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The Patriot Course at Wigwam Golf Resort just west of Phoenix is short on distance, long on challenges

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- The Patriot Course at Wigwam Golf Resort is known as the "Great Contradiction."

The nickname was bestowed because the two nines act like estranged siblings. The front nine is a 3,250-yard par 36, while the back nine a 2,750-yard par 34.

But the name could also refer to the fact that posting a good score on the 6,000-yard layout isn't as simple as it might seem. One hint: The course record (61) is the same both on the Patriot and the 7,200-yard Gold Course.

The Patriot, designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., was formerly known as the Blue Course. The name was changed to honor the fighter pilots from nearby Luke Air Force Base as well as other Arizona patriots from the police and fire departments. Each tee box eventually will feature a plaque honoring a patriot and telling his or her story.

"That was something our ownership really enjoys doing," said Leo Simonetta, Wigwam's director of golf operations. "We have a great relationship with Luke Air Force Base, and the owners thought it would be great to have a course honoring Arizona patriots."

And the golf course is a great challenge despite playing only 6,000 yards. How? For one thing, the distance is a bit misleading because there are six par 3s instead of the usual four.

"That distorts the scorecard," Simonetta said. "A lot of people say it's the longest 6,000 yards they'll ever play."

Also, the bunkers are bigger and deeper than those found on the Heritage Course, and water comes into play on seven holes.

But the biggest reason birdies turn into bogeys are the greens. The putting surfaces are small and mounded like those found at Pinehurst No. 2. That narrows the landing area and makes it difficult to get approach shots close to the pin.

Much like Wigwam's Heritage Course, the Patriot's best holes are on the back nine. The 13th is a 218-yard par 3 with bunkers protecting three sides of the green. The 14th would seem simple at first -- it's a 294-yard par 4 -- but trying to drive the green can be perilous because of a huge, elongated sand trap that runs in front of the putting surface. Laying up is the best option, but golfers have a hard time not going for it when the green seems so close.

The 15th is the signature hole, a 132-yard par 3 with an island green. Adding to the degree of difficulty is a huge swale in the middle of the putting surface. The break in the swale is so pronounced it's not uncommon to have to line up a spot at least six feet from the hole.

"It's a great par 3," Simonetta said. "If you're not on the right side of that slope, it's almost impossible to make birdie and very difficult to make par."

Golfers who visit the Wigwam and can only play two of the three courses often will skip the Patriot because it's not your typical 7,000-yard layout. That's a mistake. Of the resort's three courses, the Patriot is probably the most fun to play just because it's so different.

"It's a blast of a golf course," Simonetta said. "Just smaller."

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