Last weekend I played Whirlwind Golf Club in an effort to track my steps and the miles it takes to play 18 holes. I played Devil’s Claw, the easier of the two courses at Whirlwind. I had only played this golf course once before, and didn’t really remember it… But a few holes stuck out from tee to green. Before I teed off, I grabbed a yardage book. During my round I noticed that every hole had a name. I love that, but didn’t think much of it during my round. When I got home I realized the yardage book listed the hole names and provided an explanation of name. I was so impressed I wanted to share that with you here.
If you get the chance, play Whirlwind Golf Club. The course is always in good shape, and the staff is truly world class.
1 – Greasy Mountain – Maudagi Doak
This golf hole faces “Muh-wah Ha-dahk,” also known as South Mountain. In the legend of Greasy Mountain, the Coyote is one of the main characters that is involved in the mountain being called Greasy. In 1939, The Gila River Indian Community was established and this mountain was not included within its boundaries. It is one of the most culturally significant natural features closet to the northern boundary of this community.
2 – Where the Dog Spoke – Math heg Gogs am Niow
This hole faces “Vee-cu, Gahk-Whoot,” also known as the Superstition Mountains. In the Odham story of creation, there is a chapter that tells of a great flood in which the people turned into stone. Just prior to the people turning into stone, a dog spoke to the people, urging them to move higher on the mountain to escape the flood waters.
3 – Maricopa Journey – O’Obab Himdagi
This par 5 memorializes the long journey of the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) from the Colorado River to the union of the Gila River and the Salt River. The union of two rivers is on the west end of The Gila River Indian Community, where the Pee-Posh, a Yuman Tribe, reside to this day. The location of the end of the journey also symbolizes the confederation of Pee-Posh (Maricopa) and the Akimel O’Odham (Pima), each with its own separate culture and traditions.
4 – Rock Throw Pass – Hothais Mai’i
This golf hole faces “Cheave Skoam-ack” (Tall Gray), also known as the San Tan Mountain, where behind the mountain to the southeast is Rock Throw Pass. In the days of old, O’Odham would pass through this path between mountains on their journeys to the north. At times, rocks would mysteriously be thrown at people as they walked in this area. The rocks that were thrown are not intended to harm but to only get attention from the travelers. It is believed that the pranksters of this rock throwing are the two daughters of Yellow Buzzard in the Legend of White Clay Eater.
5 – Coyote Tracks – Bahn Goki
This golf hole has several sand traps bringing to mind the tracks of animals. The coyote is predominating in many Odham stories. In one story, the coyote is tricked by baby quail that run away from coyote and hide in holes in the ground. The coyote reaches into the holes and pulls the quail out one by one. The coyote reaches into the last hole, which has no quail. Alas, the coyote is tricked again in grabbing onto a thorny cactus that was placed there by the quail. While the coyote was jumping an hollering the quails made their escape. Today, Odham basket weavers incorporate coyote track representations in combination with other designs on their baskets.
6 – Home of the Wine – Hevel Ki
This golf hole faces the southern part of “Komatke,” known as the Estrella Mountains. Komatke was formed during the geological Proterozoic Era approximately 600 million years ago and is culturally significant to The Gila River Indian Community. Through oral history, this mountain has been identified as the home of the wind. The land to the east of Komatke is the windy land where several whirlwinds can be seen roaming the areas at the same time. Whirlwind Golf Club derives its name from the whirlwinds of the windy land.
7 – Dragonfly Falls – Vag che dagi Shudagi
This golf hole is situated high up adjacent to the lake where the sound of cascading waters can be heard. Many songs speak of water in many different forms. One such song tells of the loud waters of the Hot Springs. The Oriole hears the loud Hot Spring water and wonders why it is unusually loud. He goes to see why the waters were so loud and there he saw many different kinds of dragonflies hovering over the water. The dragonflies were long, short and all different colors. It was the flapping of their wings that was making all the noise.
8 – Pig’s Ear – Koji Nahk
This golf hole faces “Kaw-gee” (pig) atop of “Komatke,” which is also known as the Estrella Mountains. The wild javelina is indigenous to the deserts of Southern Arizona and is recognized in natural rock formation. The rear, back and head of the Kaw-gee can be seen from the distance as the Kaw-gee faces the north. The Odham name for the javelins is “tasi’ikol,” also referred to as “is-chin Kaw-gee” (wild pig).
9 – Eagleman’s Gamble – Ba’ag O’Otham Gihns
This golf hole is a split fairway that challenges the skills of the golfer involving risks to reach the green. The Odham believe that the Eagle was a human being before he became a bird. In the legend of Eagleman, from the story of creation, it says that the Odham man who became the eagle was a gambler. The game he played and always won is “Gihns,” which is played with four dry, flat, marked saguaro cactus sticks.
