Utah’s St. George area offers championship golf in spectacular settings
By Ed Travis
According to Joe Newman, head of golf marketing for the St. George Tourism Office, the St. George, Utah area — and especially the golf there — is an “emerging unknown destination.”
Intriguing. For those that don’t know Utah and think of only of mountains and the Great Salt Lake, the St. George area is in the southwestern part of the state near the border with Arizona and Nevada. The weather is great for golf all year and in fact prime early season temperatures average 60 degrees in February and 68 degrees in March.
As Newman explained, St. George is a year-round golf mecca with 10 courses along the Red Rock Golf Trail, all within a 30-minute drive of some of the most spectacular scenery you can imagine. Remember Zion National Park is just a few miles away, a must-see any time of the year.
From Las Vegas, it’s only a 90-minute drive up I-15, so St. George is easy to reach. In fact, you can choose to fly nonstop into St. George Regional Airport directly from Los Angeles via United; other carriers offer service to St. George as well via Salt Lake City (Delta) and Phoenix (American).
The high desert of the St. George area is at an altitude of 2,200 feet and well known for the red color of the rocks and cliffs. The color is caused by iron oxide and provides a striking contrast to the green of the golf courses, making for many memorable vistas as you play.
Just east of town is Sand Hollow Resort, a great place to play and relax, with two courses comprising 27 holes. The 9-hole Links layout was built with a tip-of-the-hat to the famous links courses of the British Isles with rolling fairways and generously sized greens. And it has the truly unique feature called “sheep fencing” which defines parts of the course. Some visitors have said it would be easy to believe these low walls of hand-laid native stone have livestock grazing on the other side.
Sand Hollow’s Links is perfect for beginners and the whole family.
The other layout at Sand Hollow is the 18-hole, par-72 beauty designed by John Fought called the Championship course that plays to a tough 7,315 yards from the Black tees and is a consistent winner of national and statewide accolades. The routing takes players through the native landscape and it’s sometimes helpful to remind yourself to keep your attention on your game, and not on the desert views and mountains on the horizon.
Four sets of tees provide an opportunity for golfers of every skill level. Remember the St. George area is at a distance-helping 2,200 feet above sea level, which translates for most of us into 5 to 10 more yards off the tee and perhaps one-half a club for the irons.
A highlight of the front nine is No. 7, a par-5 that can play to 577 yards and requires a driver to put the ball even with the bunker you can reach from the tee. The second shot requires accurate placement to avoid a bunker 70 yards short of the green on the right side and leave an easy wedge to the putting surface. The green is severely sloped from front to back; care should be taken not to go long.
One of the measures of the quality of a golf course’s design is the inclusion of a memorable short par-4 hole, and with the 13th at the Championship course, Fought has a winner. For long hitters, it’s a drivable 320 yards from the Blacks, but regardless of the tee you play from, you have to avoid the bunker on the left of the fairway and another short of the green on the right.
Good fun and a great challenge.
Like to walk? Another Red Rock Golf Trail courses is the Dixie Red Hills Golf Club, owned by the City of St. George and a perfect place for a nine-hole stroll (they do have carts available as well). Or perhaps the exclusive Inn at Entrada is more your style, with panoramic views of the red vermilion cliffs. Guests at the Inn have playing privileges at the Johnny Miller-designed Snow Canyon Country Club, which is consistently near the top of the rankings of Utah courses.
Each of the other Red Rock Golf Trail courses is a sure memory-building experience and there are a variety of accommodations and golf packages to suit any preference. Newman cited a particularly popular package at The Ledges of St. George, where players can stay in a vacation rental home on the golf course for $437 per person including four nights and four rounds of golf.
Newman also pointed out St. George was perfect to “get out of the crowds” to a place where you can enjoy your vacation at the pace you choose.