Coral Canyon & Sand Hollow Make for Great Golf in Southwest Utah

By: Steve Habel


The area surrounding St. George, Utah, is often called "color country" for its spectrum of reds, blues and greens and their myriad variations, all surrounded by the Pine Valley Mountains and punctuated by the presence of Zion National Park so close one can almost reach out and touch it.

Sand Hollow Championship Course's 11th hole

It was with this palate - and southwest Utah's rolling, rocky, canyon-filled terrain - that two of the most noted golf course architects of the past 20 years, Keith Foster and John Fought, fashioned spectacular courses that both beguile and test even the best players.

Foster's Coral Canyon and Fought's two courses at Sand Hollow Resort are just a few miles from each other as the crow flies, northeast of St. George in the towns of Washington and Hurricane, respectively. The tracks are perhaps the most renowned of the 10 that are marketed together as the Red Rock Golf Trail, and rank among the best double-shots of golf anywhere in the western United States.

Coral Canyon

Forced Carries, Risk-Reward Opportunities Mark Foster's Work

Building a golf course in a desert-scape usually forces architects to design holes with forced carries and narrow corridors. That's not always a bad thing, especially when such a routing is in the hands of someone like Foster, a master of the target-golf genre.

With Coral Canyon, which runs through lower lands then rises up toward the snow-capped peaks of nearby Bryce Canyon, Foster built mostly wide fairways and greens that allow players to run up shots or to fly it all the way to the pin. Fashioned to fit seamlessly into its natural environment, Coral Canyon works its way around some of the area's natural land formations and lets players experience pure golf in the near-isolation of the pristine Utah desert.

Coral Canyon is a challenging track, playing to a par of 72 and at 7,070 yards from its back set of five tees. Thanks to its multiple forced carries and demanding greens complexes, the course carries a rating of 73.5 and a Slope of 142 from the tips. It is the centerpiece of a burgeoning 2,600-acre master-planned community.

6th Green at Coral Canyon

Foster carefully placed the 80 acres of turf, 55 bunkers and two lakes into the desert without disturbing an indigenous landscape interspersed with huge boulder and rock outcroppings, deep canyons and ravines, and all kinds of flora and vegetation.

The track begins with back-to-back par-5s (525 and 560 yards, respectively) that move down a hill and back up it around the driving range. The second hole is split in half between the target fairways and a pair of bunkers just short right of the green.

Coral Canyon's 163-yard, par-3 sixth is considered by many to be the track's prettiest hole. It's played across a deep ravine with no room for error and with a 20-foot-high red rock back of the green.

That challenge is countered by the 480-yard par-4 seventh, where the tee shot must be threaded between three fairway bunkers. Once home, the green moves hard right to left. After No. 7's gauntlet of challenges, the 312-yard par-4 eighth seems inviting and where one could get back a stroke. But beware of the huge boulder just off the tee that will reject any low drives and the well-positioned bunker in front of the green. The ninth at Coral Canyon is the only hole where water enters play. The lake runs along the right side of the fairway at the dogleg all the way to the green.

The back nine - divided equally with three par-3s, three par-4s and three par-5s - opens with a whopping 453-yard par-4 that starts at an elevated tee box but is also subject to the oft-present winds.

Red Rocks Dot the Layout at Coral Canyon

The meat of the course is a trio of holes that comprise the longest pars. No. 13 is a 229-yard par-3 with a large bunker on the port side of the green and a slope that exacerbates misses long or left. The 14th is a carded at 593 yards and moves slightly right to left in the fairway. The 15th - a killer two-shotter of 488 yards - has a generous fairway and just one bunker blocking the right side of the green, but is still all a golfer can handle.

The 555-yard, par-5 closer is a great test, moving slightly uphill and off-camber to the left, bringing the desert (and a dry gulch) into play. The approach is guarded by a bunker on the left just shy of the putting surface and a vegetated outcropping to the right.

Generally speaking, Foster's work at Coral Canyon allows for a little wildness off the tee as recovery is possible from the encroaching desert. Coral Canyon has been voted a "Top 50 Golf Course for Women" by Golf Digest, evidence of its fairness and playability.

