Re­sort Re­port: The Wigwam Re­sort

Golf Vacations - - Contents - by Hal Quinn

The feel­ing that this is some­thing spe­cial, that this is like no other Ari­zona re­sort ar­rives like a sooth­ing and wel­com­ing cool towel. The long drive­way winds through a man­i­cured, al­most trop­i­cal gar­den set­ting to the concierge sta­tion that, re­mark­ably, looks like it be­longs there. The path­way is cob­bled, pass­ing un­der a flow­ered trel­lis, and leads to a door­way in a low-slung build­ing with no gar­ish sig­nage, that looks more like the en­trance to a friend’s cot­tage than to one of Amer­ica’s finest re­sorts. From that first im­pres­sion on, ev­ery­thing about the Wigwam Re­sort is un­der­stated but im­mac­u­lately ex­e­cuted, a throw­back to by­gone era of ci­vil­ity but en­veloped in state-of-the-art con­ve­niences.

The feel­ing that this is some­thing spe­cial, that this is like no other Ari­zona re­sort ar­rives like a sooth­ing and wel­com­ing cool towel. The long drive­way winds through a man­i­cured, al­most trop­i­cal gar­den set­ting to the concierge sta­tion that, re­mark­ably, looks like it be­longs there. The path­way is cob­bled, pass­ing un­der a flow­ered trel­lis, and leads to a door­way in a low-slung build­ing with no gar­ish sig­nage, that looks more like the en­trance to a friend’s cot­tage than to one of Amer­ica’s finest re­sorts. From that first im­pres­sion on, ev­ery­thing about the Wigwam Re­sort is un­der­stated but im­mac­u­lately ex­e­cuted, a throw­back to by­gone era of ci­vil­ity but en­veloped in state-of-the-art con­ve­niences. The Liv­ing Room, not the ‘lobby,’ in­tro­duces guests to not only the sto­ried his­tory of the build­ing and the en­tire site, but to a rev­er­ence and re­spect for the past. The Room is ap­pointed with an­tiques and pho­tos and knick­knacks worth lin­ger­ing over. Un­like other re­sorts, with faux rus­tic lobby dis­plays of an old lar­iat and some jade jew­elry, at the Wigwam they are the gen­uine article and so in­ter­est­ing that there’s no rush to check in. But once in­tro­duced to the ex­pan­sive rooms, pools, restau­rants, three su­perb golf cour­ses, and all other ameni­ties, the dom­i­nant feel­ing is that there is no rush to leave. The Wigwam is not just steeped in his­tory; in fact it is the his­tory of the area. A cen­tury ago, au­to­mo­bile tires were partly made with Egyp­tian cot­ton. When it was dis­cov­ered that cot­ton ev­ery bit as good, and much cheaper, would thrive in the vast waste­lands of the Ari­zona desert, the Goodyear Tire Co. es­tab­lished a cot­ton pla­na­tion. In 1917, the lo­cal town was re­named Litch­field Park af­ter Goodyear chair­man Paul Litch­field who founded Goodyear Farms and pro­pelled the devel­op­ment of the Wigwam. In 1918 an Or­ga­ni­za­tion House was built for sales reps sup­ply­ing the ranch­ers. The Liv­ing Room is to­day part of that orig­i­nal build­ing. Grad­u­ally Goodyear ex­ec­u­tives came out to in­spect the cot­ton op­er­a­tions and so bed­rooms were added. The ex­ec­u­tives started bring­ing their fam­i­lies from head of­fice in Ohio to es­cape East­ern win­ters, and so in 1929 the Wigwam opened as a win­ter guest ranch with room for two dozen vis­i­tors. It be­came a bit of a Goodyear re­treat. A nine-hole course was added in 1930, and in 1935 V.O. ‘Red’ Allen – whose name lives on at Red’s Bar & Grill – be­came the first golf pro and ex­panded the lay­out to 18 holes. To­day, Wigwam has 54 holes – two of the three cham­pi­onship cour­ses were de­signed by the leg­endary Robert Trent Jones – on 440 acres with 331 ca­sita-style guest rooms (in­clud­ing 72 suites), a 26,000 sq. ft. El­iz­a­beth Ar­den Red Door Spa, four swim­ming pools, and five restau­rants and bars. There were many turns in the road from cot­ton plan­ta­tion admin build­ing to ‘His­toric Ho­tel of Amer­ica’ and AAA Four-Di­a­mond re­sort sta­tus. In 1987 Goodyear sold the Wigwam and prop­erty to Sun­Cor Corp, which sold it in 1990 to Kab­uto Ari­zona Prop­er­ties. Cur­rent own­ers JDM Part­ners bought it out of bank­ruptcy in 2009 and are re­spon­si­ble for the stun­ning restora­tion of the re­sort and the golf cour­ses.

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