It’s a common enough feeling in Park City, Utah. Poised at a precipice, your heart’s a drumbeat as you contemplate the steeply twisting corridor falling away beneath your feet. You take a deep, steadying breath, and prepare to negotiate the plunging terrain safely.
But it isn’t winter, its early autumn, the surrounding hillsides blazing in red, yellow and gold. You’re wearing a polo shirt and slacks, not goggles and Gore-Tex. You were transported by golf cart, not chairlift. You are standing on the 10th tee box at The Canyons Golf Course, a vertigo-inducing par-5 that many players will, owing to the fall-away topography, be able to reach in two blows.
The Canyons is the newest (and undoubtedly the quirkiest) of the public golf offerings in or very close to this dynamic mountain town, just forty-odd minutes from downtown Salt Lake City. Officially opened this past summer, this peculiar venue is an amenity of the Canyons Resort, which will connect via gondola to adjacent Park City Resort at the dawn of the 2015-2016 ski season come December. This alliance will make the resort the largest alpine playground in the U.S. More than 7,000 acres, 300-plus trails and more than forty lifts speak to its expansiveness. Then why is the new golf course so truncated, with hairpin doglegs, shoehorned into awkward inclines and with holes routed amidst roadways, convenience stores and roundabouts? Simply put, there are grounds that are ideal for golf, and others where the holes were forced upon the landscape. The Canyons is in the latter category, bit still offers some fun, sporty and challenging holes, along with some breathtaking scenery. Many an adventurous visitor will be inclined to give it a go, for the curiosity factor, if nothing else.
It’s a quick drive from the Salt Lake International Airport up Parley’s Canyon in your National Rental Car, particularly as the first golf stop on the agenda is just two minutes off of I-80, and barely half-an-hour from the city. Mountain Dell is a highly recommended 36-hole venue, the Lake and Canyon courses well worthy of consideration.
The area has no shortage of affordable and eminently worthwhile public golf options, and Mountain Dell is proof positive. Just sixteen miles east of Salt Lake City, twenty minutes shy of Park City and
perched at 6,000 feet of elevation, these dual venues do brisk business from spring through autumn, attracting both residents and visitors alike. The Canyon course unspools four full miles to the east before looping back towards the clubhouse serving both courses. The Lake Course is narrower, with tee shots over plunging ravines and encroaching water. Despite the proximity to I-80, the nation’s essential east-west artery, connecting the George Washington (New York) and Golden Gate (California) bridges, moose sightings are a common occurrence on the Lake Course. Golfers are trying to avoid the water, but Bullwinkle loves to wallow in it.
The busiest course in Utah is the Park City Golf Course, and for good reason. Its right in the center of town, nestled among the mountains of the ski resort, features lush conditioning and is easily walkable. Bookend par-5s commence and conclude the journey. (The opener reachable with two blows, the closer fronted by water, necessitating a careful third to the putting surface.) In between are ponds, streams, thick stands of aspens, long range farm and mountain views, and an appealing mixture of holes routed uphill and downhill, both long and short. This is an extremely pleasant, target-oriented amble through some of the prettiest terrain in the Intermountain west. It’s no wonder the tee sheet has precious few gaps from May through September.
Park City has one of the liveliest Main Streets in the ski world. Try Chimayo for gourmet Southwestern-inspired cuisine and mouth-watering ribs. River Horse and 350 Main are also high caliber eateries. Off the main drag be sure to visit Silver Star Café for great food and live music, or Blind Dog Grill for fresh seafood and fine sushi. Finally, El Chubasco has inexpensive and lightning-quick Mexican food, featuring a plethora of choices at their complimentary salsa bar.