Good Golf, Good Weather, Goodyear:
Make Tracks to Phoenix’s West Valley
 
Story by: Craig Distl
 
In 1917, with World War I raging in Europe, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company purchased 16,000 acres in an arid valley west of Phoenix. Goodyear needed a supply of long-staple cotton to make rubber tires for airplanes and the hardscrabble desert land was surprisingly fertile ground for the crop.
 
Goodyear established the Wigwam Resort, which included the area’s first 9-hole golf course. The course expanded to 18 holes in 1941, the town of Goodyear formed in 1946.
This began a long-standing relationship between the Ohio-based tire conglomerate and what became known as Phoenix’s West Valley.
 
By 1930, Goodyear established the Wigwam Resort, which included the area’s first 9-hole golf course. The course expanded to 18 holes in 1941, the town of Goodyear formed in 1946, and noted golf architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. arrived in 1965 to develop a second golf course and redesign the original layout.
 
The popularity of golf had risen in the Valley of the Sun and visitors from the North and East discovered a warm, sunny playground in the cold-weather months.
 
Fast forward to today and that fertile ground for long-staple cotton has given way to dozens of verdant golf courses, joined by a new set of westward-looking organizations from Ohio – the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. The two baseball teams share a spring training complex in Goodyear not far from the original cotton fields.
 
Wigwam Resort offers the dual distinction of stepping back to the classic era of American hospitality, while providing modern luxuries, golf and conveniences important to today’s travelers.
Goodyear and the adjacent suburb of Litchfield Park are thriving cities that make an ideal golf destination, particularly in autumn, winter and spring.
 
And, in case you were wondering, Wigwam Resort remains an important player on the West Valley golf scene. The classic resort is now home to 54 holes and has undergone a renaissance under a new ownership group led by Jerry Colangelo, who formerly owned the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
 
A visit to Wigwam Resort offers the dual distinction of stepping back to the classic era of American hospitality, while providing modern luxuries and conveniences important to today’s travelers. It’s a place that still emphasizes customer service and makes guests feel pampered and special.
 
Wigwam guests stay in casita (small house) guest rooms that frame the resort. From there, it’s an easy walk to the golf complex and a host of amenities ranging from a full-service spa to lavish pools to multiple indoor and outdoor dining options.
 
When the morning sun rises over Wigwam Resort, as it does practically every day of the year, it bathes the lush greenery of 54 holes of championship golf. The courses, thanks in large part to the design work of Robert Trent Jones Sr., have a classic, East Coast feel to them. Jones preferred tree-lined doglegs and those are in ample supply on the Gold and Blue courses at Wigwam.
 
Unlike many West Valley courses, the fairways are not framed by desert. The Goodyear folks went the extra mile to surround the courses with trees, landscaping and something you rarely see in the desert – rough. The courses are also bordered by groves of orange trees, providing a refreshing in-season citrus snack.
 
Water hazards are also in ample supply at Wigwam. Jones placed small ponds around greens and a five-foot wide canal meanders through the property. It is said that Goodyear went all out with the Gold Course to challenge the South Course at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, owned by rival Firestone.
 
Less than 10 miles from Wigwam Resort is another excellent West Valley golf destination – Verrado Golf Club.
Less than 10 miles from Wigwam Resort is another excellent West Valley golf destination – Verrado Golf Club. Verrado has two campuses about two miles apart and each features a superb course. The Founder’s Course at Verrado is a Tom Lehman/John Fought design that opened in 2004 and the Victory Course at Verrado is a solo Lehman design that opened in early 2017.
 
The setting and routing at the Founder’s Course are about as good as you will find anywhere. The course is framed by the White Tank Mountains and meanders through desert terrain with just the right amount of elevation change. The skyline of Phoenix, about 30 miles to the east, is visible from multiple places on the Founder’s Course.
 
The Founder’s Course is plenty long enough, at 7,258 yards, to challenge the scratch golfer, and becomes imminently more playable across six sets of tees that end with the forward tees at 5,142 yards. Fought and Lehman built wide fairways and left room around the greens for errant shots.
 
