Gold Canyon's Dinosaur Mountain - Hole-by-Hole Highlights
Dinosaur Mountain starts out with authority, featuring an uphill par-4 to get things off to an auspicious start. Throw in some of the most creative mounding I have ever seen on a desert course, and you have yourself a golfing challenge.
According to Head Pro Scott Scherger, Dinosaur Mountain is a desert target/links style course that if placed in another environment would be a traditional style layout. Confusing enough? Don't let it be. The things to keep in mind are a) how fair is the course, and b) how much fun is the course.
The answer to these questions is a) very and b) as much fun as you can have on a golf course ...period. The front nine plays uphill for the most part, but scoring opportunities abound. The second hole offers up a par-3 with an elevated tee box that cries out birdie if you are not too overcome with the scenery.
Quick note: if you play from the white tees (Coyote), the par-3's at Dinosaur Mountain play like par-3's as they were meant to be - with the exception of the 201 yard 5th hole, the par 3's play from 116 to 162, with birdie opportunities a realistic possibility on each hole.
Architect Ken Kavanaugh provides many scoring opportunities on the front nine of Dinosaur Mountain. With three par-3's and two par-5's, there is a chance to make up a few strokes against par on the front nine. A rarity in the east valley, water actually comes into play on the 6th and 9th holes - in both instances straddling the left side of the fairway.
You know you are in for something special after the par-3 second hole, which boasts an elevated tee box that plays into a challenging green about 50 feet below. But the most dramatic experience of the front nine occurs with the par-3 5th hole that sports a tee box elevated about 100 feet above a large green shaped like a kidney bean.
One of the more interesting holes on the front nine - if you have never played the track before - is the par-4, 7th hole. From the Coyote tees, I took a driver from 355 yards. Little did I know, about 55 yards in front of the green was a desert arroyo that would render the heroically long drive out of play. Lucky for me, I crushed about a 300 yard drive that pulled up short just a few feet from the arroyo.
In what has at this point become typical Dinosaur Mountain fashion, the 8th hole is a short par-3 that is simultaneously birdie "able", as well as bogey "able". One of the great aspects of Dinosaur Mountain is that the course provides the player with a chance to score and make up strokes against the golf course. This concept is never more evident than with the 490 yard, par-5 9th hole which features water from the middle of the fairway to short and left of the green.
The key to playing the front nine is to rally the troops and realize that you are playing the uphill portion of a course that will play predominately downhill on the back nine. If you are an above average golfer, try to come in with a score about 5 or 6 strokes above par, and get ready to score on the downhill opportunities of the back nine.
The back nine starts off with a short par-3 that plays about 134 yards from the Coyote tees. The hole is slightly up hill, and there is an excellent view of the foothills of the of the Superstitions as well as the tranquil sounds of a waterfall behind you.
The par-5 11th hole is where the course really starts to come into its own. Perhaps the most wide open fairway on the course is a welcome beginning to this formidable par-5 that slopes primarily to the right, and boasts the best view of Superstition Mountain.
The 12th hole, the reported signature hole, was one of the better plays on the back nine - but hardly the signature hole. Not because the hole itself was unspectacular, but because every other hole up to and beyond it was just as memorable if not more. The 12th does feature an elevated tee box, like many of the holes on the back nine, as well as a forced carry of over 100 yards of desert off the Coyote tees.
The par-4 15th hole is one of the more fascinating holes on the back nine. If you know the course, then you are privy to the fact that you can cut as much of the hole off to the left as you want, within reason. If you don't know the hole, then you can not help but feel uncomfortable over your tee shot as you try to figure out how and where to aim you shot.
The only comforting consolation is that the green slopes back to front, and will hole any high iron approach shot considering the Bermuda greens were not as dry as when my playing partner and I were making our way in from the back nine.
An incredible back nine gives way to an unspectacular finishing hole on the 18th hole. But by the time you reach the final trek at Dinosaur Mountain, you are ready for some dramatic relief. True to Scott Scherger's prediction, every hole on the back nine plays as a signature hole. And simply recalling every great hole on the course is enough work, much less highlighting the finishing hole.
June 24, 1999