There Is Gold In The Hills Of Arizona.. Gold Canyon Golf Resort Shines Like the Sun

By Tommy Acosta, Contributor

Just 35 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport waits a 24 Karat gold mine of a golf course. True to its brilliant reputation, it's called Gold Canyon Golf Resort and if you want to experience Arizona desert golf at its best this is the place to go.

Picture undulating, perfectly manicured fairways stretching forever, set like jewels against pristine desert washes and towering sun drenched Arizona mountains, abundant wildlife everywhere, cotton tails, javelinas, road runners, all kinds of native birds chirping happily away and deep blue skies so clear you could almost see forever. This is what this course is all about.

So blown away I was by its awesome natural beauty the first time I saw it that I made sure to bring with me two seasoned Arizona golfers for the course review, Dr. Marty Cohen of Mesa and Roger Harway of Sun Lakes, just to make sure that I had not been hypnotized by the natural beauty of this natural wonder. Between these two regular hackers who have played most every premier course in the state, I was sure to get a truly unbiased review of the course from them as well.

Before proceeding with the review of the course; however, a little history on Desert Canyon Golf Resort is in order. It was built in 1996 by local architect Ken Kavanaugh in the foothills of Arizona's fabled Superstition Mountains. The course follows the natural dips and turns of the foothills with many changes in elevation from hole to hole. It is believed that the fabled Lost Dutchman Gold Mine is nestled somewhere near or on the course. The mine still has not been found but evidence of its existence are abundant. The natural beauty of the High Sonoran desert in this area is legendary. Since it is a resort, Gold Canyon offers horse back riding tours, tennis, swimming, overnight camp-outs and overnight stays in unique mountainside Casitas with amenities such as wet bars, wood burning fireplaces, spas and private patios. It's located about 20 minutes from mainstream shopping areas in Mesa but far enough away from the bustle to be considered a rural desert area. There is also a fine restaurant called Kokopelli and Greenwood's Bar and Grill on the premises. A well stocked pro shop rounds out some of the amenities at the course.

The course also boasts a second 18 hole course called The Sidewinder which opened November 1st of this year. The Dinosaur Mountain course has been ranked as one of the three top public courses in the state. The Arizona Republic, Arizona's largest newspaper, described the Dinosaur Mountain course as "24 Karat Gold".

Different tees allow for the playing of the course at different yardage and levels of difficulty. The Diamondback tees, which are reserved for golfers with a 10 handicap or less, run 6,584 par 70 yards. The Bobcat tees run 6,008 yards, also at a par 70. The Coyote tees run 5,498 yards at par 70 and the Roadrunner ladies' tees run 4,921 yards at a par 72. The cart path through the course covers eight miles. It's a desert links course with no parallel fairways. It follows the natural contours of the foothills.

Rates run $125-$135 on weekends from January through March for the Dinosaur Mountain Course; 95$-$110 in April; $80-$90 in May; $60-$70 June to September; and $95-$105 October to December.

The Sidewinder course rates run $55-$65 on weekends from January through March;$45-$55 in April; $40-$50 in May; $35-$45 June through September; and $45-$55 October through December. The mentioned rates include the rental of the cart.

Overnight Casita rentals run between $175 and $205 presently plus the course offers stay and play packages.

With that being said lets move onto the course review.

As soon as my golf buddies and I pulled up to the resort's reception area we knew right away we were about to play a high-class facility. We were virtually swarmed by smiling and courteous Player Service Representatives who could not do enough to make sure we were comfortable and ready to play, placing our golf bags in our carts for us and driving our carts right up to where we were standing. All the paperwork was in order. We were all given complimentary buckets of range balls and I was given a beeper to alert me when our tee time was up.

As soon as the buzzer went off a service rep was right there with us directing our threesome to the first tee where we were greeted by a starter who gave us the low down on the course and various tips how to play it and shave strokes. He gave us yardage books with the layouts of all the holes, ball markers and badges for our bags. He suggested we play the first hole to the left cause everything rolls right. Of course he was right and our first discovery was that the course had super fast tight greens.

