Gold Canyon's Sidewinder Course is Living in the Shadow of the Dinosaur

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

PHOENIX - To many golfers, the Sidewinder Course at Gold Canyon Ranch is the "other" course that dwells in the shadow of the higher profile Dinosaur Mountain Course, which was recently voted the second best daily fee course in the state by the Arizona Business Journal.

Gold CanyonGolf Resort - Sidewinder Course
Gold Canyon Golf Resort's Sidewinder course has lived in the shadow of Dinosaur Mountain for too long.
Gold CanyonGolf Resort - Sidewinder Course
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Gold Canyon Golf Resort - Sidewinder Course

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The Sidewinder course is the newest run at Gold Canyon and is worth a stop, especially if you’re planning to play its more acclaimed neighbor, Dinosaur Mountain. With some of the same scenery, Sidewinder offers a few more opportunities to score, with some very accessible par 3s and par 4s. Sidewinder has only two holes with water, but a handful with ravines.

18 Holes | Resort golf course | Par: 71 | 6533 yards | Book online | ... details »

But to many local golfers, the Sidewinder is one of the best values in the Valley, presenting a quality challenge of golf on a well maintained track that would cost you an arm and a leg anywhere else. The venerable Sidewinder features the original front nine holes built on site at Gold Canyon in 1982. A more traditional style golf course, the "Winder" features wide fairways, generous greens, and few forced carries.

According the Head Professional Scott Scherger, the greatest challenge presented by the Winder is the negotiation of the turtle shell like greens that deflect approach shots like the Donald Ross dance floors at Pinehurst.

Making things even more interesting is the differing design styles between the front and back nine. The back nine carries on with the more traditional themes of golf course design, while the front nine explores many of the design principles of desert golf - numerous arroyos, some forced carries, and some terrain changes.

"The Sidewinder Course is more forgiving off the tee than Dinosaur Mountain," says Scherger. "But you better have your short game ready for Sidewinder."

Despite the price difference between Sidewinder and Dinosaur Mountain, Scherger says that the courses are right there with each other in terms of quality and difficulty.

"The disparity between the golf courses is not that much," says Scherger, very much a fan of the Sidewinder. "The greens on the Sidewinder are hand mown - something you won't find on many courses at this price."

In fact, if not for Scherger, some other Head Pro may be trying to charge just as much for a round on the Winder as on the Dinosaur. But Scherger, upon moving to Arizona, was frustrated with the greens fees charged to locals during the winter months . . . fees that all but keep many natives off the links entirely.

Instead of cave in and go with the legions of other courses that charge may too much for a good walk (well, ride) spoiled, Scherger decided to take a stand, and keep the greens fees at Sidewinder artificially low. Has it paid off? Well let's just say that one golf writer visiting the resort was simply dumbfounded at the number of Phoenix folks out to play Sidewinder in 105 degree heat on a Saturday afternoon.

The 3rd Hole on the Sidewinder is considered by many to be one of the most interesting golf holes on the course. The hole plays to 400 yards from the tips, and provides a stunning view looking out from the tee box.

"On the 3rd hole, you have to shoot over a wash off the tee, and then again on the approach shot," says Scherger reflecting on his favorite Winder hole. "The fairway is generous, but the premium is placed on the second shot into a large green with some undulation. As far as pin placements go, there are a lot of options on this hole."

With a couple of well struck shots, neither wash should come into play on the hole. However, as Scherger warns, duff your drive and the second wash in front of the green is very much in play.

So even if you have a few greenbacks to spare, some serious debate should take place within your golfing party as to whether the Sidewinder or Dinosaur Mountain Course should be the meal of the day. As any obsessed golfer knows, there is a simple solution to this apparent dilemma: play them both, its well worth it.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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