10 – Bat Mountain – Nanakernel Doag
This golf hole faces the general direction of present day Tempe where Bat Mountain stands. The home of the bats in the mountain is described in a song of the Ant that says he saw the bats’ home (meaning a cave in the mountain) and he heard music of a bamboo flute inside the cave. He went into the cave and saw many swarms of bees flapping their wings. The flapping of all of the bees in combination with the flute music sounded like people singing songs.
11 – Stone People – Hothai O’Otham
This golf hole faces “Vee-cum Hahk-woot,” also known as the Superstition Mountains. In the legend of the “Great Flood,” from the Odham story of creation, a medicine man would sing songs on top of Superstition Mountain. Every time he would sing, the mountain would rise high above the rising flood waters. After his fourth attempt to raise the mountain to the heavens in order to save the people from drowning, he realized his powers were not strong enough, so he turned the people into stone at the top of the mountain. The stone people still stand on top of the mountain today and can be seen from a distance.
12 – Oriole’s Crown – Vagi Kogi Kikua
This golf hole is situated high adjacent to the lake and derives its name from a song of the “Vah-gee-kaw” (Oriole). The song tells of a large circular lake that has green moss in a zig-zag line across the bottom of the lake. The Oriole walks from behind and admires the green moss. The Oriole reaches down into the lake, takes some of the green moss and makes a crown, which he wears as he walks behind the lake.
13 – Arrow’s Flight – Hapoth Mu
This golf hole challenges golfers to hit a precise shot between two sand traps on the fairway. The name derives from the need for accuracy such as the flight of an arrow hitting its mark. The Akimel O’Odham (River People) used the straight shafts of a plant called “oose cawk-ah-mahk” (gray sticks) for making arrows. Some arrows did not have stone arrowheads and were sharpened at the tips. These arrows were called blunt arrows and were used for small game.
14 – Deergrass Dunes – Huai Thonk
This golf hole is emblematic of the natural dunes and indigenous grasses that are most prevalent in the Gila Crossing and Santa Cruz areas of The Gila River Indian Community. Elders recall running and playing on the slopes of these dunes during their youth. Blowing winds and shifting sands have created small coves where wildlife can seek shelter from harsh elements. A song of the Oriole tells of the “Coh-mahk-Kawl-aw-gahm” (a gray-colored bird) landing upside down on an earth mound and exhaling. The breath of the bird started a wind that grew and filled the horizon with dust.
15 – Mesquite – Kui
This golf hole derives its name from four mesquite trees that stand in the locations of their birth. The Velvet Mesquite is common in the floodplains of Sonora and southern Arizona. The mesquite tree grows to heights of 30 to 50 feet, though there are none of this size in existence today. The Akimel O’Odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) utilized the wood of the mesquite for home and ceremonial construction, firewood, fences, various implements and economy and the mesquite beans were a source of food.
16 – Komatke Peaks – Komatke Kugthach
This golf hole presents a striking backdrop of “Komatke,” also known as the Estrella Mountains. The numerous peaks stand out from a distance and stand solemnly as central to traditional belief of the Akimal O’Odham (River People) and the Pee-Posh (Maricopa) of this community. Based on oral tradition, Komatke is one of the most culturally significant mountains within the exterior boundaries of The Gila River Indian Community.
17 – Sanctuary “Aji”
During early historic and probably prehistoric battles with warring tribes in the vicinity of “Aji,” women and children automatically south sanctuary on Aji when war battles occurred. All mountains that stand alone far from other mountains are called “Aji.” From the top of Aji, people can see for miles in all directions.
18 – Going Home – Upom Vop
This golf hole is the last of 18 holes, signifying the return home for the golfer. Whether social dancing or ceremonial dancing there is always a song that lets people know that the festivities are over and that it is time to go home. The memory of this golfing experience can best be explained in transition of a Going Home song that says: “Our songs are ending as you go your separate ways, take along with you the good songs that were sung here today, as within your hearts.” The song implies to the people to remember the good times at this function and to keep the good thoughts of their experience in their hearts.
I had no idea these holes meant so much to so many people. Writing this gives me a whole new respect for The Gila River Indian Community and it will make this course mean even more to me every time I play it. Whirlwind Golf Club is more than 36 holes of championship golf… When I close my eyes I can see these flood plans, I can hear these songs, and can relate to what these people must have lived through. I hope to play here again soon, and will tee off with a greater respect for the history at Whirlwind Golf Club.