When it comes to winter golf destinations, there are certain places that immediately rise to the top of the list. States like Hawaii, California and Florida jump into my brain and scream.. Pick me!! Pick me!!
Today we are giving the readers of pjkoenig.com another option to consider. We are talking The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, AZ. With Spring training in town and located only 30 minutes away from the Phoenix airport, the resort is a popular option from February to March. Scottsdale gets most of the love from the Spring Training crowd but The Wigwam is King of the West side and it’s been in charge for quite some time.
In 1918, the Goodyear Tire company discovered that cotton was a key ingredient in making higher performing and longer lasting tires. To help meet the increasing demand for their tires, Goodyear purchased 16,000 acres of land for cotton farming in Arizona and established lodging for local ranch suppliers. Naturally, these guests grew to love the place and suggested it would be an ideal spot for winter vacations.
On Thanksgiving Day of 1929, The Wigwam opened its doors to the world as a guest ranch. Over the next 90 years, the resort would host presidents, celebrities, and various high society types. In 2019, they added Patrick Koenig to their already impressive roster of esteemed guests. Note: Esteemed guest list does include Britney Spears. I immediately classed up the place with a professional teepee modeling shoot.
Even though the Wild West ended somewhere around 1895 and the resort’s history picks up some 30 years later, you can still feel the spirit of the wild frontier at The Wigwam. In this modeling shoot, I attempt to capture that spirit. Photo credit goes to Rick Cicci, Head Golf Professional at the resort. His zest for participation in the photo shoot should tell you a lot about the fun loving atmosphere at The Wigwam. Without Rick none of this would have been possible.
In 1930, golf would enter the picture with the creation of a 9 hole Red Course. 5 years later course architect Red Lawrence and head professional V.O. “Red” Allen would expand the routing to include 18 holes. Today, the Red course is a local favorite as it is the most player friendly option of the 3 courses at the resort.
In addition to the Red course, Robert Trent Jones Sr. marched onto the scene in 1965 and delivered 36 more holes of golf. Honoring the history of the resort, the new courses were named after the colors of the Goodyear Tire logo, Blue and Gold.
Playing 7,345 yards from the back tees, the Gold course is the true championship test at the resort. The course was once listed as a Top 100 golf course in America and has hosted numerous US Open qualifiers, NCAA Championships, and currently holds one of the top amateur competitions in the world, The Patriot All-America Invitational.
The greens sites also add to the difficulty of the round with dramatic slopes on a number of the putting surfaces. On the first hole, I was sure that my second shot was going in for an albatross two. Even though we couldn’t really see where it finished, I was confident I was at least facing a short putt for eagle. As it turns out, I never stood a chance of holding that green and I had rolled down into a bunker. I ended up tapping in for a smooth 6 and a solid welcome to The Wigwam.
While the pjkoenig.com golf blog is not much for pictures of food, the cuisine at The Wigwam is inspiring. Between Litchfield’s and Red’s Bar & Grill the dining options abound. The resort even offers fireside s’mores at The Wigwam bar. I could spend several paragraphs raving about the eatery, but I will leave you with just one pearl of wisdom.
The scallops at Litchfield’s earn my first ever 5/5 food star rating. While the food star scale isn’t fully vetted, in order to receive 5/5 the dish must be considered life changing and these scallops did exactly that. The picture below is just a preview of the full 4 scallop main entree that I would order later. I would have taken a picture, but I was busy with my life changing 5/5 food experience.
The Blue course also opened in 1965 and plays about 1400 yards shorter than the Gold course from the back tees. Even though the par 70 course lacks distance by modern standards, the small sloped greens establish it’s difficulty. On a day when I hit the ball well enough to find 12 greens in regulation, I only managed to find 5. Almost all of the greens are of the pushup variety and you’ll have plenty of fun testing your short game around the greens.
After 3 days of various staff interactions at the resort, one thing became abundantly clear. The employees of The Wigwam love The Wigwam. It feels like almost everyone has been at the resort for over 10 years. The staff is fully invested and it shows. They even have one employee with 48 years of tenure. In the hospitality industry, this sort of loyalty is very rare and it makes a huge difference in the overall Wigwam experience. Plus they have a waterslide in the pool. Who isn’t going to be happy about waterslides?
Even if you didn’t bring your golf clubs, you can still play golf at The Wigwam… foot golf that is. The rules are the same as golf but you have bigger holes and bigger balls. Just kick the ball down the fairway and count em up at the end. Foot golf is a great way to get everyone involved and any one can play. It’s a pretty social sport that can involve as much or as little side shenanigans as your group deems necessary.
In the picture above, we find the Pelé of foot golf, Sarah Boyd. Sarah is the Social Media and Marketing Manager for the resort and is often recognized on the streets as the host of The Wigwam’s bi-weekly video blog. Tune in here for some behind the scenes Wigwam footage.
With The Wigwam resort celebrating 90 years of existence, they are throwing a weekly roaring 20’s party every Saturday. Just like everything else that The Wigwam does, these parties are done to perfection. They have disguises, fake cigars, and smoked manhattans. Our group gladly joined in on the action and roared hard.
If you are interested in roaring into your own Wigwam adventure. more information can be found here.