oaks for the first round, so I drove over to Rolling Oaks…
… aka Augusta National. We started on the 10th hole and I instantly I agreed that the course very much has a look like Augusta. 10th hole is a long par 5 with giant fairway, which is good for an opening drive, that slopes down and to the right, all the way until you have a 100 yard uphill third shot to a green that has two bunkers on both sides of the front part of the green which make it look very much like the 2nd hole at Augusta National. Check out the green in this instagram post.
I also took a picture from the back of the 10th green that shows what the fairway was looking like from.
Not only did the first hole look like something that could be at Augusta, but pretty much every other hole did too. For example, here’s the 15th hole with another bunker and green combo that shouts “you’re not in Florida, you’re at Augusta”.
The signature hole of Rolling Oaks here is frankly a little odd in my opinion. It’s the 8th hole, our second to last of the morning, a downhill par 3 with a mini lake that looks added into the hole for funsies. The rest of the holes looked natural and similar, and this hole green was just thrown in there because why not.
Couple notes about the course. None of the bunkers have rakes surrounding them, instead you’ll have a mini rake in your cart that you’re supposed to bring to every bunker shot. Luckily, I only forgot to bring the rake back to my cart once.
The greens on the course are super smooth, look great, but are decently slow. Half of that is based on how slopey the greens are and greens that are too quick would make putting annoying, and I’ll assume the other half of that is Flo-rida based courses with tons of play and people walking all over. Here’s a tip though if you’re on the course: play more break on your putts. The final three feet of basically every putt we hit snapped at the end and we kept missing low. If you know this about the greens, and you make some more putts when you’re playing RO, hit us up on twitter and give us the assist.