Soldier Hollow Golf Course (Gold) in Midway, UT
Tee Time: October 1, 2011, 10:48, 82 F, Light wind
Designer: Gene Bates, 2004
Playing Partners: CJ Phelan
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (70.2 rating/128 slope/6,629 yards)
Course Handicap: 11 (9.3 index)
Stats: 80 (41-39); 34 putts; 7/14 fairways; 9/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes (finally!)
The Gold Course at Soldier Hollow in Midway, UT, slated to host the 2012 US Amateur Public Links Championship, is ranked Utah’s #1 municipal course by Golfweek and one of the top in state by Golf Digest. The Silver Course runs through the valley while the Gold Course presents a tougher challenge as it climbs in elevation with the round’s progression, also providing amazing views of the Heber Valley below. Finding a good course to play in Utah was difficult. Many top 100 rankings omit the state completely, there are many exclusively private courses and the highly regarded tracks are near the state’s southern border, closer to friendlier year-round weather. Luckily the state built this place, which opened in 2004, and many, including the USGA, have taken notice.
This is a course where a yardage book would be useful the first time out, as many of the greens and landing areas are out of view from the tees. Fortunately, each fairway has an aiming marker stuck into it, so I took aim at that and let it rip. Some approach shots were similarly tough, most notably the 6th green. From the fairway you have a green that is guarded from the front up to the left side by a deep sand trap. I figured just aim a wedge at the very top of the flagstick which was the only visible sign of a green behind this monster bunker and pray. Which stuck to 8 feet and I naturally missed the putt.
The front nine is fun, having shots like these where you have to go on instinct and just try to hit a good shot make the results that much more rewarding when you do it right. The back nine begins a climb up the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains that goes back and forth, gaining elevation with each hole and acting like a different leg of a switchback trail. The tough, 512-yd par-5 12th plays back against the wind and another elevated approach shot over a sand trap. Pars are well earned on this course, and keeping it in the fairway is a must for having good looks at the green. The rough wasn’t particularly long or nasty, but the ball would tend to sit down into the grass and grab at the clubhead as it passed through, killing any chances of solid contact.
It was a perfect day for golf, the fall in Utah has had stunningly beautiful weather all season after the lack of a spring in 2011. The payoff is that we played in spring weather with fall colors surrounding us all around. Reds, oranges and yellows saturated the hillsides as a backdrop for the lush green golf course and golden shine of the fescue bordering the rough.
Even with a sprained wrist (about my 60th hockey related injury in a year), actually probably because of a sprained wrist, that had me swinging smooth and focusing on good contact, I put up my best score of the year and on this quest so far with an 80, and that would have been better had I not 3-putted the 17th and bogeyed the 18th to go +2 to finish the round and cost myself a 78. CJ played well and bombed most of his drives, reaching one par 5 with a driver-7 iron combo and almost holing the eagle putt. With a stroke a hole ceded I won 3&2 and in overall score 80-104.
#9, Par 4, 420 yards, 4-handicap, My Score: 5
The closing hole of the front nine was one of the toughest and prettiest. Water is visible down the right side, though it really isn’t a factor unless you really mess up off the tee. A large sand trap waits dead in the middle of the fairway to catch your best tee shots and a deep creek runs in front of a green once again guarded in front by a deep sand trap. And to top it all of it plays into the wind. But for all that you get a great view of water, the really nice looking clubhouse (the restaurant inside gets great vistas through those large windows), and the hills around. I hit a drive directly over the fairway trap into the fairway, missed the 6-iron approach and made bogey. Oh well, I was hungry and the snack bar was in sight.
Amenities: B; I do love gas golf carts, so rare these days. And a beautiful clubhouse, well-stocked pro shop. The snack bar food was pretty good as well, and the ladies running the operation were also fun to look at.
Difficulty: B+; the wind makes the long holes longer and dozens of sand traps place a premium on accuracy. The greens had been recently sanded, which made them putt slower and I imagine in the summer they run fast and tough.
Scenery: A; fall scenery, the entire Heber Valley visible from all areas and even the Civil War reenactment (Utah was in the Civil War?) were awesome. Hard to stew over a bad shot with scenery like this.
Value: A; at $40 for 18, the state of Utah could easily charge more and still feel like a great deal. It is awesome to see a municipal course give the public golfer such a fun experience.
Overall: 3.5 (B+); there are many awesome things to do in the Heber Valley. Off-roading, mountain biking, horseback riding, water sports, cross-country skiing, biathlons and much more. And great golf as well. Park City is a really nice summer spot, and at least one day should be spent golfing and enjoying a beer at this great layout. I’m glad I used this as my course in Utah.