TEN SPECTACULAR COURSES INVITE YOU
Golf reigns supreme among time-honored outdoor sports in and around Park City as winter yields to spring and long, lazy summers. The area beckons golfers from across the country in search of challenging, high-altitude courses couched in spectacular scenery. Several world-class courses lie within a few minutes drive of historic Main Street. Though most of the courses covered here are private, memberships are available. A number of them were designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Mark O’Meara and iconic course designers Rees Jones and Pete Dye. Each has its own unique personality, from traditional Scottish links courses to lofty, thin-air courses where golf balls seem to soar forever. Here is an introduction to many of the amazing courses awaiting adventurous golfers:
This unorthodox course is literally carved out of a mountainside adjacent to Vail’s sprawling Canyons ski resort. The three words that best describe the course: vertical, challenging, fun.
After some designers said it was impossible to build a golf course here, veteran course architects Gene and Casey Bates stepped up to craft this amazing 18-holer. It’s the shortest of the courses covered here, but, with a total elevation change of 550 feet in less than 100 acres, it’s definitely the most vertical.
The course layout is tough to describe. Some of the fairways actually do double duty as ski runs in winter. Canyons Director of Golf Justin Johnson says he’s never seen such topography. “It’s not traditional, it’s unique and memorable. It’s a place where you really need to think strategically.” Johnson counsels first-timers at the course to leave their drivers in the bag, just have fun and don’t bother to keep score.
The most challenging hole on the course is the precipitous, par 5, 594-yard 7th.
Most popular and doubling as the most scenic is the 254-yard, par 4 5th hole, offering expansive views of the area and a player’s best shot at a birdie.
REES JONES GOLF COURSE AT VICTORY RANCH
This outstanding Rees Jones course has been ranked among the best in the state by Golf Digest magazine. Jones himself considers it “one of the most spectacular in the West.” The three words that best describe it: demanding, open, bunkered. “The rugged topography created an opportunity for me to design a golf course that is dramatic in every respect,” said Jones.
Views abound here, from Jordanelle Reservoir and the Wasatch Back to the west, to the high Uinta Mountains towering in the east. Wide fairways encourage golfers to “swing away.” But beware, says Director of Golf Chris Brandenburg. “All the fescue grass and sagebrush we have up here can really mess up your day,” he cautions. Greens at the course are well-bunkered, “tough but true” adds Brandenburg
The most challenging hole is the par 5, risk/reward 5th, says Brandenburg. Tee shots must clear a canyon. Heavy hitters tempted to play to the right flirt with disaster.
Most scenic hole and by far the most popular is the daunting 17th. The view from the tee is intimidating, but the hole is easier to play than it looks. Brandenburg says club members often take golf carts to the tee just to watch the sunset.
The club now has a unique drone delivery food service, bringing Golf Grill offerings directly to golfers wherever they are on the course.
SOLDIER HOLLOW GOLF COURSES (PUBLIC)
The Soldier Hollow Golf Course, in Midway overlooking the Heber Valley, is actually a complex of two 18-hole courses, both open to the public. Designed by Gene Bates, the courses were recipients of the prestigious “Architecture Award” by Golf Digest magazine the year they opened. The magazine also dubbed Soldier Hollow best new affordable public access course.
Part of the sprawling Wasatch Mountain State Park golf course complex a few miles away, these championship courses are owned and operated by the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation. The three words that best describe the courses: views, diversity, long.
The 7700-yard “Gold” course occupies the high foothills above Soldier Hollow and offers expansive views of the lush Heber Valley below. Winding through stands of native scrub oak trees and grasses, it features dramatic elevation changes on almost every hole. Golfweek magazine included the course on its annual list of “best courses you can play in Utah.”
The lower, flatter Silver course is a parkland/meadowland layout, described as the “tamer” of the two. Choosing the proper tee box depending on skill level is key for players here.
Most challenging on the Gold course is the uphill, par 4 18th. At 464 yards, it demands two well-placed shots to reach the green in regulation.
Most scenic and most popular is the dogleg, par 4 4th hole.
From the back tees, the tee shot is blind on this 400 -yard hole. The 4th affords stunning views of towering Mt. Timpanogos and Bald Mountain at Deer Valley.
On the Silver course, the par 3, 214-yard 15th hole, over the water, is the most challenging and popular. No matter where you look on this course, expansive views of Heber Valley and the Wasatch Back are spectacular.
These courses share real estate with the world-class Soldier Hollow Nordic Center, home to the 2002 Winter Olympics Nordic events and many international competitions. The Nordic Center is also open to the public.
The Jack Nicklaus-designed Red Ledges golf course melds perfectly into stunning, red-rock scenery in the eastern foothills overlooking the nearby Heber Valley. Three words that best describe it: elevated, bunkered, risky.
The course is the centerpiece of an elegant, gated community of custom homes surrounding it. Many of the tee boxes are elevated, inviting soaring shots to well-bunkered, meticulously groomed greens. The fairways are wide, winding through red rock, sage and juniper trees.
Most challenging hole is the par 5 16th. “Quite a few holes are challenging, however the 16th provides a split fairway leading to the ultimate risk/reward situation for your second shot,” says Jon Paupore, Director of Golf. “A well-played shot to the left fairway leaves the player with a short wedge shot and the perfect angle to attack the green.”
