Whirlwind Golf Club: Cattail Course

No. 15 is a downhill, canyon Par 3 called Horn Toad.
No. 15 is a beautiful downhill, canyon Par 3 called Horn Toad or Matkukdish.

The 2nd of the two Gary Panks-designed golf courses out at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler is the Cattail Course. Whirlwind is affiliated with the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and managed by Troon Golf. The Cattail Course opened in 2000 and hosted the Nationwide Tour’s Gila River Golf Classic from its opening through 2005. The facility is located in the heart of the Gila River Indian Community and enjoys unlimited watering rights. It’s always green, lush, and in great shape.

I’ve had the Cattail Course on my bucket list for awhile now. For one reason or another, it’s always been closed (or out of my price range) when I’ve want to play it. Today it was open, and I needed to get out there to play a practice round in preparation for Monday’s Stroke Play Championship. The course plays 7,334 yards from the Black Tees to a Par of 72, a course rating of 73.6, and a slope of 133. Here are some of the highlights of the round:

Holes Worth Writing Home About
In my mind, I think I built the Cattail Course up to be this amazing golf course. Like I said, whenever I’ve tried to play it, it’s been closed, which has only added to the intrigue. At one time or another, I’ve thought, “What are they hiding out there?” and “Whatever it is, it must be good.” Plus, if you’ve ever played the Devil’s Claw Course, which is fantastic, it only adds to your expectations.

Usually when I’m writing about a golf course, I like to pick a favorite hole on the front nine and a favorite hole on the back nine, but five holes in, I was thinking how plain the Cattail Course was. The first nine holes were forgettable. They were boring. There wasn’t a lot of elevation change, and the holes were visually unappealing. I can’t believe they had a Nationwide Tour event out here. In my opinion, there were no great holes.

The 18th is arguably the most demanding driving hole on the course with fairway bunkers guarding both sides of a narrow landing area.
The 18th is arguably the most demanding driving hole. Fairway bunkers guard both sides of a narrow landing area.

The back nine saved the Cattail Course experience for me. Finally, some holes that felt or looked different! The back nine plays 3,781 yards long, but it doesn’t feel that long if you know where to hit it. There are some tough holes, like the 245-yard Par 3 10th, but overall, the back nine is way better than the front. For that reason, I think Devil’s Claw is the better of the two courses. But I will do my best to save Cattail.

My favorite hole on the whole course was the 450-yard Par 4 18th – “Last One” or Oichkam. This is the kind of view I was expecting to see from more tee boxes out here. The yardage book, which is included, calls the finishing hole the most demanding driving hole on the course. Even on a windy day like today, the fairway bunkers on either side of a narrow landing area come into play, and from the Black Tees, it’s just 288 yards to reach the pot bunker on the right. Lay-up short of the bunkers, and you’ve got a long iron in for a difficult, uphill second shot. I hit driver, 5-iron, and made par. This is a great hole and a great last hole.

My second favorite hole was also on the back nine. No. 15 is a downhill Par 3 called “Horn Toad” or Matkukdish. The yardage book calls it a deceptive, canyon Par 3 with more room to miss short than long. It says 176 yards on the card, but today is was playing just 136. I hit a 9-iron to within ten feet and missed the putt. But again, this was another visually stunning hole, the kind I thought there would be more of when I played Cattail.

Quiet Please
When was the last time you read the words smooth and bermuda in the same sentence? Well, the Cattail Course has good, smooth, bermudagrass greens. They were great. The Devil’s Claw Course is being aerated as we speak, which means the Cattail Course isn’t far behind. I wish courses didn’t have to aerate as much as they do. The greens are almost perfect. Get out there and play before they punch.

The curbs
On the back of the scorecard is a Recommended Tee Handicap. I wish more courses would do this.

One thing I noticed on the back of the scorecard is a Recommended Tee Handicap. I may have missed this when playing other Troon courses, but I thought it was a great idea. It recommends the following tees based on handicap:

* BLACK: 5 and below
* GOLD: 6-11
* SILVER: 12-18
* COPPER: 18-24
* JADE: 25 and above

I wish more courses would do this because I think it would save players a lot of time and a lot of struggle. Oh, and all of the curbs near the tee boxes are painted the color of that tee marker. This is a great touch since there are so many tee boxes, and you can’t always tell where the markers are that you’re playing.

Today was the windiest round of golf I’ve played maybe all semester. Because it was a practice round, I was more concerned with finding my lines and landing areas off the tee, but I managed to make what I thought was a nine birdie on the Par 3 3rd hole. It was playing 147 yards over water into a strong left to right wind. I had to hit my shot way left over the water off the tee and trust that the wind would bring it back onto the green, and it did. I probably made a 20-footer.

The wind was howling at the Par 3 3rd. I had to hit it over the water just to get it to land on the green.
The wind was howling at the Par 3 3rd. I had to hit it over the water just to get it to land on the green.

While We’re Young
I caught a break on my pace of play. Troon courses always post the amount of time in which you should be able to play the course. They call it a Time Par. The Cattail Course has a Time Par of 4:33, but thanks to some very generous play-throughs, I was able to get around in a little more than two-and-a-half hours. The high today was 99-degrees, but playing in the wind always wears me out.

Next On the Tee
ASU’s Karsten Golf Course in Tempe. The Match Play Championship is out there a week from Monday, and I think I’ve only played the course once since I graduated from there in 2002. It’s been a while to say the least!

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