LITCHFIELD PARK, Arizona – For nearly a century, Wigwam Resort has been one of the country’s most popular golf destinations.  Surrounded by the stunning Sonoran Desert landscape, the retreat is an oasis of casual elegance blended with southwestern charm, featuring 54 holes of diverse golf, luxury casitas and suites, spa services and lots of fine dining.

And the Robert Lawrence-designed Red Course is a popular choice among the three championship layouts for members, locals, and resort guests.

In recent years, however, the bunkers on the Red Course have shown the wear and tear that comes with years of packed tee sheets. So managing company JDM Partners and General Manager Leo Simonetta turned to a trusted relationship to address the issue – PTI Golf Construction, a division of Pro Turf International. 

The Las Vegas-based construction, landscape, and golf course maintenance company had completed similar projects on the Gold and Blue courses at Wigwam in recent years, so the PTI team is very familiar with the property and the staff. 

“Wigwam has a gem of a course in the Red,” said PTI principal Kip Wolfe. “It’s a nice layout with a different kind of flair to it. But they were constantly getting complaints about the condition of the bunkers, so it was time. Leo and I had been talking about this for a couple of years – which bunkers to keep, which to fill in. The goal was to make them more manageable, more maintainable and more playable.”

Simonetta offered a similar assessment.

“The Red is a good, straight-forward, parkland-style layout with challenging green complexes,” he said. “People love it because it doesn’t beat them over the head. But the bunkers had been there since 1976 and it was time. They were like broken windows that needed to be replaced and upgraded.”

When the project started there were 66 bunkers on the Red Course. Now there are 35, most of which were reshaped and/or moved.

“All the bunkers needed extensive shaping,” said Wolfe. “We brought the greenside bunkers closer to the greens so they were more playable. On some holes, we eliminated greenside bunkers and the ones we kept, made them smaller with better shapes.  We provided a fresh look to the fairway bunkers.  

Hole 10 green side bunker

“Some fairway bunkers were eliminated or reduced in size.  On a few holes, we added new fairway bunkers to provide additional strategy to the golf hole.  It was an enjoyable experience working with Leo and his golf maintenance staff.”

The first order of business for the bunkers that were kept was to excavate the bunkers and add drainage, which wasn’t there before.

Next came installation of the revolutionary Polylast bunker liner. Pete Lawrence, the owner of Polylast, was in the hospital at the time, undergoing a kidney transplant. But that didn’t stop him from working from his hospital bed.

“With the supply issues of the day, we were concerned about getting the liner on time, as well as the sand,” said Wolfe. “But Pete was determined to make sure that wasn’t a problem.”

Said Lawrence, “I never stop working, so kidney transplant or not we were going to make sure they had the product they needed in a timely fashion. Our product is a game-changer. This liner doesn’t require any special heavy equipment or any certified installation crews. The material is flexible, allowing it to easily contour to the curves and dips of bunkers, while being strong enough to withstand migrating animals or the accidental scrapes from machine rakes.”

The new white sand arrived as scheduled replacing the old tan sand, and the job was completed on time and within budget. The course reopened in mid-October after overseed.

The management team at Wigwam is extremely happy with the results, and with the team at Pro Turf International overall.

“PTI is a preferred contractor for our large-scale golf course renovation projects,” said Cameron Kaplan, Director Of Assets for JDM Golf. “The PTI team does great work, uses the best materials and is easy to work with. As we continue to enhance and improve golf courses across our portfolio, PTI will be our first call.”

Simonetta was also pleased with PTI’s efforts.

“I’ve been fortunate to know Kip for a long time. I think this is the seventh project we’ve done together,” said Simonetta. “Most of his guys are superintendents who understand what we are dealing with. They have your best interest in heart. When they run into something unforeseen, they ask themselves how they can fix the problem without going over budget. PTI is trustworthy and simply great to work with.”

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