Too Much Time on My Hands

We’ve reached the end of my 3-day Southern Utah adventure. After marathon days on both Thursday and Friday of my trip, I was left with just one course in St. George that I hadn’t played yet. It turns out, I saved one of the best surprises for last…

Sunbrook Golf Club • St. George, UT • 8/3/18 & 8/4/18

I had already booked a 6:30 tee time at Sunbrook for Saturday. It was the first time out, so I decided I was going to hold onto it and save this round for the last day no matter what. However, Sunbrook actually has 27 holes.

Given that I still had a ton of daylight left after finishing over at SunRiver, I had another idea already brewing in my head. My tee time at Sunbrook was for 18 holes, and my plan was to play whatever nine was leftover immediately after. However, it was a Saturday and I was likely to encounter at least a few more people on the course than the previous two days. Plus, the earlier I finished in St. George, the earlier I could get on the road back home. I might even be able to squeeze a round in Mesquite (spoiler alert, in case you didn’t already noticed the header image).

I decided to drive over to Sunbrook on Friday evening just to scope it out. There were actually some people out here, but again it was very uncrowded. I checked in with the pro shop to ask which nines they had me scheduled for on Saturday morning. He told me I’d be playing The Pointe and Woodbridge combo, which is kind of the classic 18 here. He also told me that the other nine, Blackrock, was wide open at the moment and I shouldn’t have any trouble zipping through.

I was feeling pretty tired, but I decided I’d rather sacrifice one more hour now to play the “extra” nine rather than dealing with anything less predictable on Saturday morning. So, that’s what I did. The price was $23 for nine holes with a cart. I’m pretty sure I was the only one on the Blackrock nine, so I motored through and ended up getting my second wind (more like my third or fourth wind at that point in the day) because I enjoyed the course so much. It also got me fired up for the next morning because I could see the other two nines were also going to be pretty enjoyable.

Sunbrook is not a course you hear much about when it comes to St. George golf. It is technically one of the city’s municipal courses, so maybe the “muni” tag and lower price range scare people off. I hope not because this is one of the best layouts in town if you ask me. All three nines offer something very enjoyable and distinctive, so it is also a place I would highly recommend making a point to play all 27 holes.

I’ve talked about how almost all the courses around here have multiple personalities from the front nine to the back. I’d say Sunbrook’s personality changes every 3-4 holes, and in this case it’s a very good thing. This course uses several different landscapes within each nine going pretty far out and back away from the clubhouse. You have traditional desert golf, some links elements, wooded parkland sections with trees and creeks, several big water hazards and canyon style golf. It’s almost like a sampler platter of all the different types of golf you can find in Southern Utah. Yet, the course still feels surprisingly cohesive as you transition from one setting to the other. It’s a very interesting experience that’s hard to put into words.

I will address the conditions first, as that was one slight negative for me. It looks like they normally keep this place in good shape and the greens were some of the best I played on the trip. However, they are doing some work on the fairways. There were apologetic notes up around the clubhouse noting that they are slowly working to transition all tee boxes, fairways and rough to year-round bermuda. There were some new sections of sod laid down on a few holes, so I could see the potential of where they were heading with this transition. Otherwise, there were a lot of bare spots in play on the fairways. Some of the tee boxes were very chewed up, as well. On Friday evening, things were firm and thin with everything having been dried out. On Saturday morning, these weak spots were super soft and muddy. It wasn’t ideal. However, I commend that they address it upfront and they are working toward major improvements. I will say the rough was still pretty decent throughout, so mainly the fairways and some tee boxes were problematic.

As for the layout, my enjoyment of it helped me easily get past some of the fairway issues. There are three nines at Sunbrook. The Pointe and Woodbridge are the original two nines designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. John Harbottle III came along later and designed the newer nine, Blackrock. I imagine he did some renovations to the other two courses during the process, as well, but I am not sure of that. The bunkering is very cool on all three nines and very un-Robinson-like. Plus, Harbottle was a master at dramatic bunker renovations, so it would make sense.

Let’s look at each nine individually in the order I played them…

Blackrock

Right off the bat, this has the feeling of a course that was added on later. It is a little bit of a drive from the clubhouse down to the 1st tee and then all the way back after you finish the 9th hole. You pretty much have to drive past the entire 1st hole of the Woodbridge nine.

This nine starts off with a nice wooded section that has you crossing a small creek a couple times. The second hole is a very tricky par-5 that gets really narrow up by the green with natural hazards all around. The 5th hole starts the transition into the dramatically different second half of the course. It is a very short par-4 with kind of a links style. There are several small bunkers from about 100 yards in to guard the green if you are going for it. This hole caught my eye and it’s the first time I really noticed how cool the bunkers looked with coarse dark red sand and edges surrounded by long green rough. They are pretty intimidating to look at.

