Arizona Golf Vacations

Gold Canyon Golf Club – Sidewinder Course at Gold Canyon

By • Jan 31st, 2011

If you look back to my previous contributions on this website, you will see that I reviewed the Dinosaur Mountain course at Gold Canyon in March of 2010. Make notice that I referred to it as one of my favorite in the Valley. That was before I played its sister course, Sidewinder, at Gold Canyon last month.

Don’t get me wrong—Dinosaur is still at the top of my list, but Sidewinder is an interchangeable option in my opinion, all too often overshadowed and forgotten about. The main difference between the two is it feels as if Sidewinder is more welcoming, less contrived and more even keel (as will be your mood throughout the round). Dinosaur has the tendency to beat you up whereas Sidewinder is more forgiving—a fairer course that invites you to play well.

The course offers a combination of stunning views on the front and challenging shot-making on the back. It’s no wonder Golf Digest gave this course a Four Star rating.

Most would argue that Sidewinder cannot compare to Dinosaur Mountain in its views or its challenges. I say, Sidewinder strips down to the core of what makes the game enjoyable—unbiased yet intriguing Arizona golf.

Sidewinder is by no means simple, but you don’t find yourself getting worked into a tizzy because of it. You still need to hit precise shots and you can still find yourself in desert, rough, bunkers or water, but the Sidewinder course almost invites you to play good golf.

Sidewinder, much like Dinosaur, snakes around the base of Dinosaur Mountain, through natural arroyos and dry creek beds. You’ll never get tired of the beautiful scenery and natural wildlife. The course measures 6,481 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 71.

You appreciate Sidewinder immediately—the first hole is one of the toughest in the 18 and the course throws you into it the deep end right off the bat. The par-5 first hole stretches 487 yards from the tips. From the elevated tees, you can see the entire hole, water lining the left side of the fairway, coming into play more often on your second shot than your tee ball. The average player can reach it in two with one pure shot after the next, but it may be wise to lay up to your favorite wedge distance to take water out of play. Play this hole safe and get your round started in the right direction.

The second hole is an unbelievable 251 yards to a green that’s not so easy to hit, Anything short will roll off the slightly raised front of the green and anything left will land in a trap. I don’t know how many of you are accurate from 250 yards, but here’s hoping you hit a good shot here. Even at a more realistic 180 yards from the Bobcat tees, but that’s still a good poke for the average player. Depending on the pin placement, I don’t think this course sees too many birdies on this hole.

The two nines were built at different times, and because of it, the course has a sort of odd layout. The original nine holes on the Sidewinder Course opened in 1997; the nine new holes were added in 1998 to create what is now the Sidewinder Course.

Instead of making the turn after 9, you come back by the clubhouse after eight holes; the ninth leads golfers away and No. 10 is a 170-yard par-3.

Holes 14, 15 and 16 are what the starter calls Sidewinder’s own Amen Corner.

The 14th is a 212 yard par-3 that requires a precise tee shot, much like the second hole, although it plays a bit shorter.

Hole 15 is a 418 yard par-4 where water runs down the entire right side of the fairway and approach shots into the green must carry water.

The 16th is a par-5 that stretches 447 yards. Reachable, yes; room for error, yes. Much like Amen’s Corner at Augusta, these three holes will be a key component to scoring well on this course. If you can get through this stretch of three tough holes unscathed, you will likely pick up a few stroked on your playing partners.

The two par-5s on the back, No. 11 and No. 16, are reachable for long hitters, but are typical risk-reward holes. Both greens at 11 and 16 are guarded in front by huge washes. So it may be your best play to lay up to your favorite wedge yardage and attack from there. Careful to play these holes wisely, because if you end up in the wash on either hole, a big number may be lurking.

While Sidewinder may not be the longest course in the valley, it certainly requires you hit good golf shots. And while it is overshadowed by its sister course, make no mistake that Sidewinder is an unworthy adversary. Another course I will add to my list of favorites in the Phoenix metro area.

Also be sure to read all of our Arizona Golf Course Reviews of all golf courses in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tucson.