A new era for Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club

David McLay Kidd's $7-million redesign reinvents the private golf club that is accessible by a stay at the Inn at Entrada in St. George, Utah.

ST. GEORGE, Utah - The more David McLay Kidd played golf at Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club with its members, the clearer his vision became for the complete redesign of the course.

Kidd witnessed first-hand what parts of the penal, original Johnny Miller design would torment average golfers. This on-the-job training proved invaluable for what Entrada would eventually become after a $7-million, 11-month transformation.

Now? It's fun. It's playable. It's got options galore. And it's distinctly different than the sometimes-cruel layout members tolerated for decades.

“There wasn’t one single piece of the golf course we didn’t touch," Kidd said. "From the tee to green and edge to edge, a bulldozer rumbled through every inch of Entrada."

The changes signal a new era for the private club, which is managed by Troon Prive. After decades of struggles, membership is booming so much that a restriction was put in place last year that only property owners can join.

"Eight years ago, this club was facing a huge challenge," General Manager Michael Rushing said. "If not for a few benefactors, we would be a community center. We can stand on our own now."

The general public, too, can enjoy the new Entrada. Anybody who stays at the luxurious Inn at Entrada can play the course. Vacationing golfers who pair a round at Entrada with the relatively new Copper Rock Golf Course, the stunningly beautiful Sand Hollow and the soon-to-open Black Desert will get to experience how St. George has built its reputation as the best golf destination in the American Southwest. The entire region is marketed as "Greater Zion" for the proximity to the nearby famous national park.

A new Entrada


This project was Kidd's first foray into redesigning an existing course into something more interesting and enjoyable, a journey he said he's wanted to explore for a while. He called Entrada a "poster child" for all those courses built in the 1990s during the largest golf boom in history that just didn't quite reach their potential. Entrada debuted in 1996. He said he didn't love the routing, but the budget required he mostly follow it.

"Over the past half dozen years, I’ve had this personal angst where ... would it be possible for a modern designer who is a little more hands on, to take those projects and twist them and turn them into something better than they are? Is there potential there, as yet untapped, that you could get (something) out of it?" he asked.

Kidd applied the same deft touch at Entrada that made Gamble Sands such a hit and Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley arguably the most fun course I've ever played. He added width to fairways and reshaped poorly-designed holes like the par-5 ninth, which boomerangs right around a desert wash. He swapped the pars on holes 14 and 15, creating an intimidating drivable par 4 followed by a long par 3 that introduces the black lava rock that's become the signature of the club.

Best of all, he reshaped green complexes to allow shot-making choices. Good players can still attack from the air as they always have, but older and less talented players like me can use sideboards and ramps near greens to guide the ball around hazards. For example, all golfers have to do is carry bunkers well short of the greens on no. 1 and no. 10 to get a helpful kick forward onto the putting surface. A substantial sideboard on the par-5 11th can be used by big hitters going for the green in two or someone who can't carry the bunker guarding the right side of the green on their third.

A Biarritz green at the par-3 12th and a Punchbowl green on the par-5 16th add more variety.

"It has become more and more obvious to me that I have to think not only about arranging the tees to allow for (slower) swing speeds but I have to adjust the design of the greens to give various options for those different swing speeds so we don’t take people out of play when they can’t hit a 90 mile-per-hour 8 iron," Kidd said.

The club's biggest challenge moving forward will be growing bentgrass consistently in the hot summers. There's Pure Distinction Bentgrass on the greens and Flagstick Bentgrass on the fairways.

"It could take a couple years to get away from cart-path-only (on a couple holes)," Rushing said.

The Inn at Entrada

The club delivers a "member-for-a-day" experience to visitors staying at the Inn. The Inn's casitas line the ninth fairway, just a short distance from the very nice clubhouse. A push of a button closes the blinds, lights the fireplace and turns out all the lights. Inside, it looks more like home than a hotel room. The shower and beds feel super-sized and welcoming. A patio out back delivers the spectacular sunrises and sunsets against the towering red rock cliffs in the distance.

Back at the course, members and guests will both enjoy the new technology available - the Shark Experience (which offers GPS yardages and music in the carts) and a new Toptracer range: two more signs that Entrada has entered a new modern age determined to be better than ever.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
1 Comments
Commented on

Thanks for highlighting a course that’s been intelligently revamped to be playable and strategic rather than penal and arduous.

I think golf has finally entered the era of better design, suiting a much broader range of handicaps, as your insightful article clearly illustrates. Architects like Doak and Hurdzan have been championing a more flexible set of design principles for quite some time–decades, in fact–as their works and writings indicate clearly.

Much as I respect the work of Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus, who have made undeniably excellent golf courses, I don’t think their flagship courses represent, any longer, the way to design a typical public golf or resort course. Okay, it’s fine to include a hole or two that is formidable, but nearly every hole on a course SHOULD have a run-the-ball-on option around its green. The majority of great architects, in fact, subscribe to that philosophy. Any course dominated by forced carries, by a surfeit of penal hazards, or by the one-way-to-play (most of its holes) makes for a long and unpleasant day of golf, which was originally meant to be played on the ground primarily.

Oakmont, Pine Valley, and Crooked Stick may represent the ultimate challenge for the touring pros, but–lets’ face it–those courses were built with the idea of putting a premium on penal architecture.

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A new era for Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club