Those looking for gold east of Phoenix might not have any luck but if they swing by the Gold Canyon community, they’ll hit the mother lode (in terms of golf). Jack Nicklaus, his sons, and associate Phil Smith designed two 18-hole courses for the Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club: The Prospector and Lost Gold, as well as two nine-hole layouts. Both of the Nicklaus Design courses are held to similar acclaim.
Nicklaus designed the Prospector route with son Gary, while Lost Gold was designed alongside son Jack Jr.
The central feature at the Prospector course is a wide wash the flows across the property (at least when it rains). Wet or dry, however, it provides a number of forced carries throughout the round, such as on the way to the green on the par five No. 7, where even big hitters will need three shots to reach the green, and the wash may make them consider four. The wash is a strictly heroic prospect at the short par four No. 14, where nearly two-thirds of the 333-yard distance will be required to cross the hazard.
The Prospector hosted the Phoenix LPGA International tournament between 2004 and 2008.
If there’s any doubt about the commitment to golf in the community, the cluster of homes tucked in the corner of Nos. 9 and 10 features several elaborate putting greens for residents’ practice time.
This is a mega-sized golf complex -- the other 18-hole layout is called Lost Gold. Over the years a range of different professional events -- most notably the LPGA Safeway International – have been played over the Prospector Course.
The Nicklaus signature design elements are front and center. Wide fairways with a number of larger-sized bunkers dotting the landscape. Sadly, the ground movement is limited and many of the fairways, while immaculately groomed, are your garden variety of flat-as-a-pancake type.
The course grooming is often top shelf and the Superstition Mountains in the backdrop does add to the visual enjoyment when playing.
For those coming to the Valley of the Sun there are plenty of top tier Nicklaus layouts to attempt to play. If Prospector were on a dinner menu -- it's more of a quick appetizer -- just not the main entree.
M. James Ward