Canyons and mountains star at scenic SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Arizona

FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. -- The flight pattern was inspiring. A bald eagle appears overhead and floats to a landing on a rocky slope of a canyon wall at SunRidge Canyon Golf Club 's 15th hole. The feeling was how could an ideal Arizona setting get any better?

This 6,823-yard, par-71 Keith Foster design has all you search for in a scenic Arizona setting. The SunRidge Canyon journey begins at the high end of one of its rugged canyons and gradually descends through the front nine, offering excellent views of Four Peaks and the Mazatzal Mountains to the east.

"I constantly hear great things from our visiting golfers," said Wes Neal, SunRidge Canyon's head professional. "Golfers love the desert experience, the huge boulders, the saguaros and the wildlife."

As you make the turn, you begin a gradual climb to a difficult string of finishing holes, dubbed the "Wicked Six," that are among the best golf experiences in Arizona -- for players and photographers alike, Neal said.

"I think many golfers think SunRidge Canyon can be difficult, but they still enjoy the experience," Neal said. "We softened the contours on the greens and planted with Champion Ultra Dwarf Bermuda grass two years ago, but the greens have a trickle to them."

The greens are quick -- a solid 12 on the Stimp meter -- and just when you think you've made a good stroke, the ball will roll out to an uncomfortable three-putt distance.

As challenging as the Wicked Six is -- the name given to holes 13-18 -- you can be competitive with the right decisions.

"I think 14 and 18 are especially entertaining," Neal said. "At the par-3 14th, visual intimidation is the enemy. Your challenge is to fly, bounce or run your tee ball 181 yards to the center of the green from an elevated tee. Ignore the front, left bunker and the lake that wraps the entire right side of the green and you'll be fine."

SunRidge Canyon Golf Club: Design thoughts

Constructed in 1995, SunRidge Canyon was purchased in December 2010 by part-time Fountain Hills residents Don and Cindy Misheff. Their local, hands-on stewardship keeps SunRidge Canyon on the leading edge of the premier, daily-fee, "member for a day" golf club offerings available in the Scottsdale area.

Designed by Keith Foster , a devout minimalist before it was popular, SunRidge Canyon displays a philosophy absent of bulldozing, creating a natural flow, few perfectly flat lies and countless putts that roll out over contours that can be subtle and hard to gauge.

If trickling putts don't run up your score, dry washes could. Nine times they play a part in your decision making, and on a few holes they appear shorter, where your decision is to play short of them or try and fly them.

These washes were left untouched during the course design because Foster was trying to limit the amount of dirt that would have to be moved, and the permit process to remove the washes would have been protracted and expensive.

SunRidge Canyon's practice facilities feature the Fisher Bryan Golf Academy on site. Expert club fitters from Hot Stix are here as well, so any student of the game will find everything they're looking for in one spot.

Wicked Six Bar & Grill

When the last putt drops, you'll find your golf cart is literally parked next to the Wicked Six Bar & Grill. Rest assured, regardless of what scores you've posted so far, the panorama is beautiful. Breakfast and lunch is served here, with post-round drinks and a full evening dining experience.

SunRidge Canyon's indoor-outdoor patio facilities remain unrivaled as the place to savor the day's fun amid striking views of the golf course and the locale's namesake mountain, Four Peaks, in the distance.

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.
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Canyons and mountains star at scenic SunRidge Canyon Golf Club in Fountain Hills, Arizona
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