After this, you cross a street and enter the next section of the course, which is reminiscent of the unexpected back nine stretch over at Entrada at Snow Canyon. It is the similar landscape filled with jagged black lava rocks lining the fairways (hence the “Blackrock” name), though the holes at Sunbrook are a little more forgiving.

I’d say each nine at Sunbrook has a clear set of back-to-back signature holes. On Blackrock, it’s the 7th and 8th, which really make use of these black rocks. The par-4 7th offers a pretty intimidating approach shot over the rocks with a water hazard protecting the green on three sides.

The 8th is a par-3 that has you hitting over a small chasm of the black rocks to a slightly elevated green. It’s a pretty cool hole and makes you wish the designers at Entrada had chosen to put a signature par-3 in their lava rock stretch.

Ultimately, I think Blackrock was my favorite of the three nines. The next morning, I heard separate conversations from the pro shop guy and some players getting ready in the parking lot. They were discussing which nine was their favorite, and everyone had a different opinion. I’m normally a little annoyed by the impracticality of 27-hole layouts, but when people argue about their favorite nine it shows that all three are worth checking out at Sunbrook.

Some pictures from the Blackrock nine at Sunbrook Golf Club (8/3/18):

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

The Pointe

I was in the first group off on Saturday morning at 6:30 on The Pointe nine. The price for a morning 18 with cart was a very reasonable $40 (same price weekend or weekday right now). I was paired with a twosome. If you’ve been following my reviews from this trip, you’ll realize this was my first time playing with anyone else all week. It took some adjusting to re-assimilate into normal golf etiquette and a slower pace of play, but I made it work. Ultimately, they left after nine holes and I played the second nine mostly by myself.

The Pointe starts off with a nice downhill tee shot and a fairly forgiving hole to get you going. Then, it goes across the street for the next section, where it becomes more of a desert canyon style course. The signature back-to-back on this nine comes on the 5th and 6th holes.

The 5th is a really sweet-looking short par-4 that plays along the edge of a canyon cliff. It takes a sharp dogleg left about a hundred yards out from the green. Long hitters may go for it, but there isn’t a ton of room for error if you are short or long. It’s a great risk/reward hole and I assume the cliffside vista point where this green is located is where “The Pointe” name comes from.

The 6th is a fun downhill long par-4 with a water hazard coming into play on the right side as you get closer to the green. I wish I got better photos of these two holes, but the lighting was pretty harsh in the morning and it was tough to get good angles.

After the 6th, you go back to more of a traditional flatter setting with trees and some big water hazards in play on the next two holes. You finish with an uphill par-3 that takes you right back up to the clubhouse.

I think The Pointe ended up being my second favorite nine and it offers some of the best vista points on the entire course, especially on a clear morning like I had.

Some pictures from The Pointe nine at Sunbrook Golf Club (8/4/18):

Woodbridge

Last but not least, I played the Woodbridge nine by myself until the last two holes. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I made my turn because I know they were sending groups off all three nines earlier. However, it was wide open for me and I didn’t catch anyone until the 7th hole. It was a fellow single stuck behind slower groups, so we just joined up and played out the last two holes together.

Overall, the Woodbridge nine at Sunbrook brings the most trees into play compared to the other two nines. Yet, it still has its own pleasant surprises along the way. The opening tee shot is downhill and then this par-5 is kind of a triple dogleg by the time you get to the green. You play through the woods for two holes before crossing the street.

If you haven’t figured out by now, any time you cross a street on almost any golf course in Southern Utah (and especially at Sunbrook), expect a change of scenery.

The 3rd hole is a straight uphill par-5 kind of reminiscent of the 2nd hole on The Pointe. It takes you up to the most elevated point on this nine. You get your downhill right away on the next hole. You also get the first of your back-to-back signature holes on Woodbridge.

If you told me Sunbrook was a Ted Robinson course prior to reaching the 4th hole on Woodbridge, I may have not believed you. It felt so natural and un-contrived, for lack of a better description. The 4th hole has his fingerprints all over it, but it’s still an awesome par-3. It’s a downhill shot to a large island green complex. This hole has many different tee boxes along the edge of the hillside, so it can really change up depending on which tee you are playing.

The 5th hole is also a little contrived, but still very nice. It may not be the best layout, though, if you ask me. It’s also the namesake hole that explains the “Woodbridge” name. This is a very demanding dogleg right par-4. It’s an elevated tee shot that will be a lay-up for most unless you can really bomb one over the corner and over the water. Assuming you lay up, you’ll be hitting a somewhat long approach shot over a creek to the green well on the other side. The way to cross this creek is to drive/walk across—you guessed it—a small covered wooden bridge.

The 6th hole takes you back up the hill parallel to the 1st fairway. Then, you cross one more street and get the finishing stretch. I’m not sure I’d describe these final three holes as any particular design style, but it’s more desert pines over here than the more parkland trees found on the wooded parts of the course.

