Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon GC, Buckeye. Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt, 2007.

Probably the best of the retirement community courses I’ve seen, as it actually mixes in a few half-par holes and interesting strategic decisions. Still, every time I’ve been back there are more homes and so it’s harder to convince yourself that this is really all that different from the Sun City Grand courses, which are 20 minutes closer to town.

Since I’ve been they’ve built a new nine, and that means they reconfigured the original 18 to some extent.

The original front nine—the current Vista Nine—has not been touched. These nine holes are perfectly solid but also pretty plain. They balance well, however. The short second, with a green that angles front left to back right, is followed by the longer third, with a green that angles in the opposite direction. That’s followed by a short par 3 and a reachable par 5.

The original back nine is now the Lake Nine, minus the original 10th and with a new hole added to the existing trio north of Beardsley Rd. The most photogenic hole is the Lake’s second. It is downhill and not long—under 500 yards from all but the back tee. On the tee shot there is water right and two bunkers left; really long drives could be threatened by water that crosses the fairway before running down the left side, but for the most the idea is to hit the drive as long as you can while keeping it the fairway. If you can, you should have an excellent chance to reach the green.

#3 on the Lake Nine (Credit: Copper Canyon GC)

The next hole offers another chance to reach the green and make birdie. Downhill again, the green is reachable from the tee for big hitters, especially because the green is open in front so a well played tee shot can run on. Bunkers guard the left of the green with low areas on either side as well. The green is also tiered. On days when the hole is on the back tier, laying up and hitting a wedge may be the best way to play the hole.

The fourth on the Lake is again short but the green is angled and largely hidden behind a bunker. So a hole that looks quite similar on the score card, most days, plays entirely differently.

Small design touches like this set this course well apart from even other retirement courses that look modern but lack any kind of thoughtful golf. The other thing Copper Canyon has going for it is that despite the influx of homes it is still far enough out west that it is windier than most other courses and wind always makes golf more interesting because it makes holes play differently day to day.

I certainly wouldn’t want to live all the way out in Sun City Festival, but if you had to pick one course course in Surprise to play all the time, this would be the one.

Arizona 8th Decile [2012]