From One Sun City to Another

The final day of my recent trip to the Phoenix area found me on the west side of town before I headed home Saturday evening. One of the main stops on the trip was the biggest group outing lined up for greenskeeper.org at Grandview Golf Course in the Sun City West community. Again, this is a course I had already played. They did finish a bunker renovation last year, but it’s still nothing I need to review again.

However, like on Friday, I was able to squeeze in rounds before and after. So, that’s what this article is all about. I got started as early as I could at a neighboring Sun City West course…

Desert Trails Golf Course • Sun City West, AZ • 8/25/18

Sun City West features seven different courses. It has four 18-hole regulation layouts (Grandview, Pebblebrook, Trail Ridge and Deer Valley). I’ve played all but Deer Valley so far. It also has three 18-hole executive layouts (Echo Mesa, Desert Trails and Stardust). After this round, I’ve now played all but Echo Mesa.

I was able to arrange a 6:00 tee time that would allow me to be first off. They actually had a men’s club thing going on at that time, but they let me go out a few minutes early to not slow them down. I did run into a foursome of ladies at the turn, but they let me through on the 11th hole. Otherwise, it was a very quick round.

Desert Trails is a par-61 layout with three par-4s on the front and four par-4s on the back to go along with the 11 par-3s. It’s a fairly forgiving layout without too much trouble to get into beyond a couple water hazards on the back nine. The par-4s range from only 239 yards up to 390 from the blue tees, so you get a decent mix there. The par-3s range from 121 yards up to 214, so you actually will get a good mix of lengths to play throughout the course.

The most interesting stretch of the course comes near the end once some water hazards appear. The 14th-17th holes all play along water. The 15th is probably the most notable par-4 with water up the entire left side and a dogleg left shape. The rest on this stretch are all par-3s that I enjoyed more than anything else on the course.

The basic expectation at Sun City West is not to be blown away by the layouts or the scenery. These are all pretty straightforward courses and Desert Trails reminded me very, very much of my round at Stardust a couple years back. However, they are good values even in the peak season and they do a really good job of keeping these courses in nice shape throughout the hot summer months. Rarely are all seven courses kept open during the summer as they are always working on some sort of maintenance or renovations. They are eventually redoing the bunkers on all the courses. I believe Echo Mesa is the one closed right now for its bunker renovation.

Overall, I thought Desert Trails was in really nice condition. As good, if not even a little better, than Grandview later in the day. However, I think it was more about the early morning light and the damp grass looking a little “prettier” in photos and to the naked eye. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all lush and nicely kept. They did lose a number of trees around the course due to recent storms, so there were some fresh-cut stumps and GUR areas roped off. The greens were receptive with some morning wetness and rolling smooth at slow speeds. I wasn’t in any bunkers and there aren’t really that many on the course, but they appeared decent.

That’s about all there is to say about Desert Trails. The folks at Sun City West are super nice and always treat me and the GK community so well, I am happy to support them. Eventually, I will play the two courses I am missing to officially complete the circuit. These are not destination golf courses for the Phoenix area, but they are good value picks (food/drinks and range balls are also super cheap here) any time of year when you just want to get out and play.

Some pictures from Desert Trails Golf Course (8/25/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)

I was pretty tired during the front nine at Grandview, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play any more. Plus, I was hoping to get home at a somewhat reasonable time. However, I got my second wind on the back nine (a chip in for a birdie and a skin—$—sure helped) and figured I’d at least go scout this next course because it is kind of on the way home and it’s one I’ve always wanted to play…

Copper Canyon Golf Club • Buckeye, AZ • 8/25/18

This is one of those mid-level courses that I’ve always heard really good things about. However, it is rather isolated and I’ve never been able to work it into any previous visits to the Phoenix area. It was a slight detour to get here from Sun City West, but not too bad at all and worth a look.

By the time I arrived, the skies overhead were starting to look rather dreary and I knew from earlier in the trip how quickly the weather can turn on you here in monsoon season. I checked in with the pro shop. He didn’t seem all too concerned about the weather and he told me the course was pretty wide open. He offered me a price of $23 and that was too good to pass up.

The weather definitely did get uglier as I played. The winds really picked up, I got a few drops of rain and I started to hear some low rumbles of thunder as darker clouds gathered overhead. It was not a good time to dilly dally, so I played as quickly as I possibly could. I did play through a couple groups along the way, but it worked out fine and I got out of there before things turned any worse. I did hit one really nasty storm on the way home, so I was very glad to not get stuck in something like that while on a golf course!

Copper Canyon is also part of a Sun City 55+ community (Sun City Festival), but it is much less of a “senior” style course than something like you’ll find over at Sun City West. This layout has plenty of character and adequate challenge. It was designed by the Schmidt-Curley team, and that’s usually a good thing in my experiences with their courses.

The name might be a little misleading because this is by no means a “canyon” style course. It is more residential and there aren’t any big forced carries or changes in elevation. There are plenty of sandy desert areas in play, but nothing too rugged. The fairways are generally fairly forgiving and the greens are big with lots of undulation. There is some nice bunkering throughout the course, though I’d say it’s primarily the greens that will provide the most character and challenge here.

One thing that I really enjoyed about the layout is that it played firmer and tighter than any other course that I played on this trip. I got more roll-out on drives and I was able to play some run-up shots to the greens, which is not something I was able to do anywhere else with softer fairway conditions.

The fairways at Copper Canyon were cut tight, but they provided fantastic lies to play from with a good cushion of bermuda underneath. The rough was cut low and not too much of a factor. The tee boxes were great, as well. The bunkers here were nicely maintained with decent sand. Finally, the greens were firm and quite fast, by far the fastest putting surfaces I played last week and not-so-coincidentally one of my best putting rounds.

I’ll admit I played so fast that I really wasn’t able to soak it all in and enjoy the course as much as I could have or should have. However, I definitely enjoyed it. It’s not the most dramatic or difficult design around. It’s not the easiest or most boring either, so it’s a really good “just right” kind of mix.

My favorite hole was probably the par-5 12th. There is a creek cutting across the fairway about halfway from tee to green. Longer hitters will need to be careful of this. Water runs up the right side for the first half of the hole and then up the left side for the second half of the hole. I just thought this was a nicely presented hole that makes you work for each shot.

The signature par-3 is probably either the 11th or 16th, which both have you hitting over water hazards.

One other interesting thing to note about Copper Canyon is that they are actually in the process of adding nine more holes. As soon as next year, this will be a 27-hole facility. A bulk of the holes are located across the street and you can see many are pretty close to done. However, there is also one hole that you drive past between the current 17th and 18th holes that looks more or less complete. I was trying to figure out if this was an old hole that is not currently in the routing or if it is a completely new hole being built.

The back nine routing here is kind of odd as you go way out away from the clubhouse and kind of do a figure eight through some remote parts of the community. Several new homes were under construction on the back and there was a lot of grading going on along parts of the front nine. Between all this and the new holes being built, it’s a little bit chaotic and the winds were kicking up a lot of dust. I do not know how the individual 9-hole routings will work once the extra nine is added, but I would guess based on what I saw that things are going to be shifted around and mixed up quite a bit. I guess it just gives me an excuse to come back and play it again after the full 27-hole layout is finalized.

I still wouldn’t call Copper Canyon a “must play,” but it is a fantastic mid-level option. And, it’s definitely one of the courses you need to look at if playing on the west side of the valley where there aren’t as many top-notch options as there are to the east and north of the city.

Some pictures from Copper Canyon Golf Club (8/25/18):

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