Hole one, a par 4, had the Superstition Mountains right behind it. It was beautifully framed by them. From the Bobcat tee it was 271 yards to the hole. Dr. Cohen called it an excellent starting hole. The tee shot required a short jump over a desert wash onto the fairway. The green, surrounded by grassy knolls and couple of bunkers to the right was not to hard to get onto. It was a great start and we all felt good.

The second hole was a precision par 3 hole , a 174 yard beauty. It was on that hole where we saw a family of 10 javelinas foraging around in the rough. This hole was perilously surrounded by deep grassy knolls but it was fairly easy to get on the green. There was a lot of space to the left and right along the fairway assuring us that the course was more forgiving than we thought. Once again, the natural beauty of the desert and the mountains made us feel like we were in some kind of a golf heaven where everything seemed to be too perfect to be true.

The third hole was a 443 yard par five. This was the first of the high tee shots. This is where the game really started to get interesting because now not only were we dealing with distance and width but depth as well. I would say we were at least 25 yards higher than the fairway from the tee. Dr. Cohen called the hole "demanding", requiring a long drive to set up a 2nd shot with a mid-iron to a small raised green. First we were hitting down onto the fairway and then up onto the green. At this point we began to gain a healthy respect for the course and its challenges.

The fourth hole was similar to hole three, a 408 yard, par 4 challenge again hitting from a raised tee. It seemed that we were getting deeper and deeper into the desert foothills with each and every hole. Cottontails were everywhere leaping and bounding about. A big bunker to the left of the hole and a range of grassy knolls to the right made the approach shot to the green a bit dangerous. It was here that Mr. Harway found himself in a sand trap but he blasted out onto the green and rolled to within a foot of the cup.

It was the fifth hole which blew us all away. Getting there it seemed that we were on an uphill winding cart path that sooner or later would end in OZ. When we reached the top a most spectacular view of the valley, the fairway, the green and the Superstition Mountains awaited us. Here, we were at least 100 yards above the green with a good hundred and fifty yards of pure desert fauna between us and the fairway. The hole could have been played safely to the closer right fairway which would have required hitting the ball over yet another desert wash to get to the green but Mr. Harway decided to go for it, blasting a 200 yard beauty onto the edge of the green. I believe he parred on the three hole. He said he liked the changes in levels. Dr. Cohen also blasted one over the desert whereas I took the safe way down. Dr. Cohen said that this hole was probably one of the prettiest holes in Arizona. It was a beautiful site watching the balls flying and cresting over the desert washes onto the fairway so far below.

Every hole after that just got prettier and prettier, everyone with a unique challenge subscribed to it. The deeper we went into the desert the more quiet things got until almost dead silence surrounded us, other than the constantly chirping birds. The mountains were on all sides of us and the sun kept changing its hues as the morning wore on.

By the time we finished four and a half hours later we all felt we had been through some mystical experience together. I should also point out that at every third hole there was freshwater as well as automatic ball washers and after the ninth hole, there was a well placed snack bar conveniently waiting.

The only distracting aspect of the course was the construction of golf course homes near the last few holes but Mr. Harway and Dr. Cohen took no notice and did not find them distracting in the least.

When we got back to the Club House the Customer Service Reps were waiting, where they wiped down our club heads and placed our golf bags back in the car for us.

Enjoying lunch afterwards at Greenwood's Bar&Grill both my golf buddies summed up their experience at the course.

"The course is beautifully kept," Mr. Harway said. "It's a beautifully run and maintained facility. It's a friendly course and its ideal for a golfer of moderate abilities."

"I've played some of the finest PGA Tour courses in Arizona and other states including those we regularly see on TV," Dr. Cohen said. "I consider the Dinosaur Mountain course one of the finest ever made."

For more information on the course call or visit the Golf Canyon Golf Resort web site at

Tommy Acosta, Contributor

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