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No flat lies but plenty of fun times at Kokopelli Golf Club in Gilbert, Arizona

Scott BordowBy Scott Bordow,
Kokopelli Golf Club - No. 1 fairway
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The first hole at Kokopelli Golf Club, a 519-yard par 5, isn't all that intimidating. (Courtesy of Kokopelli G.C.)

GILBERT, Ariz. - Here's what you're guaranteed to find at Kokopelli Golf Club: A relaxed atmosphere, a golf course that can be challenging but is modest enough for duffers to enjoy, and fast greens and fairways.

Here's what you won't find: A flat lie.

If you like your golf courses to have a little British Open flavor, with mounds running through fairways, you'll love the experience at Kokopelli Golf Club. If you insist that drives finding the fairway have a perfect lie, well, head somewhere else.

"There are a lot of hills," said Ken Hrenko, a 13-handicapper from Gilbert. "You can hit a perfect drive right down the fairway and still have an uphill or downhill lie."

That was the intent of course designer Bill Phillips, who constructed Kokopelli Golf Club in 1992.

"I wouldn't describe it as a true links course, but it certainly has a links feel," said Jason Jaffrey, Kokopelli Golf Club's director of operations. "That's certainly what makes it challenging."

The mounding -- which is Kokopelli's most notable feature -- extends all the way from tee to green. It's not unusual to be just off a green and not be able to see the flagstick because you're stuck behind a 10-foot mound.

To compound matters, nearly every green features some sort of spine or mound that makes putting difficult. Jaffrey's advice: "You have to play the moguls and know which way the ball is going to break off them."

Easier said than done.

Fortunately, the unusual mounding doesn't take away from the enjoyment of playing Kokopelli Golf Club. The golf course isn't long -- from the tips it's a 6,716-yard, par 72 -- and even casual weekend golfers can score well as long as they figure out how to hit shots off funky lies.

Also, unlike a lot of upper-crust Valley golf courses, the folks at Kokopelli Golf Club don't take themselves too seriously. They've had night golf events and a four-man scramble, Triple Pin Invitational -- three pins on each green.

"In our opinion the world needs a little break from the stuffiness of golf," Jaffrey said.

Unlike most golf courses, Kokopelli Golf Club doesn't build slowly into the round. While No. 1 is fairly benign -- a 519-yard par 5 that Jaffrey calls the easiest birdie opportunity on the golf course -- the next three holes can do real damage to a scorecard.

Water comes into play on No. 2, a 217-yard par 3, and the third and fourth holes (both par 4s) feature water left and out of bounds right off the tee. Visually intimidating tee shots are a common theme at Kokopelli Golf Club; on several holes the smart play is to leave the driver in the bag.

"You can't just grip it and rip it," Jaffrey said. "It's a thinking man's course."

Those who play Kokopelli Golf Club on a regular basis say conditions are far better since the property was taken over by Eagle Golf. One example: Every cart is outfitted with a GPS, and "the bunkers are 100 times better than they used to be," Hrenko said.

Now if they could just do something about those mounds.

Kokopelli Golf Club: The verdict

Kokopelli Golf Club doesn't rank with some of the Valley's most scenic and demanding golf courses. Troon North, for example, doesn't use yellow balls on the driving range. But that's okay. There's a place for the weekend duffer who doesn't want to take out a bank loan to play. And in that case, Kokopelli Golf Club delivers. Just beware: Because of the hills, you're going to play a lot of lies you might not get at the local municipal, both around the greens and in the fairway.

Kokopelli's best deal

The Players Development Plus program is nirvana for those who like to spend long hours on the range. For $99 per month, golfers get unlimited range balls at Kokopelli Golf Club or Superstition Springs Golf Club in Mesa, $10 green fees anytime Monday through Friday and after noon on weekends. Three-day advance bookings are required.

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Kokopelli Golf Club - No. 2 greenKokopelli Golf Club - No. 3 green

Scott Bordow is the golf columnist for the Arizona Republic. Follow him on Twitter at @sbordow.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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