Wigwam Resort ready for tournament play following Lehman’s bunker reno

Wigwam Resort ready for tournament play following Lehman’s bunker reno
Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A bunker renovation project has been completed at the Gold Course at the Wigwam Resort near Phoenix, Arizona.

The project was overseen by architect Tom Lehman and a team from Key Golf Management, a golf course care and maintenance company based in Las Vegas.

Key Golf’s Linebacker bunker liner was introduced across the Robert Trent Jones Sr-designed course, with Lehman working to introduce some new fairway lines, reposition selected bunkers, and remove others.

“The Gold Course at one time was known as one of the best courses in the country, and it still has the bones to be that,” said Lehman. “Golf has passed it by a little technology wise and maybe design wise. We’re trying to take it back to the original feel; to give it a little variety and a different look.”

Kip Wolfe, vice president of Key Golf, was impressed by the amount of time Lehman spent on course, describing him as more of a visionary architect that one who prefers drawings and contour lines.

“His only drawings were an occasional sketch on a cardboard top off a paint box,” Wolfe said. “He hit endless golf shots so he could see where he wanted the bunkers and rough lines. We’ve never worked with an architect that spent that much time making sure it was done right from the field. His passion was obvious, and it showed in the final product.”

The amount of bunkering removed from the course is substantial, with only 38 of the 89 bunkers in place before the work started still remaining. 

“Sometimes bunkers get put in simply because they look good in that position,” said Lehman. “We tried to eliminate all the unnecessary ones and use the bunkers in a way so that they mean something and become really significant strategically. We changed the fairway lines so they don’t have a straight bowling alley type feel. Fairway lines should pinch in at certain points and get wider in other areas. It all fits together and provides a better look.”

Prior to this project, the Gold Course went through a comprehensive restoration and renovation project in 2007. Led by Forrest Richardson, ASGCA, that work resulted in the current routing and made room for a 14 acre practice area and putting course.

In addition, Richardson was tasked with identifying the original bunkering from Robert Trent Jones, Sr. when he extended the 18 hole course to 36 for the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. According to Richardson: "Goodyear had become increasingly jealous of rival Firestone and the success of their Ohio club. Jones' solution was a 36 hole plan led by a young field superintendent Jay Morrish." 

The Gold Course will have its first major test following the latest project when the annual Patriot All-America tournament visits the Wigwam Resort from 29-31 December 2015.