Winter golf, anyone? When the calendar says mid-winter, if anyone is thinking about a golf holiday, it’s usually at places like Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and California, but Utah? Yes, while their skiing has a global reputation for excellence, there are superb golf courses with challenging slopes just as desirable as any snow-covered mountain.
Located in Utah’s Greater Zion region in the southwest part of the state, about a 90-minute drive northeast of Las Vegas (or four hours southwest from Salt Lake City), sits some of the most picturesque and diverse golfing to be found.
Dan Finklea, a resident of Monterey, California is a typical example of an avid player recently making the discovery of winter links in this underexplored region.
“Looking for a golf trip with my buddies, I was stunned by the great golf to be enjoyed in Greater Zion and just a day’s drive away.”
The area is where several geological regions converge – the Mojave Desert, Colorado Plateau and the Great Basin and is home to one of the leading attractions in the country, Zion National Park.
Amidst the great natural beauty of snow-capped mountain peaks, red rock canyons and red sand mountains, there are over a dozen fine choices of golf layouts within a 20-mile radius (Entrada, Coral Canyon, Dixie Red Hills among others), but when you plan your trip, here are the three “Must Play” courses:
Combining dramatic views of Snow Canyon State Park with a brilliant design by Matt Dye (part of the world-class design family), The Ledges is a 7,200-yard championship course that challenges every aspect of one’s game and has become a common stop for practicing pros and recreational golfers alike.
The front nine is set up well to help you break in your driver, and the back nine is a great test to see how well you can control your irons. Four separate tee boxes with long and open fairways promise a rewarding round for everyone in your group (red 5674 yds, white 6,224 yds, blue 6,657 yds and black 7,145 yds with par being 72).
“We have a unique layout with a front 9 that feels like a links style to it and the back 9 that sits atop of Snow Canyon (State Park) and offers some pretty amazing views,” said Paul Holden, Director of Golf at The Ledges.
The golf executive offers some playing tips:
“The key to being successful at The Ledges is making sure you stay below the hole locations, in fact on some of these greens you are better being short and chipping from the approach than you are trying to two-putt from above some of these tough greens. The greens are a T-1 bent grass and no matter what the season they always seem to be smooth and fast.”
Sitting 900 feet above the St. George valley, with temperatures staying around the mid 50’s, winter time is a very popular season for The Ledges.
“We get a lot of people who will ski (Brian Head, just over an hour north of us) in the morning then golf in the afternoon during the winter months,” Holden noted.
Just opened in the Spring of 2020, the par 72, 6,823-yard Copper Rock is Greater Zion’s newest golf attraction.
Designed by architect Dale Beddo, the 943-acre golf course community includes the 18-hole course, a clubhouse and custom-built private homes.
Copper Rock may have back tees measuring only 6,800 yards and wide corridors, but don’t be fooled, looks can be deceiving as it has a strong defense.
“Get your flatstick rolling, the course’s defense are the putting greens. They are fast,” warned John Horton, the club’s professional. “I always tell customers if you don’t go out and shoot 68, don’t be offended, just have a good time.”
And a good time is when the seasons turn foul elsewhere.
“What’s unique about winter is that this is our peak season,” Horton said. “We are getting a lot of traffic from those looking to escape the heavy snows in Salt Lake (City), Minnesota, and a lot of people drive down from Colorado.”
While the firmness of the greens and how they often slope from front to back make for a challenge to even hold wedge shots on the putting surface, the fairways are generous enough even on windy days and the double green for 9 and 18 create a memorable finish to each nine with a pond separating the two fairways.
Incorporating steep ridge lines, deep canyons and expansive elevations amidst a stunning natural setting including teeing off over some amazing cliff holes, Sand Hollow (Championship) reigns supreme as Southern Utah’s top track and has been named among GOLF magazine’s “Top 100 Courses You Can Play.” With its prime location, diverse selection of lodging that ranges from resort rooms and suites to luxury vacation condominiums and homes, it is a top choice for golfers to make the resort their base as well
Adam Jasperson, a PGA pro and Sand Hollow’s Director of Resort Operations, explains the course layout via the philosophy of the local designer, John Fought.
“Constructed entirely out of the native red sand, John loves to leave it as natural possible. The undulations in the fairways are similar to the sand dunes that were here before. We did not move a lot of dirt.”
As far as scoring, Fought, who played for BYU and set course records in Scotland and has design credits in Oregon and Arizona, has strong views about earning one’s way around this par-72, 7,300-yard course.
“John’s philosophy is that anyone can make a bogey, but one should have to work for a birdie, said Jasperson, “He did a great job of creating pockets and if you can get your ball in one of those pockets you’ve got a real good chance at birdie. Bogey becomes quite real outside the pocket.”
The good news is that you have a big advantage off the tee as there is a lot of open ground. Really generous landing locations. Not a lot of target golf. Long hitters tend to play a little better here because they can be a bit out of control off the tee and still have a good look into the green.
Players tend to get more length because there’s more freedom, but also the fact they are playing at an elevation of 3,000 feet.
Recently listed as No. 56 in Golfweek’s “Best 2019: Top 200 Resort Golf Courses” and the only Utah course noted, the championship course is joined on the property by two other layouts.
The Links Course: inspired by the “Links Land” courses of the British Isles, rooted in the traditional style of the game, this full-length 3,600-yard, par-36 course is home to the state’s largest greens and fairways
The Wee Course: Southern Utah’s only par-3 course offering fun for the whole family, or a quick, short-game, warm-up round.
