Mountain Course at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway, UT
Tee Time: October 26, 2014, 10:42, 68 F, Calm
Designer: William H. Neff, 1972
Playing Partners: CJ Phelan
Tees: Blue, Par 71 (70.4 rating/125 slope/6,459 yards)
Course Handicap: 9 (7.8 index)
Stats: 77 (35-42); 34 putts; 6/12 fairways; 11/18 greens; 3 penalty strokes
CJ and I closed this course down. I beat him so badly (5 & 3, 12 strokes) that the police opened up an investigation. In reality, it was the last day of the season before another harsh Wasatch winter sets in. I did beat him though. Once it does reopen next spring, the Mountain Course at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Midway is definitely worth the trek into government lands. It’s short, fun and offers dramatic views. As far as mountain vistas go, only Lake Tahoe surpasses Utah in beauty. And the best part about the Mountain Course is that you get to enjoy all those incredible views of the peaks and Heber Valley without even having to hike, thanks to those lovely gas carts. The front nine plays into the mountains. Today, every green was framed from behind by naked aspen trees waiting for the snow to come. The back nine comes out of the mountains and gives awesome views of the valley below, dotted with chimneys puffing smoke, maple trees desperately holding onto their yellow leaves and large expanses of open land.
The front nine opens with a short, 369-yard par 4. We learned our lesson the day before at Park City and played the back tees, playing 6,459 yards on a par 71. It’s still that probably only requires a driver on half of the shots from the tee. The shorter holes are also the narrowest, enough so that taking out a driver would be pretty dumb. The 2nd is a par 3 of 184 yards and the first hole with a great look at the mountains. The third and fourth are similar par 4’s. No. 3 is longer, 393 yards compared to 328. But both are blind tee shots on doglegs to the right. The 4th just takes that to the extreme. After all the tight, tree-lined holes of the opening quartet, the par-3 5th opens up dramatically to a view for miles of the mountains leading back to Park City. The 177-yard hole is gorgeous and tough.
The 362-yard 6th is the narrowest of all. With a thick line of trees to the left and a never-ending stretch of other plants on the right, the only choice is to hit the fairway. Chip if you have to. It looks like it opens up on the left closer to the green, but it really doesn’t, despite what CJ might tell you. The 7th is also a par 3 with great views of the mountains above. At 175 yards it plays identical as well. The first nine closes with back-to-back par 5’s that are as different as they could possibly be. The 591-yard 8th is actually slight easier to reach in two than the 503-yard 9th. No. 8 is downhill and bends to the right. With two good shots, it’s possible to run one at a front pin position. The 9th is a straightaway climb. The hole is all in front of you, and there’s plenty of room to bailout left. That pin looks miles away, just peeking its blue flag over the hill. The best part about back-to-back par 5’s is a good shot at back-to-back birdies. Which I came two inches from pulling off.
After all of that par 5 fun, the back nine opens with a short par 3. A narrow, deep green makes hitting the correct distance important because a three-putt isn’t out of the question. The par-5 12th is the mother of all par 5’s, at 635 yards. It comes way down the grade as you make your way back home, but still, 635 yards is 635 yards. With a swing in the sweet spot and a nice kick, a record drive is possible and getting the right bounces on the second shot means you could walk away saying you reached a 635-yard hole in two. I was about 20 yards left of that, but nearly hole high. Close enough. It is a beautiful hole, winding down the hill on a fun journey to the wide green. The best view on the entire golf course is from the tee at the 216-yard 16th. The green sits on a little plateau and the back sharply drops off, revealing almost the entire Heber Valley to your eyes. Even in the low, flat autumn light, I was able to see to the far foothills. This view alone is worth the greens fee.
The 14th is the narrowest par 5, and to me one of the toughest holes here. It’s wider than it looks from up high, but it plays long and most everything funnels left. The par-4 15th is a final chance to take in that serene mountain view as it plays back uphill a little bit to set up the climb down to the finish. The 538-yard 16th is probably much easier when you don’t hit tee shots off all the power lines along the right side. I’d recommend against doing that. The final, toughest par 3 is the 216-yard 17th. Downhill and over a small pond, it’s as hazardous as any hole here. The front of the green is about 15 yards from the edge of the water and bunkers surround three sides. The closing 18th is a tough dogleg-left of 420-yards where you have to place a good drive and hit a longer approach. You’ll have to focus if you enjoy finishing rounds with a par.
I loved my round here at Wasatch Mountain. For such a good price, you get a course in fine shape that you can try for a career-low score on. I was right there, at even-par through nine. Then golf happened. Oops. I bet I could do way better my next time here, since the blind tee shots and doglegs won’t be so mysterious to me. And after the round you can take a drive over the Guardsman Pass for the back way into Park City. Just don’t do what I did and take a 4-cylinder Chrysler 200 over the grade. We almost didn’t make it. I did not want to have to hunker down for the winter low on supplies and have our own Donner Party. At least there would’ve been plenty of wildlife to eat. Apparently there’s lots to see out here. All I saw were turkeys, which I wouldn’t really call an attraction. So now after spending well over year out here, I still have not seen a moose. Guess I’ll have to come back and try again.
#11, Par 4, 290 yards, 12-handicap, My Score: 6
In reality, I should hate this short par 4 with a passion. I got greedy after my bogey on the 10th and tried to drive the green. It’s a little uphill, but still in range at this altitude. I snap-hooked it out of bounds and fought back for a double-bogey. There is a wide sand trap in front of the green, so running a drive on isn’t the play. But behind there isn’t much but rough, so if you’ve got the carry, go for it. I guess the smart play is a 6-iron and a wedge. I’ll note that for next time.
Layout: B-; lots of quirky design elements, like back-to-back par 5s and bending, tight doglegs. Not bad considering the small area they managed to fit the course into.
Amenities: B-; the snack bar was closed for the season. They have a mountain muffin, which is a tastier version of an Egg McMuffin and it definitely fueled my front-nine 35.
Staff: A; what little staff remained were friendly and accommodating. Not sure if they were mad at my “don’t need to rake the bunkers” comment or not.
Difficulty: C-; the greens break hard, but the course plays short enough that you’ll have plenty of chances to get in close.
Scenery: A; great views going out and coming in. Enjoy the relaxing quiet of being up in the mountains and then catch your breath taking in those wide vistas of the valley.
Value: B+; $49 for 18 and a gas cart to lug you up and down the mountain. A good deal for a fun course with a quick pace-of-play
Overall GPA: 3.07 (B); CJ really wanted to play here, and now I know why.