A few weeks ago I played Whirlwind Golf Club and realized each hole on the golf course had a name. Then, when I got home, was flipping through the yardage guide and found explanations for all the holes. I wrote a blog post about it and was impressed to learn how much these holes meant to Gila River Indian Community. They have 36 holes at Whirlwind, so the next weekend I went back and played the other course hoping to learn the same. Sure enough the yardage guide had explanations of all those holes, too.
Your journey on the Cattail course is very much like the journey of the Native Americans of the Gila River Indian Community. Challenge and perseverance tempered by hospitality, tradition and fellowship are what has allowed the people of the Maricopa and Pima tribes to flourish in the face of adversity.
The symbols and hole names in this book reflect legends, animals and customs of the Gila River Indian Community. We sincerely wish that the fond memories you create today become your traditions of tomorrow.
1 – Arrow Shot – Iipa Kyaam
With the canyons of South Mountain Range as your guide, your straightest will be required for this opening hole. Stay clear of the bunker on the right and realize the green is larger than it appears. There is very little room over the green.
2 – Two Mesquites – Gohk Kui
Mesquite trees have long been used by the Gila River Indian Community for construction, medicine and food. On this hole, they serve as a guide. Your aiming point should be the mesquite in the distance by the green. The lone mesquite tree standing on the left-hand side of the fairway marks the beginning of trouble, as any ball hit left of her will be difficult to find. Take plenty of club for the approach shot as the green is long and narrow.
3 – Mud Hen – QaaQ
The third hole is the first of Cattail’s unique par 3s. Torn between the water in front and the huge expanse of desert and mountains behind, the golfer must face the first decision of risk versus reward that this course has to offer. A realistic shot at birdie brings the tree and water into play. The safe play is right of the green, but this leaves a delicate pitch back toward the trouble that was initially avoided. The enter of the green here is your best option.
4 – Whitetail Crane – Vakuan
Cattail’s number one handicap hole and named after the river birds that reside on its shores, this par 4 is a straightforward test of golf. As with most par 4s, the emphasis is placed on the drive. Any drive not passing the crest of the center of the fairway will find a very long second shot to a well-protected green. Mind your distance on your approach shot as the majority of this green is hidden behind the mounds on the left.
5 – Lucky Shot – Shmma Kyaam
Decisions, decisions, decisions – this short par 4 forces you to ask yourself “Do I feel Lucky?” The beach bunker left is particularly hazardous. If your drive lands in this bunker, it forces you to play a long shot over its lip to a well-guarded green. Shots played too safe to the right leave a longer shot than what certain hole locations can hold. This one will need to be played a few times before you can find your comfort level.
6 – Gila Monster – Chiadagi
It is said that once a Gila Monster bites you, it never lets go. While this hole seems docile enough, underestimate it and you’ll find yourself feeling its bite for many holes to come. The green is narrow from back to front, so proper club selection is critical. Missing the green short leaves an up and down from the tall native grasses; shots missed long must content with mounding and an awkward chip back to the green.
7 – Sleeping Giant – Ho’ok Vo’o
Not only does this par 5 play nearly 600 yards, it is very narrow, especially off the tee. The entire hole is set up by the tee ball – hit a good one and the hole becomes friendlier on your second and third shots. A poor drive brings the wash and native areas into play and makes you feel every yard of this “Sleeping Giant.”
8 – By the Wash – Aki Basho
One of the better par 4s on the course, this hole forces you to aim at a target that you really don’t want to hit. The fairway bunker in the center of the fairway is your aiming point, but longer hitters should take care not to reach it. Balls hit in the fairway will leave a shot to a very accessibly green. Par or birdie is a realistic score.
9 – Cicada – Xanava
A classic dogleg left par 4 that places the emphasis on the placement of the drive. The fairway bunker on the right-hand side of the fairway is reachable for longer hitters, but the risk must be taken to hit it there in order to avoid the huge mesquite that guards the left-hand side of the fairway. Shots that find a clear path to the green will find an approach that is friendly. Avoid missing the green left, as this poses a tougher up and down for par.
10 – Hard & Tough – Shafk
This hole is the start of the “Cattail Stretch” – the three hardest and toughest holes on the course. Make it through these and your travels ahead become less perilous. This par 3 requires length and accuracy. Not visible from the tee, water borders the rear of this green. Anything long and right is more than likely wet. The play is to aim left center of the green, take your par and move on.
11 – Rattlesnake – Avehan
The hardest hole on the second nine, this par 4 becomes a challenge on your second shot as the entire fairway slopes right into the deepest dry canyon on the course. There are no bunkers on this hole, so the green is receptive to a variety of shots, however playing down the left-hand side is the safest way to go.
12 – Two Heads – Gohk Moam
Look at the mountain range in the distance and you’ll see the inspiration for the Indian name for this hole. Your aiming point off this tee is the large mesquite on the left. Do not flirt with the bunker or the canyon on the right. Be wary on your second shot of the fairway bunker that guards an approach from the left and the water that will catch wayward shots to the right. If you can leave yourself a middle to short iron approach, consider it a success. And if you arrive to this point unscathed, a birdie is a realistic score.
13 – Horsefly – Huaw
Pesky is a good description of this hole, hence the name. Wide open from the tee, it narrows to a well-protected green. The best approach angle is from the right, but be careful, as the dogleg is not as severe as it appears. Shots too far right will have to contend with trees and rough.
14 – Reflection Pond – Vachik
This is the perfect shotmaker’s hole as it allows for multiple choices from the tee. Conservative players will hit a fairway wood or long iron to the left of the fairway bunkers. Aggressive players may hit driver. If driver is your choice, remember that the fairway slopes toward the water. There is also a hidden fairway bunker beyond the ones that are visible from the tee. For most, the risk of driver is not worth your possible reward.
15 – Horn Toad – Matkukdish
While deceptive, this canyon par 3 should yield many good scores. Trust the distance and trust your swing. Believe it or not, there is more room to miss short than long.
16 – Coyote Leg – Bahn Kayio
This two-tiered fairway is one of the most scenic on the course with views of the mountains, resort, river and spa. With so much to look at, don’t be distracted from the task at hand. Longer hitters can cut of more of the fairway bunkers with their drive; short hitters should stay left. The green is very approachable, but be wary of long and right as the river creeps in closer than you think.
17 – Sidewinder – Aveusar
A blind tee shot will add confusion to first time players, but straight down the middle is the best play as there is more room left than what shows from the tee. Provided you find the fairway, hit all you have for your second shot as there is ample room near the green. This is a great opportunity to post a good score before the end of your round.
18 – Last One – Oichkam
A fine challenge for a finishing hole, the 18th is the most demanding driving hole on the course. Lower handicap players are forced to choose between driver, which could land them in either set of fairway bunkers, or a long iron, which would leave a long, difficult uphill second shot. Middle to high handicappers should keep their tee ball on the right side of the fairway. This opens the hole for their second shot. Take extra care in gauging the yardage on your approach as this green is long, narrow and sometimes well hidden from view.
Just like Devil’s Claw, I love the stories behind each hole. If you haven’t played either of the golf courses before, I would recommend grabbing a yardage guide and reading these hole descriptions before you tee off. Heck, keep it handy as you play, too, as there are some good suggestions for some of these holes. I really enjoyed both my rounds at Whirlwind, and I can’t wait to get back.