Wickenburg Ranch Golf & Social Club

A strangely alluring Arizona course offers a taste of the Old West.

Wickenburg, Arizona, population 6,500, still looks much like the gold-mining town it was in the 1800s. It sits somewhere between faux and retro, 70 miles northwest of downtown Phoenix in the foothills of the Sonoran Desert.

Prospecting for precious metals takes a curious combination of nerve and deep pockets. The same could be said these days for golf course development, especially when it entails an extensive real estate component. The impetus to build Wickenburg Ranch came from two veterans of the Arizona golf development scene, though this is the first time that William Brownlee and Wendell Pickett have dared to co-design a golf course and undertake an entire project on their own.

The 2,000-acre property they’ve created is platted for 3,100 homesites. Creating the proper ground for such an expansive development required a monumental amount of earthmoving—8.5 million cubic yards of dirt were moved, with as many as 70 pans and scrapers a day working away on the 10 ridges that knifed in on the site. Despite the scale of the cuts (up to 72 feet) and fills (as much as 46 feet), or maybe precisely because of it, the result is a strangely alluring golf course through and over dry washes and across some rugged ground alongside preferred landing areas.

The unusual routing of the par-71 course—six par-3s and five par-5s—tells you the designers had to work to find playable ground. But with tees ranging from 6,935 yards down to 4,977 yards, the course is nonetheless playable and fun, and along the way, you get a sense of how rugged and forbidding the American West can be.

Brownlee and Pickett had been sitting on their finished project since 2008, waiting for the golf real estate market to recover before unveiling their little secret. With the support of two major real estate entities, Shea Homes and Trilogy, they just opened its door. Time will tell whether Wickenburg Ranch produces a golf rush. It just might, as Brownlee and Pickett have created a course that’s well worth the journey.


Wickenburg Municipal Airport/Wellick Field (FVG) has a 6,100-foot runway and is nine miles south of the course. Prescott Municipal Airport/Ernest A. Love Field (PRC) has a 7,616-foot runway and is 63 miles northeast of the course. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) has an 11,490-foot runway and is 75 miles southeast of the course.

Brad Klein ([email protected]) is the architecture editor of Golfweek. His latest book is Wide Open Fairways.