Gold Canyon Dinosaur Mountain – Tops My List of FavesBy Bailey Mosier • Mar 17th, 2010
Dinosaur Mountain at the Gold Canyon Resort is a must-play in the Phoenix area. Voted the #1 public course in Arizona in 2008 by Ranking Arizona, this course needs to be atop your list of places to play when coming to the Valley.
The Gold Canyon Golf Resort features two unique golf courses, the Dinosaur Mountain and Sidewinder Courses. Both golf courses combine challenging layouts with panoramic vistas of the Sonoran desert. This course is demanding while at the same time fair, and a course you won’t regret playing.
Both courses carry four-star ratings from Golf Digest and Dinosaur Mountain was ranked the #1 public golf course in Arizona for 2001 and 2002. Dinosaur Mountain has also been ranked one of Sports Illustrated’s “10 Most Underrated Golf Courses,” and ranked in Desert Golf Magazine’s “Top 10 Resort Courses in Arizona.”
Clearly, this Arizona golf course has got something going for it.
I teed it up on the Dinosaur Mountain course with my dad. We were paired with a married couple, the Egemos, who own a winter home nearby that they reside in when they want to escape the Iowa winters. The couple had joined the club this past November, and they had nothing but praise to speak about the course.
“I like the challenge of the greens. They’re hard to putt because you have to know to putt into the mountain,” Christie Egemo said.
“If the mountain’s behind you, they’re gonna be quick. It makes you think all the time.”
Although Christie Egemo has only been playing the course a few months, she’s caught onto the local secret that has helped shave strokes off her handicap and even helped this 12-handicap shoot a 79 on the Sidewinder course.
Egemo says her favorite hole on Dinosaur Mountain is No. 12 because of its scenery and mystique.
But while No. 12 may be Egemo’s favorite, Director of Golf Scott Scherger says there are about 12-14 signature holes.
“People come off the course telling me they like a combination of 12 to 14 holes,” Scherger said.
After playing only a few holes on this course, you’ll know exactly what Scherger is talking about.
Dinosaur Mountain is a par-70, Ken Kavanaugh design that combines the original back nine built in 1986 and nine holes that were added in 1997.
The course is beautifully manicured and surrounded by spectacular views and natural wildlife. It provides a challenging and enjoyable experience for golfers of all skill levels, boasting five sets of tees to choose from. Most holes have uneven lies that require skilled shot making to get it close.
Some holes may be short by yardage but have other tricks up their sleeves. One thing is for sure—each hole will keep you guessing what’s next.
I hope you leave enough time to loosen up on the range, because No. 1 doesn’t allow much room for error for a starting hole. Playing 316 from the tips, make sure to keep your ball right because any ball with a leftward rotation will likely hit the left sloping rough, take a big kick off the hill and end up in some desert cacti or at minimum end up in the left fairway bunker. Even if you hit the middle of the fairway, you’ll quickly learn that ball placement on these greens is crucial to ensuring a two-putt and a par.
No. 3 is a fun hole (well, let’s face it, as Scherger said, most of the holes out there are). You have to carry a canyon off the tee to a fairway that significantly slopes from right to left on this 514-yard par-5. There’s a high point of the crest and I suggest you aim there so that your ball can trickle down the fairway and end up in the middle or left side. Your second shot will likely be an uneven lie, so lay-up and play the shot smart so as to leave yourself a short pitch into the narrow, two-tiered green that sits above your feet. You certainly want to keep your ball below the hole here, as the green slopes back to front significantly.
The course boasts elevation changes throughout and that’s one of the things I enjoyed most about my experience. Nearly all of the six par-3s provide a large drop in elevation—know that you will have to club down one or two clubs depending on the wind to account for the drops.
No. 5 is the first par-3 with this significant drop from 236 yards from the tips. Careful of the pin placement on this hole—the day I played, it was tucked near the middle left-hand side. I tried to play aggressively and my ball found its way into the massive greenside bunker to the left. From there, an up-and-down is not likely, and most will walk away with bogey (as I did).
No. 9 is the first time you see water on the course—from back tees you have to hit your drive in excess of 300 yards to flirt with the water that runs alongside this 542 yard par-5 to the left. Once safely in the fairway, keep your approach shot on the right half of the fairway, and you should make a par to round off your front nine.
Rounding the front nine won’t lead you back to the clubhouse although there is a snack shack between nine and 10 that I advise you stop at to get some strength for the last half of your round.
No. 14 is Director of Golf Scott Scherger’s favorite hole on Dinosaur Mountain and after playing it I can see why! The 223-yard par-3 is another one of the large elevation changes from tee to green. You must carry your ball across a canyon to a narrow green guarded by bunkers on either side. This green is two-tiered and significantly slopes back to front. Good luck hitting exactly the yardage and direction you need to par this hole, but when you do, it feels extremely rewarding!
Hole No. 15 is another really fun hole. This short par-4 plays only 378 from the tips and is all downhill from tee to green. The trick: this hole boasts a split fairway, a semi-blind shot off the tee and bunkers surrounding the green. It may appear a bit intimidating, but your best aiming point is the bunker just to the right of the green between the two tall cacti facing you off the tee. Hit an iron if need be and leave yourself a short wedge into the green—this is a good hole to attack the pin and go birdie seeking.
No. 16 supposedly houses the “dinosaur” of Dinosaur Mountain. When you get to the green, look to the mountains behind and to the left. Sits there, a mountain shaped like a dinosaur…kind of. I couldn’t exactly make it out, but hopefully you have a better imagination than me!
The two finishing holes should provide you with a decent shot at a couple of birdies coming in. No. 17 is a short par-3 (without the stark elevation change) and No. 18 is a short par-4. Place your tee ball in the right half of the fairway and you should have a good shot at making par. This green has a bit of a back-to-front slope, but not nearly as extreme as some of the others. Should your approach shot find the green in two, a birdie or par are well within reach.
Dinosaur Mountain is one of those courses you play and then feel sad when the round is over. You’re sad because you don’t know when the next time will be that you might get out there and play it again (after all, located in Gold Canyon, Ariz., it’s a bit of a hike from Phoenix’s center), but you for certain know that you want it to be soon.
Golf isn’t the only thing Gold Canyon Resort does right—there are 82 rooms on property that are available nightly. The spacious units have indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis and fireplaces that provide the utmost enjoyable experience.
The Gold Canyon Resort spa underwent renovations last fall and is now offering upgraded services and packages including weddings.
Between the two courses there are about 250 members.
Rates Monday through Thursday in peak season are $165 per player and on the weekends and holidays $190 per player. Special discounts apply for all Arizona residents and you can follow them on twitter: @golfgoldcanyon.
This is one course I can certifiably guarantee you will want to keep coming back to time and time again. It’s definitely among my favorite in the valley and as soon as you play it once, I’m sure it will be atop your list of faves as well.