Highs and Lows in Southern Utah

After 72 holes of golf on Thursday (shortened a little by weather) in St. George, I was right back at it as early as possible on Friday morning. I ended up playing 90 holes on this day, yet was still done by 6:00. That just shows how empty most of these courses are in the August heat.

It’s actually very pleasant in the early morning, so that’s the only time you might have to deal with a crowd this time of year. I was fortunate with my first round on Thursday, and the same was true on Friday morning…

Sky Mountain Golf Course • Hurricane, UT • 8/3/18

Sky Mountain was another priority on my checklist. It’s generally ranked positively in that second tier of courses in the Southern Utah region. I’ve always heard pretty good things about it from friends, as well. No matter what, I knew it was going to be very scenic and beautiful at dawn on a clear morning after the storm passed through the night before. On that front, it surely did not disappoint.

I had booked a 6:39 tee time at the $48 summer morning rate. There were some folks getting ready to play, but they didn’t have anyone paired with me and sent me off right on time. I did have to play through some maintenance on the front nine. Unfortunately, as I was checking in I overheard some other people paying for back-nine-only play. Also, a close friend of mine experienced a heavy back nine crowd when he played here a couple years ago. I was kind of setting myself up mentally for a worst-case scenario after making the turn in about an hour.

When I rolled up to the 10th tee, there was a foursome stretching out and getting ready to go. I could see another group up by the green. Oh no! The foursome wasn’t in any rush to tee off and I made my presence known (I was playing on the blue tees and they were up at the whites, which is a pretty big difference on this particular hole). They did notice me and let me go ahead. I played through one more twosome on the par-3 12th hole and otherwise it was pretty smooth sailing after that. I did ultimately catch up to another twosome on the last two holes, but there were no more worries at that point and I cruised to another quick finish overall.

Sky Mountain was designed by Jeff Hardin. Most of his portfolio is down in Arizona, and I can’t say I was too specifically familiar with much of his work. No matter how the design of this course shapes up, it benefits automatically from a stunning setting. The front nine is perched atop a ridgeline with some killer views of the neighboring red rock mountains and canyons. It took a little while for the sun to crest the horizon to the east as you’ll see in the earliest pictures. However, once the sun did come out this place lit up like a candle. It’s a gorgeous place to have a golf course.

Beyond just its scenery, Sky Mountain also offers a very solid and enjoyable layout that takes advantage (for the most part) of its dramatic landscape. It’s not terribly long overall and good scores are definitely out there, as it stretches out to only 6,392 yards from the blue tees. The front nine is very good with some nice changes in elevation throughout. I really enjoyed this side of the course.

The very 1st hole starts you off on a great note with a pretty big drop from tee to green and one of the best vista points right away on the tee box. I’m not sure any one other hole on this side jumps out to me, but I liked all of it fairly well.

After the turn, the course loses some drama in terms of scenery (and layout, if you ask me) as you start to go into the surrounding houses. Ultimately, you do come out the other side for a very strong 3-hole finishing stretch along the edge of the canyon.

The 16th is a long-ish par-3 playing slightly downhill with nothing but open desert to the right and behind the green. The 17th is probably the signature hole of the entire course, though it’s a bit funky to get a feel for if you aren’t familiar with the course. It’s a sharp dogleg right with nothing but trouble all the way along the right edge. Some trees on the corner make it tricky to figure out your aiming point. Thankfully, the pro shop guy was nice enough to give me a yardage book, which helped me figure out my line on this one.

The 18th is also a good finisher. It is a relatively short par-5. It’s layout isn’t anything super intimidating as it plays pretty forgiving from tee to green. However, its setting is gorgeous with the canyon cliffs falling off along the entire right side of the hole.

The course was in good overall condition for late summer. Again, looking a bit better from afar than close up. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were soft and on the fluffy side (not all had been mowed by the time I fought my way through maintenance). With lots of rain the night before, everything was playing very soft the next morning. There were some bare spots here and there, too. The rough was pretty lush throughout with some inconsistencies. I wasn’t in a bunker, but they looked decent. The greens were very soft and rolling well at medium speeds. A few greens had some scattered dead/diseased spots, but that was only a problem on a couple of the holes.

