A golf safari through Mesquite and St. George | VailDaily.com
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A golf safari through Mesquite and St. George

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My two-week golf safari in Mesquite, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, ended with one of the greatest 109s ever shot in the history of the game.

Yeah, I’m a high-20s handicapper, but this was Wolf Creek in Mesquite. This is golf on Barry Bonds steroids-cubed. From the tips of 6,939 yards this course’s rating is 75.4 and has a slope of 154, and Wolf Creek regularly – and justifiably so – makes just about any golf publication’s “Hardest you can play” list.

From the modest white tees (5,798 yards) that most of us are strongly encouraged/seriously (and wisely) nudged to play, this course is still a bleep. Not only does desert – a lateral hazard by local rule – or water line every freaking hole, but this place has elevation change that makes Eagle-Vail or the Cordillera Mountain Course look like a loop in Kansas.



Oh yeah, there was the wind too. I’m proud to say that I stuck the par-3 15th from 113 yards. I really don’t know what to think about having to use a 7-iron to do so, however.

And since I shot an unsightly 127 with 10 lost balls – as terrible as I am, I haven’t had a 127 since I started playing in the late 90s – the first time I played Wolf Creek, 109 (with the bag only three rocks lighter) gave me some serious satisfaction.



In 14 rounds in as many days, I took 1,497 swings – for a nice average, for me, of 106 per round – in three different states – Mesquite also has a loop in Arizona (The Palms). I played in the shadow of red rock at the stunning Sand Hollow in Utah, hit off cliffs at the 36-hole Oasis Golf Club in Mesquite, played in the middle of nowhere at The Chase at Coyote Springs (Nevada) and discovered fun loops like Falcon Ridge and Conestoga.

Hey, knucklehead

I started at the Oasis Palmer Course, right across the street from my hotel. Having played Eagle Ranch often with a slope of 129 from the blue tees which are about 6,800 yards, I was ready for the Palmer at a mere 6,160 and a 127.



Not so fast.

It was a really scenic drive down from Eagle-Vail to Mesquite, but one of the things I should have noticed was the down part of things. Shooting a 60 on the front nine of the Palmer might have been a clue that I wasn’t hitting at altitude any more.

Note to self. I restarted my round on No. 10 and played another 18 from the whites. Much better.

I also bought a yardage book. This should have been a natural impulse, but having gotten spoiled in my 13 years of living up here, I know where I’m going when I play. I have a new appreciation for tourists who come up here with their sticks. As a passholder at Eagle-Vail, I play with a bunch of flatlanders who come here and pull a driver on the par-3 10th seeing that it’s 195 yards or so. (Sir, if you hit that, it’s going to end up on I-70. Why don’t you try a 7- or an 8-iron?)

It was really nice to be on the receiving end of that advice.

I played at the Palmer a few times and shot a 94, a career low there. That scorecard is going up on the wall, and Arnie will likely have the course blown up upon his next visit.

Utah?

The Beehive State was quite a discovery for this coastal person. (OK, I’ve lived in Colorado for 13 years, but still consider myself a San Franciscan.) Insterstates 70 and 15 are just amazing, and then there’s the golf.

Sand Hollow in Hurricane (pronounced Hurricun), outside of St. George was the surprise of the trip. It is stunning. There are no houses, just sagebrush and red rock – including the bunkers. Said traps are pretty much red clay – as my socks attested after a day of golf there. That makes fairway bunkers a pleasure – they’re hard, so fire away. On the other hand, greenside bunkers, not so good.

And then you get to the back nine where the course meanders along a cliff. Here’s a local’s tidbit, don’t go left, though it’s probably a lateral as your golf ball will end up at the Hoover Dam. And as you’re playing the back, motorcyclist are tearing down the hillside, which is pretty cool.

This is my new favorite non-Eagle County golf course.

Area 51

If you Mapquest The Chase at Coyote Springs, a Jack Nicklaus design, you get longitude and latitude marks. Seriously, you drive halfway from Mesquite to Vegas and hook a right on Nevada Highway 168. Leaving the great metropolis of Moapa – which has a gas station, a bar and elementary school – you drive for 30 miles with nothing in sight.

Yet there’s a golf course there … eventually. It’s traditional Jack with sidehill lies from the fairways and bear-claw like bunkers. It also has greens that make the U.S,. Open look like a day in the park. I hit the ball beautifully. I promptly three-putted eight freaking greens, and a bunch of those where not long ones. I swear they had magnetic covers over the holes.

Revenge was taken when I played as a single a week later and played a best-ball competition. Putting there is much easier when you get four cracks.

Par-3?

From the whites, remember the middle tees, the second hole of Wolf Creek starts with a 150-yard carry over a canyon. It then doglegs left uphill. Good fun.

Then you get to the third. This is a par-3 – a 175-yarder uphill over another canyon with a crosswind. This shouldn’t be a par-3. I pulled driver here, and wasn’t the only one, and made one of the best bogeys ever.

And the thing with Wolf Creek is that this just keeps coming. There is no signature hole because every one is a postcard.

Yet with these courses and other great ones I played in the last two weeks, I’m thrilled to be home. Yes, the Vail Valley or Eagle County will always be known for skiing and snowboarding, but we also live in a golfer’s paradise.

We have four truly fantastic public courses Vail, Eagle-Vail, Eagle Ranch and Gypsum Creek, which offer reasonable rates or season passes which make the sport affordable. For those who have a little more coin, there’s Cordillera, Red Sky, Sonnenalp, Beaver Creek, Country Club of the Rockies and so on. And don’t forget, as I discovered in Mesquite, altitude is our friend.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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