Woodbridge is definitely worth checking out. If I were to go back and had the choice, however, I would ask for a combo of The Pointe and Blackrock. But that’s just me. I recommend playing all three nines yourself and figuring out which ones you like best. Either way, Sunbrook was one of the most pleasant surprises of the trip and I’d put it in the “must play” category. You may have never heard of it, but it’s the real sleeper pick of the St. George golf draft.

Some pictures from the Woodbridge nine at Sunbrook Golf Club (8/4/18):

My total round at Sunbrook took about three hours. It was technically the longest round of the trip thus far, but still super quick. For the record, I wouldn’t have had any problem getting back out on the Blackrock nine right away and finishing it reasonably quickly if I had chosen not to play it the evening before. It didn’t appear very busy after the early morning rush.

Oh well. I’m still glad I made that decision because it opened up more options for Saturday. I had time to still play another round and get home before dark. I considered driving further north into Cedar City, but that seemed too impractical. Fortunately, I still had a couple courses I hadn’t played in Mesquite. It made perfect sense to stop and play one more 18 as I made my way back home…

CasaBlanca Golf Club • Mesquite, NV • 8/4/18

CasaBlanca was one of two courses I hadn’t yet played in Mesquite. The other is the Palmer Course at Oasis Golf Club. Their prices are crazy high in the summer and they close super early each day, so I really didn’t give Oasis much consideration. However, CasaBlanca was open and they were offering $25 tee times after 10:00 each day. It was too ideal to pass up.

I booked a 10:10 tee time online to get that lower rate, even though I arrived closer to 9:30 and was teeing off by 9:45 by myself. By the way, if you are doing the math on how I finished in St. George at 9:30, had time to stop for a quick breakfast and was still in Mesquite by 9:30, you are not going crazy. Don’t forget about the time zone difference between Utah and Nevada. You gain an hour when you come back this way.

It was hot as blazes in Mesquite (110 degrees or so). It’s usually about a 10 degree difference between Mesquite and St. George. Yet, Mesquite courses still get a lot more play in the summer than those in St. George. I don’t get it.

I was surprised to see anyone at CasaBlanca, but there were plenty of people playing. I played through a twosome on the 2nd hole and then caught another twosome on the 8th hole. They were jumping around and going back to replay holes because they were stuck behind several slower foursomes ahead. I caught those groups at the turn and it was brutal after that. My front nine took about an hour and 10 minutes and my back nine took 2 hours and 20 minutes. I just found shade wherever I could and took long breaks on every tee box. Eventually, that twosome caught back up to me and we played the final two holes out together. It made me feel a little better (in a sadistic way) when they told me they teed off at 8:45.

I guess my final slower round in the heat was my penance for having almost every St. George course to myself the days before. Either way, I was still finished fairly early and back on the road at a good time. It was nice getting all the way home by 7:30 that evening.

CasaBlanca was designed by Cal Olson. Obviously, Wolf Creek gets all the attention when it comes to Mesquite golf, and rightfully so. Then, you have a nice second tier with the aforementioned Oasis, Conestoga and Falcon Ridge. CasaBlanca and Palms are the courses more likely to be looked over, even though they are the two you can see right from the fairway.

I’ve driven past CasaBlanca plenty of times, so I kind of had an idea of what to expect. This is a solid, albeit unspectacular, course. It’s a lot better than I thought it would be based on the freeway views, but it certainly does not offer the “wow” factor of the top-tier courses in Mesquite.

It was too hot and I was too tired to fully enjoy my round here, but it was a really good deal on a good enough course. Their in-season rack rates seem to be a bit high for what you get, though. Of course, everything here has overly jacked-up rates in the winter and spring seasons.

I’m not sure what would be considered a signature hole here. It’s a pretty traditional desert layout and there is quite a bit of water in play, as well. I’m not sure I have that much more to say about this course, even though I don’t want to sound like I’m putting it down. It’s a fine desert course.

As for conditions, CasaBlanca was in solid summer shape. I’d say it was one of the more consistently maintained courses I played this trip with the dry, crusty summer bermuda throughout. There were some thin lies, but mostly decent fairways and fine tee boxes. The rough was cut down and barely much longer than the fairways, so not penal at all. There were a lot of orange marker flags throughout as you’ll see in the pictures. I believe those were out to denote the overseed areas when they do their fall maintenance. The greens were very receptive and rolling smooth at medium/slow speeds. The bunkers were a tad thin and crusty, but not terrible.

Since I used the term to compare St. George courses, I’ll use it for CasaBlanca, as well. This is not a “must play” course by Mesquite standards, but for the right price it’ll provide a solid round of desert golf.

Some pictures from CasaBlanca Golf Club (8/4/18):

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