The Long Road Home, from Colorado to Utah and Beyond.

Well, I made it home in one piece, and since I was unable to get online last night I have a couple of days to cover. Let’s start with yesterday in Colorado.

After two days in a row with 36 holes each, yesterday was a bit more relaxed pace. I headed out toward Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club in New Castle. My time was at 10:00, but I ended up getting there way early hoping to get out and get further on the road this evening. I got lucky once again…

Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club • New Castle, CO • 5/11/12

There was hardly anybody out there when I arrived around 8:30, so I knew I’d have no problem getting out quickly. They let me go out right away by myself. I did run into a threesome and was stuck behind them for a few holes, but they eventually let me play through. So all in all, it was about a three hour round.

Lakota Canyon Ranch is a course I’ve had on my “wish list” for years. It’s always been highly regarded in Golf Magazine and other course-ranking sites I frequent when planning out these trips. I’ve always known I’d love golf in Colorado, so this is one I was looking forward to all trip long.

I knew Lakota had a lot of dramatic elevation changes (which I always love) and some nice mountain surroundings in the western part of the state. The front side of the course lived up to my expectations. There are many great holes winding through the hills with some incredible views and rises/drops in elevation. It’s a very secluded and beautiful setting. The 8th hole was the highlight on this side. I climbed all the way to the black tee box to take some pictures. It was quite a hike up many stairs. I was exhausted by the time I got up there (especially in the thin mountain air), but it was worth it for the best view on the course.

The first few holes on the back side continue this trend, then the course flattens out a bit as it winds throughout some residential areas. There are not a ton of homes out here and they are all nice high-end Colorado homes and cabins, so it doesn’t detract from the course at all. All in all, the back side was less interesting, but still nice.

The course was in decent shape. For the most part, the fairways, rough and greens were lush and green. However, there was a bunch of little bare/dead spots all throughout the course, which detracted a little aesthetically but didn’t affect play much. What did affect play somewhat was the soft conditions on the fairways. It was a little soggy out there, so I hit a few too many fat shots. I found it funny that the fairways were so waterlogged because all the natural hazard areas that would normally be ponds were all dry as a bone. That was another aesthetic disappointment on a few holes that I’m sure look much more dramatic with water in play instead of dry weeds and rocks.

Between the back nine at Fossil Trace and the front nine at Lakota Canyon Ranch, I experienced one hell of an 18 in Colorado! Now, what I didn’t realize until I was playing Lakota was that the same architect (James Engh) designed both of these courses. There are some similarities, including the distinctive “serpentine” style bunkers.

Some pictures from Lakota Canyon Ranch Golf Club (5/11/12):

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The view from the 8th tee box (back/black tee):

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Back tee on the 11th hole offers the last super-dramatic view before the course starts to flatten out:

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From there, I drove all the way to Cedar City, Utah yesterday afternoon. In the morning, I drove through the heart of the Colorado Rockies (Vail, Eagle, etc.) which was neat. Not too much snow on the mountains right now, which probably isn’t good for the resorts, but it was nice for me because I had no weather worries driving through. After my round at Lakota, I got to drive through the western part of the state, which is more canyon land with the Colorado River weaving back and forth next to and under the I-70 freeway.

Once you get past Grand Junction and into the eastern edges of Utah, it gets pretty boring. After awhile, though, the scenery perks up again as you get into the incredible and diverse red rock formations, canyons and mountains of southern Utah. Very interesting stuff.

Last night in Cedar City, I had the best meal of my trip at La Casa Don Miguel. Kind of a small little Mexican restaurant on the main drag, but everything I had was delicious and reasonably priced.

I got up this morning and headed down to Sand Hollow Resort in Hurricane (just north of St. George, which has quickly become a mini golf Mecca when paired with Mesquite just 40 minutes away)…

Sand Hollow Resort (Championship) • Hurricane, UT • 5/12/12

I had some recommendations from friends to play this course. I knew a little about it and had seen some pictures of their signature 15th hole, but otherwise I didn’t have too many expectations.

I got there way too early and it was quite packed out, so I knew today would be a longer round after so many quick and easy rounds the days before. Eventually, my group teed off on time (8:40) and we played on a beautiful early morning out there.

Perhaps I was just too tired to really enjoy it (not to mention the fact that I had a cold the whole second half of the trip that was culminating in a super runny nose and plenty of head congestion this morning). Perhaps it was because my right forearm was killing me so much from playing 12 rounds over the course of nine days. Whatever it was, it took me awhile to get into the round.

The front side is very flat and pretty forgiving. The fairways are very wide and the greens are big. There are some big nasty bunkers peppered around the holes, but they are not super hard to avoid if you are at all on your game. As long as you stay out of the bunkers and the desert areas, the course doesn’t have too much bite. The scenery is great with the red rocks and mountains in every direction.

Then the back nine is where things get interesting. Holes 11-15 are where the memories are made at Sand Hollow. That’s what they tell you in the pro shop and it is certainly true. These holes are built along the edge of some dramatic red rock cliffs and formations, creating a spectacular setting for one of the best stretches of golf holes you’ll find anywhere. It culminates in the signature par-3 15th hole, which is just a great looking hole along the edge of the hillside. Not much room for error here, so just enjoy the view and hope for the best!

Once you get to holes 16-18, it gets a bit disappointing after playing such an incredible few holes. These holes are flat and wide open again with not too much drama. They are nice layouts, just a bit of a letdown after 11-15. My opinion is that without those most dramatic holes, this would be an average layout at best, benefiting only from its location in such a beautiful locale in the St. George area.

The course was in really nice shape. The greens were smooth and medium fast. The fairways and rough were green and lush. The fairways great to hit off of, but the turf was thinner than it looked with the red sand/clay foundation underneath. All in all, this is a first class resort course with a stretch of holes worth checking out for yourself.

Some pictures from The Golf Course at Sand Hollow Resort (Championship Course) (5/12/12):

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The signature 15th Hole:

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Depending on how the morning round went, I was considering playing the other little course here (Links Course) which is a 9-hole track in the Scottish links style. I’ve heard it’s worth checking out. But the first round took so long and I was so exhausted, I just wanted to get home.

So I passed up the Links Course, and I had to drive by all the Mesquite and Las Vegas courses. A little sad, but I was happy to get home with one full day to recover before returning to the real world on Monday. I had a blast on this trip and everything worked out even better than planned. I got great weather almost everywhere and things went as smoothly as possible. What a memorable vacation with a ton of great golf.

I was able to check off seven new states, bringing me up to a total of 21. Almost halfway!

Stay tuned to the Golf Nomad blog. At some point during this next week I will post a recap of some of the more memorable moments from this trip, as well as my own personal “awards” to help put all the different courses into perspective.

DAY NINE: 517.1 Miles

DAY TEN: 464.2 Miles

TOTAL: 4146.8 MILES!!!

Previous Day: Wild Horse (NE) and Fossil Trace (CO)

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