Views, one-shotters and closing holes make SunRidge Canyon Golf Club near Scottsdale worthwhile
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. - SunRidge Canyon Golf Club lies up in the foothills of the Sonoran Desert, the hottest and certainly one of the most picturesque deserts in the country.
You might think the desert is no place for golf, particularly in the summer when temperatures soar above 100 degrees. But you might be wrong. Desert golf, which involves a lot of target golf, can be as challenging as it is rewarding to the senses.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club is such an experience. The golf course starts at the upper mouth of the canyon and works its way slyly downhill, switch-back style, to the bottom. You hit downhill through the front, then back uphill on the back.
It follows the harsh and rocky terrain, with its arroyos and canyons, all those elements you find naturally in a desert, and along the way, you'll be struck by the views of the McDowell and Superstition Mountains.
You'll also see the Four Peaks to the east and the Mazatzal range to the north. You can't help but take a few minutes to gaze thoughtfully; it will make those bad shots seem less important.
Architect Keith Foster designed the fairways at different angles so you rarely hear the cursing of other golfers. There are houses along the way, but for the most part, they don't infringe on the view, hiding almost sheepishly with their earth tones, trying to pretend they're part of the desert landscape.
Foster once worked with renowned architect Arthur Hills and has worked on projects such as Eagles Trace in Coral Springs, Fla., Linville Ridge in North Carolina and Anthem Country Club in Las Vegas. He's also done renovation work at Augusta National.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club is as scenic as any of them.
"It's a wonderful setting, a great piece of property," said golf director Joel Schafer. "I think (Foster) wanted to create a golf course that was really natural. When you're out there, you really feel like you're in the desert."
True, but you also can't escape the fact you're in a ritzy, desert housing community. It's tasteful, but as far as desert purity, it doesn't compare to a course like We-Ko-Pa, built on an Indian reservation with no houses of any kind.
The golf course itself is a handful, but - again - not quite as challenging as some other desert courses in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
The fairways are wide and generous, with big and well-marked landing areas for the most part. You can play it safe here, but you can also be bold. You can also score well.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club is known for its tough par-3s and the last stretch of golf on the course.
"The par-3s and the last six holes are what set this golf course apart," Schafer said.
You get a taste of that on No. 6, the first par-3, which requires a carry over a canyon, all the way to the green. It's 202 yards from the back tees and when the pin is behind the front bunker, it's one of the tougher par-3 desert holes. The green drops off sharply to thorny desert.
No. 8 is 243 yards from the back tees, and No. 12 is 169 yards with mounds left of the green and a big bunker right. Stay left here or end up a desert prospector.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club's 14th hole requires a mid-to-long iron, depending on the tee box and the wind, over a pond to a smallish green that drops off sharply in back and on the right to water. Too far left and you'll find the bunker. This is a par-3 that requires laser-like precision.
The last six holes include No. 14 and another par-3, the 17th, that requires another long, canyon carry.
They're all prickly. No. 13 demands a huge carry to get over a dry wash cutting across the middle of the fairway, with a lake to the right of the green thrown in as a bonus. No. 15 entices you to cut a dogleg left, but beware: the fairway slopes toward the desert.
No. 18 is another dogleg, but there's no way to shorten the hole; the second shot forces another carry over a wash to a dramatically elevated green that slopes hard left to right and is guarded by bunkers.
SunRidge Canyon Golf Club: The verdict
Don't get the impression this is an easy course. It isn't. With a slope rating of 142 from the back tees, it's more than enough to keep you busy.
It isn't too long at 6,823 yards. But it does require you hit the ball well and putt well on greens that tend to slope toward the Four Peaks.
Others certainly find the course enjoyable and challenging. It was ranked 42nd by Golf Magazine's "Top 100 you can play" in the U.S., and is considered one of the top public courses in Arizona. SunRidge Canyon Golf Club has hosted the USGA State Team Championship, the LPGA's Mitsubishi Motors Invitational and the Southwestern Amateur.
November 23, 2004