Desert Canyon Sold

By: Bob Spiwak

About 18 years after it opened in 1993, Desert Canyon Golf Resort in Orondo, Wash. has been sold for the second time. As of July 1st, the new owner is Don Barth, who also owns Alta Lake Resort in Pateros, Wash. - the only 18-hole course in Okanogan County, and Rock Island GC south of Wenatchee.

Rather than a front and back nine, the two sides at Desert Canyon are labeled Lakes and Desert; one has water features while the other boasts a true sandy-desert setting.

Designed and built by the late golf course designer and club professional Jack Frei, Desert Canyon has won many accolades from the golfing press and players. Its signature hole, the downhill sixth on the Desert Nine, stretches over 600 yards and features a green high above the nearby Columbia River and offers westward vistas of the Cascade Mountains.

Sometime after the turn of this century the course began running into financial difficulties and was sold to Homestead Golf of Lynden, Wash., in 2007. The entire property, which is still billed as a golf resort, included home sites, whose sales had been lagging.

Things picked up when Homestead built a hotel adjacent to the driving range and added condominiums. But there was another change in course management and a lot of the premium services were minimized or withdrawn. The roomy pro shop was relegated to share a smaller space in the Oasis restaurant, the carts were showing age, and the corps of bag boys from the early days had been significantly diminished.

Homestead sold the course to Barth and his partners, Randy and Lynn Anderson, old friends who have homes at Alta Lake and in Puyallup, south of Seattle.

Asked if any alterations were in the works for the course, head pro Mark Rhodes noted there were plans to eliminate the cross-fairway waste areas on two of the holes on the Desert nine and convert them to grass. On the famous sixth, the fairway will be widened at what is now a transition zone near the elbow of the gentle dogleg-left.

Rhodes also mentioned possible changes where patrons are involved. "We need a friendlier rate or program for local golfers," he said. He added that the "Players Club," a discount program shared with the highly acclaimed Bear Mountain Ranch course near Chelan, would be continued for this season and there may be other changes in the future. Coincidentally, Barth was a major component in the construction of Bear Mountain, which opened in 2004.

Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed. The rumor mill had "about $3 million" as the tab, but Rhodes felt it to be significantly less than that.
Barth was unavailable for comments at the time of this writing.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultra-private Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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