Sand Hollow Resort (Championship Course) in St. George, UT
Tee Time: October 23, 2016, 8:06, 75 F, sunny
Designer: John Fought, 2008
Playing Partners: CJ Phelan
Tees: Blue, Par 72 (71.8 rating/126 slope/6,893 yards)
Course Handicap: 10 (8.6 index)
Stats: 85 (45-40); 31 putts; 4/14 fairways; 6/18 greens; 4 penalty strokes
To start off the ultimate golf day of 36 holes in two states and two time zones even(!), we had to wake up before dawn to tee off with the first light. It’s crazy to wake up at 7:15am and it’s still so dark out you’d swear it was 3:15am. But the best part of that situation was getting to watch the sun rise over the mountains to gradually reveal the gorgeous landscape of southern Utah and Sand Hollow Resort.
The course starts with a downhill par 4 of 432 yards, a nice opening hole with a very wide fairway to get your round going in the right direction.
Then it’s on to a monster 556-yard par 5 that plays slightly uphill. The 195-yard 3rd is the first par 3, a flat hole with a bunker guarding the front-left and not much else to say about it. The 4th is a long par 4 of 439 yards that looks tough off the tee since the fairway is hardly visible over the native vegetation. It’s also your first chance to relieve yourself, in the luxurious porta-potties placed near the tee for your convenience.
The short 5th is 347 yards with a wide open fairway that has to be the best birdie chance on the front side. After that is the longest par 4 on the course, the 468-yard 6th, playing slightly downhill and two long, straight shots to the green. One of the prettier holes on the front nine is the par-5 7th, at 563 yards and littered with fairway bunkers filled with that colorful red clay sand that is tough to figure out. The par-3 8th has a green that is framed nicely by some of those red sandstone rocks that litter the southern Utah landscape. Aside from that, there’s not much to this 158-yard hole. The 404-yard 9th plays back up to the clubhouse, snaking right-to-left to a slightly elevated green. With a deep greenside bunker right in front, it’s probably the trickiest hole on the front nine.
The back nine, which is by far the more dramatic side, opens with a wide open par 5 of 534 yards. The first preview of the holes to come is from the tee of the par-3 11th. Past the green, 164 yards away behind some wide bunkers, is your first view of the expansive valley that Sand Hollow sits perched above.
And then we get to the best four-hole stretch in all of Utah, holes 12, 13, 14 and 15 at Sand Hollow’s Championship course. The 432-yard 12th is carved into the side of the cliffs. If you miss right, it might kick off the rocks and back into play. If you miss left, you’ve sent your poor golf ball on a five-hundred foot drop to his doom below. The elevated tee makes it all the more important to hit it straight. Even without the massive drop on the left, this would be a tough hole, uphill from the fairway to a smaller green.
The 13th is just 304 yards and yet one of the toughest holes out here. Laying up, you have to contend with a fairway bunker in the middle of the fairway. The green is tucked against the rock wall on the right, sloping hard to the left. It’s narrow and the cliff drops off next to the green, so if you really want to try and drive the green, better hit it straight. This heavenly stretch continues with the 433-yard 14th, a crazy tee shot from the most elevated tee on the course. The fairway slopes hard to the valley, so staying right is key.
It’s back to the flat ground for the 355-yard 16th. After the previous 45 minutes of golf, it’s shocking how much easier this hole looks. Like swinging a bat after warming up with a donut. The best par 5 is the 493-yard 17th, a right-to-left hole that can play much shorter if you choose to carry the bunkers on the left. Either way, it’s not a tough hole for a birdie. Even I made a four! The closing 18th plays similar to the 9th, uphill and back to the clubhouse for 425 yards.
If it weren’t for our need to immediately load into the FJ and speed down to Mesquite, I would’ve loved to hang out after the round and take in the surroundings. And then go play this course again. The course is a resort golf course, so it is playable for all handicaps, which might be why it’s not ranked as high on all the magazine lists since they seem to love the really hard courses. But for sheer beauty, this is as nice a place as they come. The expansive views of the striking red desert of the St. George/Hurricane area in southwestern Utah are easily worth the price of admission. It’s like getting to play a round of golf in the setting of your favorite western. Whether that be The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Red Dead Redemption or even Westworld, which uses a lot of scenic shots taken nearby.
#15, Par 3, 191 yards, 8-handicap, My Score: 3
The concluding hole of this amazing four-hole cliffside stretch is the very downhill 15th. It’s an intimidating view from the tee, looking downhill to the green that drops off the cliff to the left. Looking back from behind the green is a pretty image of the weathered sandstone rock jutting out above the cliff.
Layout: A; I don’t know how they cut those cliffside holes into the rock, but it’s an amazing stretch of holes you’ll never forget.
Amenities: A, a fancy resort with all the bells and whistles
Staff: A; friendly and helpful
Difficulty: B-; besides the narrow drives against the cliffs, wide open fairways and gentle greens make this course very playable and nothing too crazy.
Scenery: A; get through that front nine and you’re rewarded with amazing pictures and memories all along the back nine. Especially if you love shades of red.
Value: A; just over $100 for your round, with GPS and a very well-maintained golf course, this is as good a value for your hundred dollars as you’ll get. The only hard part is getting out here, but it’s well worth the two-hour drive from Vegas
Overall GPA: 3.5 (A-)