Led by Sand Hollow, the area in general has received several accolades for its golf experience including Golf Digest naming Greater Zion as a “Top 20 Buddies Trips Destination.”
Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills, The Links at Spanish Bay… even though he plays some of the best courses the sport has to offer, Monterey’s Finklea was impressed by not only the diversity of golf, but also the stunning environments golfing in the Zion area offered.
“The courses I played (Sand Hollow, Copper Rock and The Ledges) in addition to being well-designed and offering a multitude of challenges, the stunning panoramas made me feel like I was playing on a postcard on every hole.”
POSTCARD FROM VEGAS
As many golfers go through the “Entertainment Capital of the World” on their way to golfing in Zion, an excellent way to start or end your journey arriving in or leaving Las Vegas, is to play Coyote Springs Golf Club, a secluded but brilliant course designed by Jack Nicklaus. Located less than an hour’s drive from The Strip, this Par 72, 7,500-yard gem in the Moapa Valley is a sure bet to test your entire game.
“If there is such a term, Coyote Springs would be considered a desert links course,” explained Karl Larcom, the club’s Director of Golf. “The course has rolling fairways, 100+ white sand bunkers, water features on 11 holes and greens that require your full attention & imagination. Fairways are fairly generous off of the tee. The greens are very well protected. In most cases. A player needs to be very careful to try and not miss shots into certain areas. A good short game goes a long way at Coyote Springs. The ability to be creative with your wedges and read greens is what makes the biggest difference between an 80 and a 90.”
Another factor that plays into one’s chances of producing an ace, are the variable winds. Even from hole to hole, wind patterns can change dramatically with a range of velocities thus making club selection a key facet during a given round.
“Southern Nevada’s two biggest weather factors are temperature and wind. The prevailing winds are from the South and the course predominantly runs East-West so there can be a lot of shots with cross winds,” Larcom confirmed.
Playing tee to green on Perennial Rye year-round with A4 bent grass greens, in the wintertime, the course can speed up. And speeding up is another aspect of many golfer’s winter journeys here as a lot of them trade in their sticks for some poles and glide down some of the best snow in the world.
Great Local Skiing: Slopes of a Different Kind
Utah’s Powder Is On Par With Runs Anywhere in the World
Many outdoor enthusiasts in the know combine a trip here in winter to enjoy both skiing and golf.
For them, paradise is skiing in the morning and a round of golf in the afternoon.
Eagle Point is known for beautiful views over the Tushar Mountains with southern Utah’s red rock in the distance. And as one of the more secluded ski venues, it is generally less crowded.
It is set on Utah’s third-highest mountain range, where the nearly 12,000-foot Mount Holly towers over the pine, fir, spruce, aspen and oak that lines the trails of Eagle Point. The view from the top is as unforgettable as the ride down. And as he carves his way down, that rider benefits from over 450 inches of average annual snowfall, spread over six hundred skiable acres from five lifts.
Brian Head’s 360 inches of annual snowfall and the quality of the powder here is second to none. It has Utah’s highest base elevation and is the only ski and snowboard resort to showcase snow-dusted red rock hoodoos from the nearby Cedar Breaks National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. The resort’s 650 acres over two mountains pack in over 70 runs for every skill level from beginner to advanced.
“Pardon the pun, but here you have “on par” the best combination of great skiing and golf to be found just about anywhere,” said Mark Wilder of the Brian Head Ski Resort not far down the road, about ninety minutes from the golf at Sand Hollow.
Winter Golf & Ski Fashions: One-Stop Shopping
Looking Fashionable, Feeling Comfortable and Performing in Style
Now that you’ve found a fabulous place that offers premium golf and skiing venues, it’s time hit the slopes or course with some fashionable additions to your wardrobe.
Fortunately, there are several cutting-edge apparel companies that offer both premium golf and ski clothing. Here’s a sampling of the latest fashions:
The Scandinavian fashion brand J.Lindeberg, aka JL, bridges sport and style, fusing the sharp silhouettes from high-fashion with activewear functionality. JL offers clothing and accessories for customers leading a contemporary, active lifestyle. The collections consist of apparel for both men and women, focusing on fashion, golf wear, and ski wear. SHOP: J.Lindeberg.com
No more compromising fashion for performance with J.Lindeberg’s women’s golf or ski clothing. JL stocks all the essentials you need to put together a sophisticated, fashionable, and functional outfit for the course or the slopes. SHOP: J.Lindeberg.com
The chic Scandinavian brand Kjus stands for extraordinary design, outstanding quality, and maximum performance. Kjus began as a skiing outfitter, which applied its innovative technologies and stylish design to the golf course. SHOP: Kjus.com
Whether on the golf course, the ski slopes, or in the clubhouse, Kjus empowers women to look good, feel good, and perform better with its collection of innovative, technical, and game-changing sportswear. SHOP: Kjus.com
Bogner is a European sport luxury brand that stands for function and performance, expressed with pure style. Whether in winter or summer, the high-quality and functional ski clothing and technical golf styles are made to impress on the golf courses and ski slopes worldwide. SHOP: Bogner.com
Active women can enjoy functional and stylish clothing for golfing or skiing from Bogner. Ever evolving, always surprising, the athluxury brand remains as contemporary today as it was at its founding in 1932. SHOP: Bogner.com