Date Played: April 3rd, 2013
I mentioned a while back in one of my Five Spots how the greater Wenatchee area is a prime golf and vacation destination. Bear Mountain Ranch, Alta Lake, Highlander and Desert Canyon are all very good courses on some of the best real estate in the country (if not the World). Desert Canyon Golf Resort was a planned community with a great lodge and golf course perched atop the hillside above the Wenatchee River in Orondo, WA. Built in the 1990’s by NW legend Jack Frei (of Echo Falls, McCormick Woods and Bear Creek CC notoriety) it’s a stern test of desert golf only 2.5 hours from Seattle or Spokane.
A perennial addition to almost all Washington State top 10 lists, DCGR is a vastly underrated golf asset to the NW community. Desert golf at it’s finest, the course stretches over 7100 yards from the tips, but often plays into swirling winds that can bring the best golfers to their knees. What makes this place great is the variety of holes. From the long, downhill par 3 14th, to the quirky double greened short par 4 11th, this course offers a bit of everything.
The signature hole, and my nomination for best par 5 I’ve ever played, is the 690 yard (not a typo) Par 5 15th. The truest of 3 shot par 5’s, you are greeted with a downhill tee shot that you hit into a stunning panorama of the Wenatchee River Gorge. The fairway necks down well inside 300 yards, forcing you to use your head and put the driver away. Par 5’s are supposed to be long, but when you step up to your 400 yard second shot, it seems a bit absurd. If you can hit a solid fairway wood into the headwind, you’re rewarded with a 180-250 yard approach into a green with a steep collection area right and a sheer cliff face left. If you can muster up par here, call me up and I might just buy you a beer.
An example of great variety and routing of this course, is the follow-up hole; a scant 140 yard par 3 with a nice left to right wind and a huge green (albeit a deceptively tough one). Desert Canyon is the perfect course to play with a few buddies and a few brews. I, for one, can’t think of a course I’d rather take a group of friends to play than Desert Canyon.
In the few times I’ve played here, I’ve never used the driving range, but the two practice greens offer a true to life replica of the conditions you’ll face on the course. The pro-shop is well stocked, the staff is very friendly and I’ll be goddamned if you can’t play 18 with a GPS enabled cart for under $50 on a weekend twilight. The $89 dollar peak weekend fee is a little steep, but for the golf, views and kick ass time you’ll have, it’s not out of line.
Bottom Line: Desert Canyon is a great target golf course in a great location. It feels somewhat forced as it’s an oasis in an otherwise brown area. The design is solid for what it is and it’s got some really memorable holes. Desert Canyon gets a fine score here at GbB. Final Score: 80/100
Design – 21/25 (Use of winds in routing is as good as I’ve seen anywhere)
Test of Golf – 19/25 (Stern but fair with big fairways and devastating waste areas. Large greens with serious slopes keep you on your toes)
Value – 12/20 (Peak rates are a smidge steep, but twilight is a killer deal)
Condition – 8/10 (A couple of hiccups on the greens, but I believe it was more climate than care) Amenities – 10/10 (GPS Carts w/ every round, 2 putting greens, restaurant and lodge/resort)
Experience – 10/10 (No better place in NCW to play a round of golf…yet)