While most golfers would be thrilled just to shoot par, the Pascua Yaqui tribe’s Sewailo Golf Course in Tucson scored an eagle by being named the top course in Arizona. The course is also among the Top 10 in the country, ranked at # 6. The rankings came from Golf Advisor, based on guest reviews on its website.
The course’s achievement is impressive considering the more than 300 courses throughout the state. “It’s a testament to the exceptional service everyone at Sewailo delivers every day,” says Kimberly Van Amburg, Casino Del Sol’s CEO.
“Anytime you undertake something from scratch that you’ve never done before, you worry about how well you’ll execute it,” says Steve Neely, Chief Marketing Officer. “We teamed up with Troon management because they know how to run world-class golf resorts and they did a good job in developing our team. We ended up with a mixture of folks with lots of experience and tribal members with no golf experience at all and it was a good marriage.”
The accolades poured in not long after the first tee time on 12-12-12, when course designer Notah Begay III (Navajo/San Felipe/Isleta) – then the only full-blooded Native American on the PGA Tour, who had racked up four Tour wins and banked over $5 million – and Arizona musician Alice Cooper were guests of honor as the first to tee off.
“This is a big day for Native Americans throughout Arizona,” Begay said that day. “This lush, oasis-style, PGA-quality course will revolutionize golf in this part of the country, and I’m honored to have the chance to bring this dream into a creative reality that reflects the intentions – economically and culturally – of the Pascua Yaqui community.”
The Sewailo course (translated as Flower World) was the third one designed by Begay. “This will be one of the top courses in Arizona, as it is a course that has the capability to challenge golfers of all skill levels,” he said. “The course design, from the routing of the holes to its landscape architecture, will put it in strong consideration for top rankings.”
In line with the Pascua Yaqui culture, respect for the land was built into all phases of the course construction. “What we’re doing here is for everyone’s benefit, the tribe, all of Southern Arizona,” said Chairman Peter Yucupicio. “You don’t just come in, fire up a bunch of bulldozers, and start changing the landscape. You have to first talk to the land and ask permission.”
“A project like this starts with the standpoint of culture and the need to maintain and respect the tradition of the communities we are working with,” said Begay. “I asked the Creator for guidance in shaping this course.”
The 18-hole, par-72 course, measures 7,400 yards, and the rolling fairways run through over 14 acres of lakes, streams and other water features. The course offers five tee boxes to allow for players of all abilities and nearly 70 bunkers, some described as “deep and perilous.”
Esthetically, according to David Holland of Golf Advisor: “Sewailo is more parkland than typical Arizona target golf, thanks to the tribe’s water rights under the Central Arizona Project that provide 325 million gallons per year– four to five times that of the average course in the state.”
For those who can concentrate on more than just their scorecard, the course is loaded with more than 30,000 plants and native flowers, some salvaged during construction, others newly planted like the more than 500 rose bushes along the Number 9 and 18 fairways.
A training/practice facility includes a dual-ended range; 2,000-square-feet of climate-controlled teaching studio; putting/chipping/pitching greens and multiple practice bunkers.
“This course is challenging, but fair,” says Neely, adding, “We’re not done yet as we have other plans further down the road.”
For those geographically fortunate enough to consider booking a tee time, visit www.casinodelsol.com/sewailogolfclub/tee-times or call (520) 838 6623.