Most popular is the very short, par 3 4th hole, a tricky one that gives players at any level a shot at a hole-in-one.
Most scenic hole is tough to pin down, literally every hole is spectacular. Paupore says his pick is the 14th, a risk/reward par 5 overlooking the valley.
Even though Red Ledges is a private facility, their Jim McLean Golf School is unique in that it is open to the public. The school’s award-winning instructors offer lessons and clinics at an award-winning practice facility.
TUHAYE AT TALISKER CLUB
This magnificent Mark O’Meara-designed course lies at the heart of the Talisker Club Tuhaye community. The three words that best describe it: scenic, natural, wide.
Respecting the setting, designer O’Meara chose to blend the course into the natural landscape rather than bulldoze it. The fairways wind through stands of sagebrush, groves of scrub oak trees and native grasses. Many of the tee shots look “scary,” according to Thomas Barksdale, director of golf at Tuhaye. He also says some tee shots on the back nine must clear an intimidating series of ravines.
The par 4 12th hole is the most difficult. Playing 520 yards downhill from the back tees, with and couple of different fairways to choose from, it’s a long hole. The second shot is back uphill to a green that slopes away from the player. Barksdale says par on this hole is hard-earned. “It’s a spectacularly beautiful hole,” he concludes.
But the long par 5 3rd hole, takes top honors as the most scenic. It plays downhill all the way with wonderful views of Bald Mountain.
Most popular hole is the downhill par 3 8th, which Barksdale says is “unique, exciting and fun.” It’s a very challenging hole because of frequent crosswinds.
Several changes are planned for the course this summer and next, one of which Barksdale says will more closely reflect O’Meara’s original design. Construction will also begin this summer on a nine-hole course and an innovative 18-hole “putting park.”
There are actually two world-class courses at Promontory, both designed by icons of golf. The three words that best describe them: character, longest, widest.
The incomparable Jack Nicklaus designed the Painted Valley course. At an astounding 8,100 yards from the back tees, it’s one of the longest and most challenging links courses in the country. Wide fairways welcome bombers off the tee, but Nicklaus’ trademark deep, sloping bunker lies in wait for errant approach shots.
Pete Dye designed the Canyons course, draped over some seriously rugged terrain. Though several hundred yards shorter, the fairways demand accuracy. Multiple tees boxes provide scoring opportunities for all players, no matter their skill level.
On the Painted Valley course, most challenging is the par 5, 678- yard 12th. From an extremely elevated tee, heavy hitters watch shots soar amazing distances through thin, high altitude air. It’s the favorite hole of Ryan Kartchner, Promontory’s Director of Golf.
On the Canyons course the tricky 14th is most popular. It’s a 415-yard par 4 with several risk/reward options for approaching the green.
Apres-golf diners at Promontory Club often gather at The Peak in the Nicklaus Clubhouse. An Asian-influenced menu, fine seafood and classic cocktails await them in this elegant room with stunning views.
JEREMY RANCH GOLF & COUNTRY CLUB
Jeremy Ranch takes the high ground as the only Arnold Palmer signature golf course in Utah. Opened in 1981, the private course is hugely popular. The three words that best describe it: beautiful, challenging, lush.
This magnificent course was home to the “Shootout At Jeremy Ranch” for a decade. Legendary players like Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Chi Chi Rodriguez and, of course, Arnold Palmer came year after year for this prestigious PGA champions tour event. East Canyon Creek, a magnet for wandering golf balls, winds lazily through the back nine. Jeremy Ranch Director of Golf Jake Hanley said he loves to watch the deer, moose and elk that often visit the course.
The 433-yard, par 4 18th plays uphill, leading to a two-tiered green surrounded by bunkers. It’s by far the most challenging hole.
Most popular is the 4th hole. This 191-yard par 3 drops dramatically downhill over severe slopes to a tricky green.
Most scenic is the long, par 4 5th hole. Steep slopes flanking the fairway funnel well-struck tee shots straight to the green.
A unique amenity, the club’s Nordic Center, operates all winter, offering groomed classic and skate ski tracks for area enthusiasts.
PARK MEADOWS COUNTRY CLUB
Designed by golf giant Jack Nicklaus in the early 1980s, this signature course features wide fairways, abundant bunkers and quaint wooden bridges. It has played host to 10 senior PGA Tour championships over the years and was named one of the top 10 courses in the state by Golf Digest magazine. The three words that best describe it: classic, sandy, and unpredictable.
“You can walk it. Play it a couple of times a week and there’s still variety and excitement. Precise approach shots are key,” said Eric Johnson, PGA Director of Golf at the Meadows. It’s a traditional Scottish links course, virtually devoid of trees, and it plays differently every day depending on wind direction and speed.
The short, par three 12th is the most scenic hole and arguably the most popular. From an elevated tee, players say they enjoy watching the ball flight to the green below. Most challenging is the long, par 5 15th, playing to an island green.
The club’s elegant dining room tops the list of amenities here. Inspired Executive Chef Alex Woodside offers up award-winning cuisine. Park Meadows is a classic country club venue and membership is required