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Welcome back to Desert Canyon, a gem near Wenatchee

No. 7 at Desert Canyon. (Dean Crane / Special to Golf)
No. 7 at Desert Canyon. (Dean Crane / Special to Golf)

If you haven’t played Desert Canyon in a while, it’s time to come back.

The desert-style course just outside of Wenatchee has been around for nearly 25 years, but it endured a rough financial patch in the 2000s with a bankruptcy filing and an ownership change. It took a toll on the upkeep at Desert Canyon, once lauded as the second-best conditioned course in the U.S. by Golf Digest shortly after opening in 1993.

Fast forward to present day and Desert Canyon is back to being Desert Canyon, known for its challenging 7,285-yard layout, well-manicured greens and fairways, and expansive waste areas. The course has found stability since 2011 with the arrival of owner Don Barth and partners Randy and Lyn Anderson.

“It’s solid now,” pro Mark Rhodes said. “Don has solidified everything financially. My first year in 2009 we did about 9,000 rounds. Last year we had 22,000 rounds.”

Desert Canyon is largely target golf with accuracy required to avoid waste areas. That doesn’t mean the driver stays wrapped in a head cover. The course, designed by the late Jack Frei, is plenty long enough at 6,766 yards from the blues and 6,484 from a blue/white combination.

Desert Canyon begins with unique opening holes on each nine. On the Lakes front nine, it’s a par 4. On the Desert back nine, it’s a par 5. The fairways are divided by a large waste bunker and eventually by a pond with a waterfall feature before arriving at a large, shared green.

Water also comes into play on Nos. 4 and 5 on the front side. The green complexes are huge. Nos. 7 and 11 both have two separate putting surfaces. The course recommends those utilizing the gold or silver tees to play to the front green.

No. 15 is the signature hole, a par 5 measuring 632 yards from the white tees and 690 from the tips with scenic views of the Columbia River. It’s downhill so the distance isn’t quite so daunting.

The 18th is a strong finishing hole. The 402-yard par 4 has a generous landing area but the second shot is over a canyon “and there’s really no bailout short,” Rhodes said. “You’ve got to make it or you’re in the desert.”

The course is located in Orondo, but it transports visitors to upscale desert courses in Arizona. An on-site lodge offers stay-and-play packages.

“The course is very challenging but yet very fair,” Rhodes said. “A lot of our players are Pacific Northwest golfers that don’t get to play desert golf and they really like it.”


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