With awesome scenery and a good overall design, I would put Sky Mountain up there as one of several “must play” courses in the greater St. George area. It’s just a few minutes further out than Sand Hollow, making at least one detour out to Hurricane very worthwhile if you are planning a golf adventure in this region.

Some pictures from Sky Mountain Golf Course (8/3/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)

As mentioned in my last article, I made a very quick detour back to Sand Hollow in order to play the pitch and putt Wee Course after the thunderstorm forced me off the evening prior. I zipped around there and then had the entire day open in front of me. I had several courses left on my checklist, so I just kept rolling along…

Southgate Golf Club • St. George, UT • 8/3/18

Like the other low-end local muni (St. George Golf Club) the day before, I had Southgate on my list as an “if I have time” option. I had time—and plenty of it—so I called over after finishing up at Sand Hollow. They said it was wide open and to come on out.

I stopped at a Jack in the Box drive-thru to put a little food in my belly, and the service was extra slow. I blame them for the fact that I showed up at perfectly the wrong time. As I was checking in and getting ready to go, a foursome just went out to the first tee ahead of me. In addition, I could see at least one other group already out on the fairway of the opening par-5. Still, I paid my $33 (cart included) and took a hard look around the rest of the course for openings.

Driving in, I saw a couple groups stacked up on the 10th tee across the street, as well., so that was not a great option either. Fortunately, the par-3 3rd hole is also right next to the clubhouse and I could see that the rest of the front nine ahead of those groups on the 1st looked pretty deserted. I asked if I could start on the 3rd and the pro shop guy said no problem. That worked out so well. I didn’t run into anyone on holes 3-9. By the time I got through 9, holes 1-2 were wide open so I took care of those without haste.

After making the turn, however, I suddenly ran into a foursome of older guys on the 10th green. I don’t know if they started on the back nine just before I got there or if I had just finally caught up to them (even though I never saw them ahead of me on the front). They seemed determined not to let me play through even though it looked open in front of them. Finally, after a few holes they relented and let me through. I caught up to one other twosome finishing out on 18 and otherwise it was yet another quick round for me.

As I’ve already noted a lot in my previous articles, courses with multiple personalities is kind of a running theme in Southern Utah. Southgate is no exception to this concept. It’s a pretty different course from the front nine to the back, and even the front nine has a couple different sections.

The front nine really suffers from its surroundings. It feels kind of shoehorned in between busy streets and it’s only about a block from the I-15 freeway. Holes 1-4 and then the 9th are in the same section of the property along with the large driving range and clubhouse. Then, you have holes 5-8, which are kind of separated on the other side of Dixie Drive. This whole side of the course has the feeling of an older course that was there well before a lot of the “civilization” built up around it. Thus, it has probably been altered and shifted around many times over the years.

Though it’s not the most exciting setting, the hole designs on the front nine have more character than it appears at first glance. There is a lot of water on this side with hazards in play on almost every hole. This nine has three par-3s that are all pretty demanding with forced carries over big water hazards. The 8th is an intriguing par-4 with a big dogleg left around a lake.

The back nine is still more interesting, though. More houses do come into play as you go up into the hills and through some residential areas. However, the design is more entertaining thanks to the hilly terrain and some canyon elements in play. The 12th is kind of a fun short par-4 playing right down the gut of a little canyon. The 16th and 17th are also pretty nice holes.

The 16th is a par-3 (there are three more par-3s on the back—six total to go along with five par-5s for a total par of 71) hitting from an elevated tee over water to an elevated green. The 17th is a short par-5 that also goes down off the tee and then back up toward the elevated green through a canyon with some water in play on the left.

I’d say the conditions here were very similar to St. George GC, just maybe a slight notch above. The greens were probably a tad nicer and so were the fairways. The rough, bunkers and tees were just okay with plenty of thin spots, but adequate enough for the hot summer season when the course isn’t getting too much play.

The layout does have some quirky qualities, and like I said the setting on the front nine is less than inspiring. However, I have to say it does have some character and the bones of a decent course are certainly there. If it were cleaned up some more aesthetic touches were added on the front nine to block out or distract from the ugly street surroundings, there could be something to work with. As it sits, it’s kind of easy to understand why people still kind of look down upon it as one of the low-end munis that doesn’t deserve much attention from out-of-town visitors who will (and should) be drawn to the more notable courses in the area.

Some pictures from Southgate Golf Club (8/3/18):

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