Gold Canyon Golf Resort: Sidewinder Course

By Rodney Campbell, Contributor

Standing on the first tee at Gold Canyon's Sidewinder course, it's hard to imagine how this could be an affordable track.

Gold Canyon Golf Resort - Sidewinder Course
Gold Canyon Golf Resort's Sidewinder course is full of undulation.
Gold Canyon Golf Resort - Sidewinder Course
If you go

An elevated tee box looks down on 487 yards from the tips. Water runs down the left side of the fairway and comes into play about halfway down the hole.

This is one nice golf hole. During the month of September, it cost as little as $20 to play here during the week. That's just hard to believe.

Well, believe it. After a $16-million renovation job, things are busting out all over at the Gold Canyon Golf Resort, located about 40 minutes from Phoenix's bustling Sky Harbor International Airport.

Sidewinder's self image is most affected by the much heralded Dinosaur Mountain course, located on the same grounds. That's the same Dinosaur Mountain that was named the No. 2 public course in the state last year and stands a great chance of being first in 2000.

"Having Dinosaur Mountain as its neighbor hurts it most," said Jason Ballard, one of the resort's assistant pros.

The only other negative we can come up with is the fact that two greens on the course were undergoing renovations during Labor Day week. The 13th and 15th hole were made much shorter and easier with the temporary greens in place.

In fact, long hitters wouldn't have a tough time driving the green on the 13th. It's only about 280 yards to the green from the back tees, making it a breeze to get on the green in two by using a 3-wood and wedge. Even the short hitters won't find many challenges on this one. The only two sand traps on the hole are taken out of play since they are located next to the regular green. This hole is just asking to be taken.

When the 424-yard 15th hole is finished, it's going to be among the tougher of the 36 holes on the property. Right now, it's also there for the pickings with a good 30 or so yards shaven off by the temporary green. As soon as the normal green is ready for play, approach shots will have to carry water, which isn't much of a factor right now. The lake runs down the right side of the fairway and the temporary green is on the left.

"It's going to take a medium to long iron," Ballard said of players' approach shots. "That hole is going to be very tough."

These two holes are the main reasons why the course charges so little to play right now. Until the beginning of September, the 404-yard 12th hole also had a temporary green. The renovated putting surface was quite nice. It was obvious that it had not been played in a while and didn't look terribly baked under the often unforgiving Sonoran sun.

Another highlight is the unbelievable 251-yard second hole. That's no typo, folks. It really is 251 yards from the Diamondback tees. It's a more realistic 180 yards from the Bobcat tees, but that's still a little poke for the average player. Par is a very nice score here, especially from the tips.

Women will find that this course plays a little shorter than most. It's only 4,529 yards from the Roadrunner tees. The soft-touch fourth hole is only 82 yards from the forward teeing ground. The remaining tees are comparable to Dinosaur Mountain: 5,583 yards (Coyote), 6,016 yards (Bobcat) and 6,414 yards(Diamondback).

This is also a full-service resort, with 101 chalk-white casitas that are only a short walk from the bag drop. The prime rooms are located near the front of the resort and feature outdoor whirlpools. The other rooms aren't bad and most offer nice nighttime views of Phoenix. Gold Canyon added 50 casitas along the Dinosaur Mountain course as a part of the renovation that was completed a couple of years ago.

"In many ways, our rooms are better than the Boulders or Camelback Inn because of their size, unique amenities, and location," Gold Canyon Marketing and Public Relations Manager Beth Nixon said. "But we don't compete with those four-star resorts directly. People coming to our resort are looking for a unique golf experience and retreat."

After the first eight holes, Sidewinder allows carts on the course using the 90-degree rule. Dinosaur Mountain stays in its usual incredible shape because carts aren't allowed on the grass at all. Nixon said players with legitimate injuries or a doctor's excuse may drive on all the fairways.

Stay and Play packages start at $165 (single) and $205 (double) in October. Those rates last until Jan. 15 and represent savings of $30 and $60, respectively, when stacked up against Dinosaur Mountain. The resort's rate card doesn't reflect any changes in its charges through Jan. 15, 2002.

Sidewinder remains a relative bargain even as Valley-area rates start to ramp up in October. Rates are only $45 Monday through Thursday and $55 on weekends and holidays. It's an even better deal in the busy season of January through March, when 18 holes can be played for $60 during the week and $75 on weekends and holidays.

The resort also offers several discount packages. Call 800-767-3574 for details.

If you have the time, stop by Greenwood's Sports Bar & Grill for a quick breakfast. The restaurant also serves lunch and dinner for when you and your buddies want to gather and brag about those birdies you bagged.

Don't be surprised if the 13th is one of the holes you're bragging about. Either that or the fact that you have a little extra spending cash in your pocket.

Rodney Campbell, Contributor

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Gold Canyon Resort Hurry up golf

    Joe Kopelic wrote on: Mar 4, 2011

    Finish your round in 3 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds, or you'll be followed by the marshalls. 4 holes marshalls felt it necessary to say we were 5 minutes behind. The group behind us never waited one time for us to walk off a green. First time on the course trying to learn it AND enjoy it, no way. Pace of play is important, but this was un-necessary course management.