REPORTAGE – In a Wild West environment worthy of John Ford’s film, the city of Saint George, northeast of Las Vegas, hides golf treasures.
Special Envoy to Saint George
The road from Las Vegas to Saint George sets the tone. It meanders between huge jagged rock formations with colors ranging from orange-yellow to deep red. It feels like Mars. Less than 200 kilometers from the “city of sin”, its excesses and its casinos, you will definitely change planets when you land in Saint George. This peaceful little town of 80,000 inhabitants, among the Mormons, has become a hotspot for golfers, with thirteen courses within a radius of 30 kilometers, all created over the last quarter of a century. These routes, built mostly around huge granite cliffs, in steep terrain in the middle of rock-filled gorges, guarantee an absolute change of scenery. The icing on the cake: These green, well-kept paradises, in the heart of sublime desert landscapes, are not flooded with real estate. The sun is almost always there (330 days a year) and the summer heat is less oppressive than in neighboring Nevada or Arizona. Finally, prices are much lower than on the golf courses around Phoenix or Las Vegas.
Our journey begins in Coral Canyon, about ten miles east of Saint George. As soon as we arrive, the friendly staff picks up the bag and puts it on a cart. First-class welcome on this typical desert golf course that emerged from the ground in 2000. It opens on two consecutive par 5s, but the most spectacular holes are its short par 3. The 6, defended by a small green, surrounded by rocks and pieces red stone, is his signature. The winding greens that often cling to the mountainside are usually surrounded by numerous bunkers. Care is required to stay on the field because your balls can quickly get lost in the middle of the pebbles of the desert due to the narrowways of the fairways. And if you go off the field, avoid looking for your ball in the bushes, poisonous snakes are there, it seems, legion. This is probably the most complicated course to negotiate in the region. But you can comfort yourself with the decor and in the background admire the mountains of the Pine Valley Mountains, snow-capped almost all year round … All while swinging in an outdoor pet store. Here the squirrels are not shy and do not hesitate to climb on your cart to steal some food!
You will not find anything similar elsewhere
A regular at Sand Hollow Resort
Going a little further southeast from Saint George, by Hurricane, is Utah’s finest public lane. At the foot of Zion National Park – the third most visited in America – Sand Hollow Resort plays 27 holes (an 18-hole and a 9-hole that will soon increase to 18). The 6,675-meter-long course on the back tees, designed in 2008 by John Fought, a former American amateur champion and two-time winner on the PGA Tour, is simply one of the most spectacular in the world. “You will not find anything like it anywhere else”, says a regular from the place. Sand Hollow is truly unforgettable and must definitely be immortalized by a few photos before they leave.
The first nine holes of the championship are played flat with nonetheless many bumps on the fairways and even more on the greens. On the nine return holes, from 11 (par 3), you gain height. The dizzying fairways of holes 11 and 14 unfold on a rocky plateau located about thirty feet above the canyon of the Virgin River, a tributary of the Colorado River. If the fairways remain relatively wide, any mistake is costly. To the left, your ball falls into the canyon; to the right it hits the high red rocks and then it takes a lot of luck to get it back on the fairway. The short par 4 of the 13, placed on top of a ledge, and the par 4 of the 14, downhill, are particularly impressive. Number 15, a par 3 called “Devil’s Throat”, is surrounded by red rocks, and the long gorge that protects the double plateau green can swallow bullets. But not the memories of golf trotting that will remain engraved forever.
Twenty minutes from Sand Hollow is Copper Rock Golf Course, the jewel of the Hurricane Valley. The course, designed by a local architect, opened its doors in February 2020 and is already hosting a Symetra Tour event (Second Division of the American Women’s Circle), held in April. In the desert, the air is very dry and the bullets fly farther. Which is not useless in view of the resulting length of the runway (6238 meters from the intermediate departures). The latter are reminiscent of Scottsdale or Palm Springs. Fewer palm trees. Its specific characteristics: the 9the and 18e holes, with a double green rising over a lake separating the two fairways. A top-of-the-range clubhouse with guest rooms and a luxury hotel with several restaurants and a spa will soon see the light of day. If the green fee is a little more expensive than with the neighbors (about 125 euros), the quality is in return at the meeting. The goal is to make it an important course in Utah, even in the United States.
Returning to Saint George, we climb 900 feet higher up to The Ledges, at the gate to Snow Canyon State Park. It is a real golf test where you have to be sure to lay its uneven, fast and almost all elevated greens. If the outward journey, flat, with generous fairways and a bit rough, is quite unspectacular, the landscape changes radically from the seventh hole – a long par 5 at 508 meters – where we face Snow Canyon State Park. Holes 11 to 17 are then more hilly and surrounded by rocks and desert sand. A true Wild West landscape and a pure “Target Golf”. The view is unique, especially on holes 14 and 15 with in the background Fish Rock Grill, which has given name to the clubhouse restaurant. In this dry area, the two water obstacles in play on holes 9 and 18 bring a little freshness to the game.
From Paris, direct Air France flight to Las Vegas, there are two hours to Saint George.
• TO PLAY
Coral Canyon Golf Course1925 N Canyon Greens Dr, Washington, UT 84 780. Tel: +1 435 688 1 700. From € 66 to € 105 green fee, coralcanyongolf.com
Sand Hollow Resort5662 W Clubhouse Dr, Hurricane, UT 84 737. Tel: +1 435 656 4 653. From € 85 to € 160 green fee, sandhollowresorts.com
Ledges Golf Club, 1585 Ledges Parkway, Saint George, UT 84 770. Tel: +1 435 634 4 600. From € 67 to € 130 green fee. ledges.com
Copper Rock Golf Course, 1567 W Copper Rock Parkway, Hurricane, UT 84 737. Tel: +1 435 215 4 845. From € 90 to € 125 green fee. copperrockdev.com
• AT BOPPE
The Advenire Hotel, Marriott Autograph Collection. theadvenirehotel.com
• TO VISIT
Snow Canyon State Park
A park at the city gates with spectacular petrified dunes. stateparks.utah.gov
Zion National Park
A century-old park spread over 595 km2 around the gorge of the same name, whose cliffs are impressive. nps.gov
Between 2020 and 2748 meters above sea level, its spectacular stone needles planted against the sky evoke a sensation. nps.gov