Gold Canyon Golf Resort: Dinosaur Mountain Course
Gold Canyon, AZ - Gold Canyon's celebrated Dinosaur Mountain course has the right mix. It's far enough away from Phoenix to feel secluded and close enough to the city that it doesn't require more than 40 minutes to get there from Sky Harbor Airport.
Even if the course were farther from Phoenix, it would still be worth the drive. Stunning views of the city and the surrounding Superstition Mountains are enough to keep your attention even as you swelter in the Southern Arizona heat. To prove that point, play the course in August, mid-week and you'll find yourself surrounded by fellow sun-worshippers.
They come from miles around (even Tucson, nearly a two-hour drive) because Dinosaur Mountain is one of the nicer tracks in the state. In fact, it was voted No. 2 in Arizona among public courses last year. Only Scottsdale's Troon North was considered better. Gold Canyon officials say they have an excellent chance of taking the coveted top spot in 2000.
One of the holes that makes it all worthwhile is the 448-yard 12th. You can see for miles from the elevated tee box. Downtown Phoenix looms in the distance, visible on even the most hazy days in the desert.
"Your tee shot seems like it stays in the air forever," said Jason Ballard, an assistant pro at the course. "It also plays into prevailing winds."
Long hitters will want to watch their wayward drives, especially ones that float to the right side. A sand trap sits 283 yards from the tips, setting a not-so-welcome target for players who have designs on reaching the green in two. Bunkers also guard both sides of the green, especially when the pin is placed in the back.
The 495-yard third hole is the toughest on the course, bar none. It also carries the No. 1 handicap, no surprise considering the challenge it brings. A dogleg left is only the beginning of the trouble. By the time you get near the two-tiered green, a thin opening and small putting surface greet your shot.
"(This hole) puts an emphasis on your approach shot," Ballard said. "If you make a mistake, par is tough on this hole."
This course is filled with interesting par-3s and the most intriguing is the 236-yard fifth. The hole does play much shorter than the listed length because the tee box is a good 100 feet above the fairway and green. There's also a big putting surface waiting for your tee shot, though a huge trap sits on the left side. If your ball ends up in the far left side of the bunker, sticking the ball close to the green is nothing but a faded dream.
Water only comes into play on the 542-yard ninth. Starting from about 170 yards short of the green, water runs down the left side, even past the green. The water cuts into the left side of the fairway at around 120 yards from the putting surface. Avoid the agua and this hole isn't impossible to tame.
Though it may sound kind of corny, the tee boxes are named after desert wildlife that roams the course. The Reds are called Roadrunner (4,921 yards), the White are the Coyotes (5,498 yards), the Blues are the Bobcats (6,008 yards) and the Blacks are called the Diamondbacks (6,584 yards). Count me among the people who like the idea of using iron symbols of those animals to mark the tee boxes. Maybe some of us are still new enough to the Sonoran Desert to appreciate these things.
It's appropriate to include animals on the tee box because they're everywhere else on the course. It's not unusual to catch a glimpse of deer and coyotes, not to mention the hundreds of rabbits hopping around the track. Ballard said a herd of javelina lives on the 15th hole. We believe they can be played as a lateral hazard.
One of the few complaints about the course is the fact that it costs $5 for a bucket of range balls during the summer season. Most of the nicer courses in the state either don't charge for practice balls or include the price in the greens fees. With a recently refurbished driving range to show off, it's amazing that Gold Canyon doesn't encourage players to give it a go.
A full-service resort, Gold Canyon has 101 stark-white casitas that are only a short walk from the bag drop. It's nice to be able to roll out of bed and onto the course. 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 as a part of a $16-million 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."
Stay and Play packages start at $150 (single) and $200 (double) in September. From October until Jan. 15, rates are $195 and $265, respectively. In fact, the resort's rate card doesn't reflect any changes in its charges through Jan. 15, 2002.
The resort also offers several discount packages. Call (480) 982-9449 or 1-800-642-6445 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.
Dinosaur Mountain is a little more expensive than the resort's other layout, the Sidewinder course. It's also a lot more popular, so people don't seem to mind shelling out the extra bucks. Greens fees are $50 Monday through Thursday and $60 on the weekend in September. Sidewinder only runs $20 during the month. In October, Dinosaur's rates climb to $95 and $105. The club is adding a global positioning system in December, the end of the shoulder season.
During the high season of January through March, bring along a little extra cash. That's when costs climb to $135 and $165.
Nice views always come with a price.
Gold Canyon Resort
6100 South Kings Ranch Road
Gold Canyon, Arizona 85219
July 12, 2000