When travelers and anyone escaping winter’s bite heads out to desert golf, most end up in Las Vegas or Palm Springs. But, the quiet valley of St. George, Utah packs distinct courses just as visually striking as those more famous destinations with less course traffic and more reasonable fees. It’s just up to the traveling player to decide what sort of desert experience they seek.
During a recent automotive media run for GMC from Las Vegas just over the Utah state line into St. George, I had a chance to try out to area courses. While they shared much of the same terrain and all of the heat the desert valley can offer, their attitudes couldn’t be farther apart.
I started off with Coral Canyon, a friendly resort-style set of 18 with fairways and greens nuzzled in amidst arid stretches of what was wasteland years ago. While there’s a wild west view on every horizon, the course itself is ry approachable. The fairways are wide, the distances reachable and the hazards few.
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The staff is casual and unassuming from the clubhouse to the starter to the laid-back crew putting out the food and drinks on the 19th hole. You could argue the greens-keeping crew is also low stress — maybe a little too much so. The tee boxes were undeniably furry when not beat to death by hacks taking more pelts than a fur trapper. Fortunately, the greens were adequate and consistent enough to allow easy play.
While “easy” is too lazy a word to lay on Coral Canyon as a whole, it’s definitely a d relaxed golf venue inviting casual players to enjoy the day. Challenging enough to justify the effort, good scoring opportunities wait on most holes. With a staff leaning more toward the down-home vibe than the clubhouse attitude, it fits the St. George ethos well.
About 20 minutes away from Coral, Entrada at Snow Canyon Country Club cranks up the challenge and the attitude. The course is immaculate, with well kept greens and holes designed to take advantage of the arid terrain and majestic scenery. That beauty comes with a price as the difficulty level will beat up casual players, leaving the more dedicated golfers to challenge the course. There are blind lies, ample traps and undulating fairways providing frequently difficult angles into the rolling greens.
The course does offers a spectacular natural feature that’s rare even in desert golf. The back nine settles into a natural field of lava rock — forging a black, alien landscape. The bright green fairways wind their way through the terrain, but the views almost distract from the gold — in the best way possible.
The only disappointment with Entrada is the course’s general attitude. I respect the game. I dress for the game. I showed up on the course wearing golf pants and a $160 crew neck and was sent away to put on a collared golf shirt. When I got back, I was further informed I needed to tuck in the tails. I must’ve maid a wrong turn out of humble Utah and stumbled into Augusta or Pebble Beach. The only other explanation is this big fish course in a small pond town got a little up its own bunker for its own good.
For views of rare desert golf, you can putter through the gallery below.