ABOVE: Lehman was given a solo set of keys to design Verrado’s newest offering, the Victory Course.
BELOW: Amongst the rocks and boulders, Lehman took more chances than he did while teaming with Fought at the Founder’s Course.
Verrado’s four closing holes at The Founder’s Course are a nice combination of challenging, fair, and scenic golf holes.
 
Lehman was given a solo set of keys to design Verrado’s newest offering, the Victory Course. The 7,258-yard layout sits on an extremely rocky site that was the former proving grounds for Caterpillar heavy equipment.
 
Amongst the rocks and boulders, Lehman took more chances than he did while teaming with Fought at the Founder’s Course. The course has a couple of blind tee shots over desert terrain to hidden fairways, and he built a drivable par-4, replete with hazards, at the 14th hole. Another par-4, the 17th, invites the golfer to hit a tee shot over a large mound in the middle of the fairway that hides an eight-foot-deep and 20-foot-wide grassy hole about 130 yards from the green.
 
Lehman opted for two monster par-5s that tip out at 632 and 616 yards, but it is the last par-5, No. 18, that has really captured the public’s attention. This spectacular closing hole was blasted out of bedrock and features an elevated tee shot over a lake to a valley fairway with vineyards on the left side. Because of the extra distance that comes with a downhill tee shot, golfers have a chance to go for the green in two, which requires an uphill shot of about 210-240 yards to a slightly hidden green carved from rock and protected by mounding.
 
The dramatic 18th at Victory sums up the course itself – fun, challenging, scenic and rocky. Above that green is the clubhouse, known as the Cliff House, perched on a cliff overlooking the back nine with open air dining and a relaxing way to finish the day.
 
Another Goodyear course worth a visit is the Golf Club of Estrella. Designed in 1999 by Jack Nicklaus II, Above is hole #3.
Another Goodyear course worth a visit is the Golf Club of Estrella. Designed in 1999 by Jack Nicklaus II, Estrella is located south of the city near Estrella Mountain Regional Park, not too far away from the NASCAR track at Phoenix International Raceway.
 
Jackie Nicklaus designed a very playable course with ample fairway landing areas and only two water hazards. Bunkering is the method of defense here, with most greens well protected.
 
The greens themselves are often in immaculate condition. In its literature, Estrella makes this claim, “You will be treated to some of the smoothest and best-conditioned surfaces in the world.”
 

There are no blind tee shots or quirky design elements at Estrella. Just golf the way it was meant to be played, with distinct visual lines on every shot.

The Golf Club of Estrella is part of the active, resort-style community of Estrella, which recently added its 5,000th home and features a rarity in the desert – two large lakes totaling 72 acres that are home to the Estrella Yacht Club. The club offers residents access to sailboats, paddle boats, canoes and kayaks.

There are no blind tee shots or quirky design elements at Estrella. Just golf the way it was meant to be played, with distinct visual lines on every shot.

One of the Estrella residents is Hall of Fame baseball player Tim Raines. Raines, who starred with the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox, is an avid golfer and a fan of the Golf Club of Estrella.

“If you ask anybody who has been here or anybody who lives around here, they will say that Estrella is one of their favorites,” Raines says.

In addition to great golf and resorts, an attractive aspect of the Goodyear/Phoenix area is the number of golf-related companies located in the region. Karsten Manufacturing Company, better known as PING Golf, offers factory tours and club fittings at its headquarters. Both are quite popular and require advance registration.

Additionally, international sports wear manufacturer Antigua is headquartered in nearby Peoria, and golfers can visit the company’s factory outlet for the best prices on the latest Antigua gear.

And for those in the market for a new headcover for their driver or fairway woods, Daphne’s Headcovers has produced animal headcovers in the Phoenix area since 1978. CEO Jane Spicer started the company with her mother, Daphne, and their whimsical headcovers are now sold in 75 countries.

Professional golfers who use Daphne’s Headcovers include: Dustin Johnson (black lab), Lydia Ko (snowman) and John Daly (lion). Those three designs, and 172 more, are available to the public.

When it comes to golf and tourism, the last 100 years have definitely been good to Goodyear, Arizona. And with the infrastructure and facilities now in place, the next century promises to be even better.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Visit Website: http://wigwamarizona.com/

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