When golfers remember their rounds at desert golf courses, a few defining features tend to linger: rocky areas, scattered cacti and sweeping views of a mountainous landscape. Superstition Mountain’s Prospector Course in Gold Canyon, Ariz., features all of that, but it stands out for more.
The club is home to two courses—the Prospector and the Lost Gold—and the private facility is located about a half-hour from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The Prospector will host the LPGA’s Drive On Championship come late March. The club last hosted an LPGA event in 2008, and since then, it has become an even better fit for the tournament. Superstition Mountain now boasts a community of eight LPGA Tour members who call the robust practice facility and course compound their home, including world No. 11 Jennifer Kupcho.
I recently had the pleasure of playing the Prospector with two of the club’s resident professionals—UCLA alum Brianna Do and 2022 US Open runner-up Mina Harigae. As a tournament venue, the course has historically produced low winning scores – 18-25 under – and Harigae and Do tore the place up. But navigating the Nicklaus design alongside two top-notch tournament golfers wasn’t just quality entertainment: it was the perfect way to uncover the course’s true defenses.
I have to rack my brain to remember the shots Harigae and Do missed, but when they did, there was a pattern. The Prospector course’s most prevalent defense is its well-protected green complexes, and they require you to miss in the right places. Dramatically shaped greens and expertly placed bunkers allow for tucked pin placements that are tricky even for pros.
“I think the hardest thing for people when they come out and play it for the first time is definitely the green complexes,” says Matt Brooks, the director of golf who joined our group. “There’s just a lot of subtle movement. There are a lot of shallow runoffs where you have to maybe chip, maybe putt.”
Brooks isn’t messing around. You can’t tell from back in the fairway, but miss in the wrong spot around the greens and you’ll face quite a short game challenge. The frequent toss-up between a putter and a wedge is real—and it wasn’t just the New York City visitor who hasn’t stepped foot on a practice green in three months who took on those decisions.
The greens are fast, too, and the course still has three months to firm up before the best in the world come to tee it up.
Both the Prospector and the Lost Gold courses are Nicklaus designs while technically not Nicklaus “signatures.” That label requires a premium, so Nicklaus’s son Jack Jr. designed one hole on the Lost Golf and his other son, Gary, designed one hole on the Prospector.
The Prospector makes you wait for the grand reveal of its signature hole, the 18th, which will be an excellent finisher for today’s top female professionals. It’s a par 5 that rolls up to the clubhouse with water running up the entire left side.
Brooks points to another hole as perhaps the most interesting on the track.
“I think the best hole is probably 14, just because it provides you with a lot of options. You can be aggressive and try to hit the driver, or you can kind of lay up to the fairway and have a wedge,” he says.
It only takes a few holes to appreciate the experience at Superstition Mountain, but for the avid female golfer, the club will get a few extra points for its pro shop. Superstition Mountain is woman-owned, and the endless women’s golf clothing options make it abundantly clear. Susan Hladky bought the property in late 2009, and it has been a haven for female golfers—professional and recreational—ever since.