Although often underrated compared to Ventana Canyon’s Mountain course, Tom Fazio's Canyon course also offers a range of natural terrain features that make for an exciting round of desert golf.
The title canyon comes into play during the second half of the round, running between the fairway of the No. 12 par five and real estate on the right. Players will tee off across a pond but, even when the water ends, the fairway continues to play as a cape. The right side of the hole drops down into the native, so only the most assured golfers will flirt with its edge.
Another piece of rock comes into play right out of the gate on the second half of the course. Measuring just 336 yards from the back tees, the green looks gettable from the tee. The skinny hourglass green makes staying on the putting surface difficult, but the true highlight is an enormous rock formation behind the green, which can serve as an aggressive rebound for those who miss long. The final hole offers eagles to whomever can carry the waste area and thread two ponds alongside the edge of this 500-yard par five’s green.
Played the Canyon Course at this fine resort in December of 2021. Things certainly seem to have changed quite a bit in and around the resort since I played the Mountain Course here in the early 90’s. As one can imagine, the biggest change that seems to be quite evident, assuming I am properly recalling my visit many years ago - this 36-hole golf resort has gone from a more isolated desert look at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range to a facility dominated by an abundance of custom homes that surround the course. Nevertheless, I feel it really only affects some of the views and the integrity of the Canyon Course does not suffer (I did not play the Mountain Course on this recent visit), as the construction is set well back. Most of the holes on the Canyon Course play either uphill or downhill, as one plays away from the mountains and then back toward them on each of the nines. My favorite hole might have been the 148-yard 5th. This par 3, with an elevated tee shot and a very narrow green, requires the utmost precision. A miss to the left will fall off a vertical wall the supports the left side of the green against the steep unforgiving desert hillside to the right. Also loved the 18th, which I felt was a great risk/reward 589-yard par 5 that can be reached in two with a big tee shot. However, one must navigate a dry wash directly in front of the green and also a precariously close water hazard on the right that is difficult to see when looking toward the green, due to the uphill nature of the hole. If one likes great mountain and valley desert views while playing a well-designed and well-maintained course, this is the place to play.