Rumor has it there is gold in the Superstition Mountains, a beautiful and majestic mountain range about 45 minutes east of Phoenix. While there is a chance that you may never find gold in the Superstitions, you do have the opportunity to discover a gem of a golf course at the base of the mountains. It is called Dinosaur Mountain at Gold Canyon Golf Resort.
Dinosaur Mountain is one of two eighteen hole tracks at Gold Canyon, the other being Sidewinder. Sidewinder is a great course in its own right, but Dinosaur Mountain is absolutely a must play course if you are visiting the Phoenix area. The high Sonoran desert views are unmatched by any other public course in the valley. The course runs up, over and around the namesake of the course, Dinosaur Mountain. Dinosaur Mountain was designed by architect Ken Kavanaugh. The course superintendent, Stuart Penge, co-designed the Sidewinder Course. He does a wonderful job in keeping both courses in perfect shape. With a rating and slope of 71.3 and 143 from the tips, Dinosaur is one of the most difficult courses in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area.
The resort first opened in 1982 as a nine hole course and a dude ranch. Nine more holes were added in 1986. In 1997 and 1998, eighteen more holes were added to finalize the 36 holes of golf available at Gold Canyon. If you are looking for a stay and play destination in the Phoenix area, you will be hard pressed to find any place better than Gold Canyon.
The starting stretch of holes on Dinosaur Mountain are truly spectacular. The first hole is a short par four that measures 316 yards. It plays slightly longer due to the fact that it is uphill. The view from the first tee looking north towards the majestic Superstitions should get you excited for the journey you are about to embark on. The ideal shot is to hit a long iron just right of the fairway bunker. This will leave you a short iron or wedge to the elevated green. Make sure you stay short of the pin, as the green slopes severely from back to front. Number two is a severely downhill par three that plays shorter than the 197 yards listed on the card. The view of the valley below is breathtaking. The third hole is the signature hole at Dinosaur, a par five that measure 514 yards. The hole doglegs slightly left. Any tee shot that is hit down the right side funnels back to the left. The second, or third, shot plays much longer than the actual yardage due to the fact that it is severely uphill. The green slopes from back to front, so make sure you are not past the pin. As you leave the third green and head over to the fourth tee, you are treated to a spectacular view of the hole you are about to play. The hole basically sits in a canyon, and it looks as though Mother Nature designed this stretch of land for a golf hole. Even though the par four is downhill, it still plays very long at 467 yards. Tee shots should favor the right side, as everything slopes to the left. The approach shot should also be hit at the right side of the green, as it also slopes from right to left. The fifth tee takes you up to the highest point on the golf course. The view of the Superstition Mountains from the tee box will leave you in awe. The hole is a long par three measuring 236 yards. It does play less than the yardage, due to the severe drop in elevation from tee to green. The green is huge and is protected by a very large bunker on the left. Holes six through ten meander through the only semi-flat property on the golf course. Six and seven are both strong par fours, both measuring over 430 yards. Depending on wind direction, both holes can be very difficult. The eighth hole is another daunting par three that measures over 200 yards. Make sure to try and avoid the long bunker that protects the left side of the green. The only water that comes into play on the golf course is on the long par five ninth. The hole measures 542 yards and is a three shotter for most players. The lake comes into play on the second and third shots.
The back nine at Dinosaur Mountain is unique as it starts out with a par three. The hole measures 170 yards and plays slightly uphill, so you may need to hit one additional club. There is a ridge that runs down the center of the green, so be sure to note the pin position on the tee and stay below the hole. The tenth hole is a wonderful par five that runs along a mountain edge. The hole measures 543 yards, so again, only very long hitters will have a chance at reaching the green in two. The green on eleven is huge, so be sure to watch for the pin position on the approach shot. The twelfth hole is another severely downhill par four that offers spectacular views from the tee box. Beware of the bunker that protects the right side off of the tee. If you happen to land in it, you will more than likely have to lay up on your second shot. The green slopes from back to front, so again, try to stay below the hole on your approach. Number thirteen is a daunting par four that plays along another mountain edge. The hole plays very long at 454 yards, slightly uphill. The ideal tee shot is hit down the right side, leaving you a long to mid iron approach to a green that sits on a little perch. Make sure you don’t miss your approach to the right, as this will leave you an impossible up and down. Par is a great score on thirteen. The fourteenth hole is another spectacular par three that plays severely downhill. The hole measures 226 yards, but play less than that due to the drop in elevation from tee to green. Standing on the tee, the green looks like a tiny spec, especially when you are trying to hit it with a long iron. The green on fourteen has more undulations than any other green at Dinosaur, so even if you are lucky enough to hit the green, par is far from guaranteed. The only chance to reach back and try to drive a par four at Dinosaur Mountain comes on the 378 yard par four fifteenth. I know, 378 yards seems long to try and drive the green, but again, the hole plays severely downhill, and quite often, downwind. If you want to play it safe, aim down the fairway on the right with a five iron and that will leave you a wedge into one of the smallest greens on the golf course. The last par five on the golf course is the 535 yard sixteenth hole. A good drive will give you an opportunity to try and reach this green in two. However, there is a cluster of bunkers by the green that will gobble up any errant second shots. Be sure to check out the view looking back down the fairway from the green on sixteen, as the view of the Superstitions is fantastic from this vantage point. Number seventeen is the shortest and only relatively flat par three on the course, measuring 168 yards. The hole is protected by a large bunker short of the green. Like some of the other greens, this one slopes quite a bit from back to front, so be sure to be below the hole. The closing hole on Dinosaur Mountain is a nice little par four that measures 366 yards. A long iron or fairway wood hit just right of the bunker on the left side will leave you a short approach shot to another small green. To me, it is always nice when you have a chance to finish your round with a hole that gives you a real chance to make either a birdie or a par rather than a difficult hole that makes you end your round on a sour note.
After your round, be sure to head into the clubhouse and enjoy a nice beverage on the patio and soak in the wonderful views of the golf course and the Superstition Mountains. The resort also offers a full spa and a wonderful restaurant. There are also some fantastic hiking trails in the Superstitions that are very close to the resort.
If you enjoy desert golf with fantastic views and severe elevation changes, you will not find a better course in the valley to play than Dinosaur Mountain at Gold Canyon Golf Resort. For information on packages or tee times, contact the resort at 800-624-6445 or on the web at www.gcgr.com.