Perhaps the aspect that separates Coral Canyon from many other courses is the great rhythm of its design, which is obtained by a nice mix of challenge and beauty. It's a fun track and a must-play when in southwest Utah.

Situated at an elevation of 2,800 feet, Coral Canyon is located just off of I-15 in Hurricane at Exit 16. See www.coralcanyongolf.com for more information.

18th Hole at Sand Hollow Championship Course

Wow Factor Kicks in at Sand Hollow

It would have been a blast accompanying Fought - the 1977 U.S. Amateur champion and a winner on the PGA Tour before he turned to golf course design - during his initial visits to the site that would eventually become the Championship Course at Sand Hollow Resort.

Sand Hollow is a stunning example of a designer making the absolute best of the land he is given, even if some of it is strewn with huge rocks and impinged by dramatic drop-offs. This is a course everyone remembers and is a great melding of grip-it-and-rip-it strategy and finesse.

Opened in 2008 and stretching 7,315 yards, Sand Hollow's Championship Course has been lauded by many as the best track in Utah; it is certainly one of the most picturesque.

The front side is routed across a huge rolling plain above a valley bordered by the region's red rocks. The holes here are long and demanding (there are four par-4s, including the 493-yard sixth) that play 433 yards or more, but it's the huge greens that will take the biggest toll on even the best sticks.

12th Green at Sand Hollow's Championship Course

The incredible back nine begins with an expansive 565-yard, downhill par-5 which forces players to decide whether to challenge a collection of bunkers on the left in an effort to shorten the hole. The fairway then starts climbing and creates a mostly blind approach shot when attacking the green from more than 200 yards out. Avoiding the large, orange, center-cut bunker on your way to the green is crucial.

The real wow factor gets turned up a notch at the 190-yard, par-3 11th and continues through the side's other one-shotter - the unbelievable 230-yard 15th. This stretch of holes on the Championship Course plays along some of the most unique topography anywhere.

The vista across the huge plain leading back toward St. George is spectacular from the 11th green, and the 433-yard par-4 12th (like several of the holes here) has towering red rock to the right and a cliff wall to the left before the player reaches a slightly raised green in a bowl created by the surrounding rock.

The 320-yard, par-4 13th plays over a ridge with a narrow landing zone. The hole is drivable and features a 100-foot-tall cliff running along its entire left flank. The views are outstanding and the red rock is on display in the background. With the potential of driving the green, the fear of the cliff edge to the left and the fantastic setting, this is a heck of a hole.

Just surviving the 525-yard, par-4 14th is pretty impressive. Playing the approach to the right and letting the hill filter the ball back towards the putting surface is how it's done, effectively eliminating the cliff edge that borders the entire left side of the hole.

The 15th is a very cool hole as the white tees are reached by skirting the side of a huge boulder and walking through a semi-tunnel that's natural rock. It's a signature one-shotter that demands accuracy; anything left is gone and anything short will roll down to the rocks.

Sand Hollow's Championship Course is the perfect balance of links golf and Southwest Utah desert landscape. "Each hole is a difficult birdie but easy bogey, so all levels of players will enjoy playing again and again," Fought said of his creation.

The Championship Course's 15th hole recently graced the cover of Golfweek magazine's "Best Courses" edition and the track was awarded Utah's "Best Public Course" for the second straight year. Sand Hollow was listed No. 6 in Golf Magazine's Best New Courses in 2008.

Sand Hollow Resort offers players the Fought-designed, nine-hole par-36 Links Course as well as spacious practice facilities and an 18-hole, natural-grass putting course.

For more information on Sand Hollow Resort, visit www.sandhollowresort.com.

Steve Habel is one of Cybergolf's world correspondents, contributing news stories, features, equipment and book reviews and personality profiles from his base in Central Texas. He is also works as a contributing editor for Horns Illustrated magazine, a publication focusing on University of Texas sports, covers the Longhorns for CBS Sports, is regional editor for Texas Golfer magazine and files stories for Golf Oklahoma magazine, Texas Links magazines and Golfers Guide. Habel's main blog (www.shotoverthegreen.blogspot.com) features news on golf and the Longhorns, and another (www.checkinginandplayingthrough.blogspot.com)chronicles his many travels, on which he has played more than 350 golf courses since 2009. Habel is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and the Texas Golf Writers Association.


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