New ownership and Jim McLean Academy gives new life to SunRidge Canyon Golf Club

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FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. -- SunRidge Canyon Golf Club opened back in 1995, but in the spring of 2012, it feels like the Scottsdale golf scene's shiny new kid again.

New ownership, a fresh commitment and some star power are helping to put this golf course back into the mix in terms of the Valley of the Sun's top must-play courses.

At the end of 2010, the club was purchased by Don and Cindy Misheff, and it appears to have fallen into the right hands. Don is a U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier and a chairman at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. He has a serious passion for golf, and together with his wife, who describes herself as more of a 'nine and wine' golfer, he has big aspirations to make SunRidge Canyon stand apart from its neighbors.

'We're going to do whatever it takes to make this a special golf hangout,' Don said. The plan starts with teaming up with General Manager Jeff Lessig to produce firm and fast course conditions that are as good as any course in the area.

Another major development was the announcement in the fall of 2011 by Jim McLean that he would open an academy at SunRidge Canyon, his only facility in Arizona. A new teaching building is being constructed on the range this spring, and the academy will accommodate both members and extended stay-and-learn golf schools.

But some little details will be added to enhance the 'hangout' vibe. More TVs, an outdoor bar and heightened service will all be implemented. From the clubhouse's elevated perch above the course and looking back east, sunrise views will rival any clubhouse in town.

The Misheffs, who have had a house above the club's driving range for years, will now be looking down on their new project with a more watchful eye.

'We always wanted a family business we thought we could turn around,' said Don. 'And we think we can do something special here.'

SunRidge Canyon: The golf course

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Any truly great hangout needs a golf course that locals and snowbirds alike will want to play again and again. SunRidge Canyon presents the scenery for visiting golfers to the desert while providing great hole variety for locals. It's a highly unique desert design by Keith Foster, highlighted by the 'Wicked Six,' a demanding closing stretch of holes that demands real game to score on.

From the first tee, the course routing is a complete circle that starts from the clubhouse on high ground and tumbles down the mountain with a succession of holes that will afford some real birdie opportunities. The first hole, at just 318 yards downhill, encourages aggressive play immediately.

But what goes down must come back up, and the course begins to head back up on the back nine. There are a few breaks from uphill shots, such as the picturesque, par-3 14th hole that is a delicate shot from an elevated tee over a small pond that also defends the 13th hole.

While the 14th is short and sweet, the par-3 17th is bold and long: a 200-plus-yard shot over canyon to the green that sits beside rock formations. An added design feature is alternate tee-box locations -- one located far to the left of the other, almost creating a 90-degree angle. The closing hole, a par 4 up to 432 yards long, requires an uphill approach shot that plays to the west, which could mean many days with wind in your face -- a suitable final exam for anyone attending the McLean Academy.

Stay and play in Scottsdale: CopperWynd Resort & Club

SunRidge Canyon partners with CopperWynd Resort & Club, located just up the street from the golf club. This resort has a full-service spa and fitness center, tennis courts and swimming pools. Golf packages, as well as extended instruction packages through the McLean school, are available.