Let 'er rip at Copper Canyon Golf Club at Sun City Festival Ranch in Buckeye

By David R. Holland, Contributor

BUCKEYE, Ariz. – The White Tank Mountains, home to a rugged hiking and biking park, form a backdrop to Copper Canyon Golf Club, one of those senior-citizen gems that anyone can enjoy.

Copper Canyon Golf Club - hole 12
Copper Canyon Golf Club offers a well maintained Schmidt/Curley challenge in the West Valley.
Copper Canyon Golf Club - hole 12Copper Canyon Golf Club - 12th holeCopper Canyon Golf Club - 11th hole
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Copper Canyon Golf Club - Vista/Lake Course

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Copper Canyon Golf Club at Festival Ranch is an upscale daily fee, 27-hole championship golf course designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley. This golf course is the center-piece of the active adult community built by Pulte/Del Webb. As has been customary in branding the Pulte/Del Webb communities, a state-of-the-art Recreational Center (Sage Center) will compliment the extraordinary golf that sits within the confines of the White Tank Mountains, west of Phoenix.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6698 yards | Book online | ... details »

It might seem like L.A. is in sight, since this Lee Schmidt/Brian Curley design is in the West Valley, a long drive from Scottsdale. But Copper Canyon, which opened in 2007, isn't an ignored golf course. Measuring 6,808 yards at par 72, it is a busy, interesting layout managed by Troon Golf. And in March each year you could even stop off at the Texas Rangers-Kansas City Royals spring training facility for a little baseball, only minutes away.

Copper Canyon Golf Club is the hub of Sun City Festival Ranch, an active adult community built by Pulte/Del Webb. The seniors who live here brag about a state-of-the-art Sage Center (31,000 square feet) with multiple activity opportunities and the recreational haven of White Tank Mountain Regional Park.

Golf at Copper Canyon: Steer clear of the fairway bunkers

Head Professional Al Larose says the typical golfer he talks to from day to day appreciates Copper Canyon's generous fairways, fair putting surfaces and the green views in what used to be barren desert.

"One has to appreciate the bunkers," Larose said. "If you land in a lot your score can add up quickly. The fairway bunkers can be severe, so one must manage his game and steer clear of them.

"Schmidt-Curley designs are known for being a challenge not only with bunkers but also encouraging you to find the right spots for your drive to set up the approach to large greens. You can be on a green in two and still have a lengthy, tough putt."

Copper Canyon Golf Club: The layout

Sixty-three sand bunkers, sculpted mounding, 10 lakes in play on eight holes and undulating greens make this an appealing layout. And No. 12 is one of the more visual: From an elevated tee, this 530-yard par-5 shows trouble everywhere.

"It is a classic risk-reward hole," Larose said. "You can hit the green in two, but one bad shot, and you are in the water."

The lake starts within play on the right and traverses your sight-line to the left side of the fairway then parallels all the way past the green.

No. 10 is the most scenic with the White Tank Mountains framing this 439-yard par 4. "It is one of my favorites because it is tough and beautiful, playing slightly uphill and long," Larose said.

The challenge to the 17th hole -- a 408-yard par 4 -- for Larose is the approach. "This green is well guarded, with a huge trap right and another bunker left, but the quadrants of the green are what makes it important to be precise on your second shot."

Copper Canyon Golf Club: The verdict

So why make the long drive to Copper Canyon Golf Club?

"I think there are many reasons," said Larose. "Our playing conditions are excellent, there are a variety of holes -- some are desert holes without water, but some have water. Also, the playability -- it doesn't beat you up even if you are a novice."

The members I played with on this day couldn't stop talking about how happy they were with the entire experience of the community and loved the generous fairways and the conditioning.

The Sage Center has a massive resort-style outdoor pool with cascading waterfalls and lap pool. A state-of-the-art fitness center offers the latest high-end equipment, aerobics, dance studios and spin bikes. Plus, there are a variety of hobby and craft rooms and a grand ballroom. Two more recreation centers are planned as the community continues to grow.

Sun City Festival encourages an active adult lifestyle. The community currently includes a softball stadium, outdoor amphitheater and tennis, bocce ball, basketball and volleyball courts.

The range is enormous, 100 yards wide with three tiers, targets, putting greens and a short game area with two cavernous sand bunkers. Golf lessons at Copper Canyon Golf Club are offered by PGA Professionals. Individual lessons or group lessons are available in addition to clinics.

The Indigo Bar & Grille uses fresh ingredients and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And the Festival Snack Bar offers food during your round.

Copper Canyon Golf Club: Where to stay

Xona Resort Suites (www.xonaresort.com) in Scottsdale isn't exactly next door to Copper Canyon, but it is where I chose to base my golf trip. It offers a home away from home. You will appreciate a one-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and access to laundry facilities, ideal for a stopover on a three-week road trip.

Other features include access to wireless Internet, LCD televisions in living rooms and bedrooms, living rooms with convertible sofa sleepers, a pool and hot tub. And in the main building there's Asada Desert Grille and the Orange Iguana for dining.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

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