HURRICANE, Utah — Forget the ocean.
We've all seen or experienced the beauty of Pebble Beach, either live or on TV, but nothing can prepare you for the red-rock cliffs of Sand Hollow Resort. They mesmerize, dazzle and inspire. Seeing the Instagram photos of the cliffs is one thing. Staring them down with a driver in hand cranks up the OMG.
Sand Hollow Resort's Championship Course is the OG of the St. George golf scene in southwest Utah, one that's vastly underrated but quickly moving up the national pecking order. The 2019 opening of Copper Rock in Hurricane and a recent renovation of Coral Canyon in Washington started the momentum. David McLay Kidd's $7-million renovation of Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club, a private club in St. George accessible through a stay at the adjacent Inn at Entrada, will be completed this fall. The ongoing development of the golf course and 150-room hotel at the new Black Desert Resort at Entrada will generate even more buzz. Lava Fields, a 19-hole course under construction, is the latest design by Tom Weiskopf. Weiskopf, who is battling pancreatic cancer, is best known for creating the short drivable par 4
The entire region is marketed as "Greater Zion" for its proximity to the famed Zion National Park. I was introduced to its outdoor hiking and golf adventures on a trip in 2019. A recent return this spring unlocked the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park as well. If you're looking for an active and inspiring golf vacation, this is it.
Sand Hollow: The Resort
Sand Hollow sports a unique mix of golf experiences for all ages. I played all 27 holes for the first time: the Championship Course and the Links nine, which is considered one of the best bonus nines in golf. The Links roams flatter terrain, offering more forgiving challenges for families, high-handicaps or couples. By no means is it easy though. The Wee Course, a nine-hole pitch and putt, is no slouch, either, with tiny pop-up greens that are hard to hit and hold.
The Championship Course looks like another planet entirely. I'm thinking Mars with all of its red sand bunkers and wildly shaped red rock outcroppings. The 7,315-yard course, designed by John Fought and Andy Staples in 2008, made our Golfers' Choice U.S. Top 50 for the first time in 2021, coming in 21st.
The twosome of low handicappers I joined dragged me back a tee farther than I'm used to playing (the 6,893-yard blues). Thankfully the course's wide fairways and bouncy linksy characteristics allowed me to keep pace.
While the front nine is plenty good, it's the back nine that looks like a video game. Holes 12-15 ride the rails, so to speak, of a cliff's edge. Any ball hooked left is history. The views would be terrifying if they weren't so cool. I especially love the short par-4 13th (304 yards from the blues) and the long par-3 15th (191 yards).
The vistas extend out into the Sand Hollow State Park, where resort guests can drive UTVs across the sand dunes or swim, boat and scuba drive in the reservoir. UTVs can even be rented in the resort parking lot.
When it comes time to relax, the resort's accommodations couldn't be any larger. The bedrooms and living rooms are huge. All units come stocked with microwaves and small fridges for extended stays. They come in handy after dining at The Grille in the clubhouse. The portions are large and tasty, too good just to throw away. My family of four took the leftovers home to our unit and warmed them up for later. Several pools outside provide relief from the hot desert sun. Spring and fall are the ideal times to visit to avoid the summer swelter.
When we checked out, our family's spring break trip was just starting - a driving tour to see the Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend in Page, Ariz., Hoover Dam in Boulder City, Nev., and a couple nights to introduce our teenagers to Las Vegas. That's the beauty of visiting "Greater Zion." Your adventure can be as big or as small as necessary to fit your budget or schedule.
If you haven't been back in a few years, it's time to consider visiting again. By the time you book, there could be three new courses - Copper Rock, Entrada and Lava Fields - ready to play. In all likelihood, though, nothing will compare to Sand Hollow, the epic playground that has to be seen to be believed.
Have you played golf in "Greater Zion"? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below or write a course review.