Explore the glorious West by car, horseback, pack mule, or helicopter — take your pick. I prefer experiencing its beauty while tooling around in a golf cart.
In this roundup of great golfing in the West, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention primo courses like Arizona’s Troon North Golf Club and Colorado’s fabulous Broadmoor Golf Club, Nevada’s Shadow Creek and Texas’ Barton Creek Country Club, California’s Indian Wells Golf Resort and Pebble Beach, and Oregon’s Bandon Dunes. Among new courses I’m itching to play is Brewster, Washington’s Gamble Sands — a dazzling rolling resort course overlooking the Columbia River.
Here I’ve singled out a few of my very favorite public and semiprivate tracks — all accessible with a daily fee — for your putting and driving pleasure.
On The Rocks
Boulders Resort & Spa
In the high Sonoran Desert, tucked among dramatic 12 million-year-old giant boulder formations, the Boulders Resort & Spa is five-star fabulous in every respect, including Jay Morrish’s highly acclaimed 36 holes of golf. The resort, including all its casitas, recently got a significant upgrade. Just north of Scottsdale, it’s one of Golf Digest’s top Southwest resorts.
19th-Hole Treats: Besides great creature comforts, guests enjoy horseback riding and a natural 1,300-acre wildlife habitat. Moonlit bicycle tours over paved roads use NiteRider 500-lumen lighting equipment to spy on hawks, bobcats, javelina, deer, jack rabbits, and coyotes, under a planetarium of stars. 480.488.9009.
Under The Volcano
Entrada at Snow Canyon
St. George, Utah
A cinder cone from an ancient eruption rises above Snow Canyon State Park in southern Utah. A black lava rock field graces three holes in the back nine of the course that pro golf legend Johnny Miller designed at gated Entrada. The beautifully kept course meanders over rolling terrain, with red-rock foothills in the backdrop and five sets of tees to keep every golfer happy. Other perks include fine dining, a snazzy spa, and luxury lodging with kitchenettes, fireplaces, and attached garages.
19th-Hole Treats: Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park are nearby. Hike, fish, explore. If you find yourself played out in Vegas, it’s only a two-hour drive. 435.986.2200.
Alister Mackenzie’s Other Gem
Santa Cruz, California
Revered British golf architect Alister MacKenzie, a master of camouflage and trickery, also designed Augusta National and famed Cypress Point in Pebble Beach. Of those three courses, Pasatiempo is the only one you can play without a member. Trailing along rolling hills, slopes, deep ravines, and views of Monterey Bay, you’re treated to dramatic vistas, challenging holes, and large, formidable bunkers. When day is done, no matter how you score, you can savor being somewhere very special.
19th-Hole Treats: Santa Cruz has vintage art galleries and eateries along the boardwalk. You can visit the wonderful Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row and enjoy the nightlife. The pièce de résistance is the dazzling 45-minute drive along the bay to Monterey, where you might spend a delightful half-day touring 17-Mile Drive at Pebble Beach. 831.459.9155, pasatiempo.com
More (Gorgeous) Lava
Carved in among lava rock ridges in view of the Cascade Mountains, Jack Nicklaus’ signature 18 ranks among Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses in America. Sunrises and sunsets on the Nicklaus and Tom Fazio courses are spectacular.
19th-Hole Treats: Besides the full-service snazzy resort, there are nearby unspoiled streams to fly-fish, trails to hike, lakes to canoe, rivers to raft, and slopes to ski — plus plenty to do in Bend, population 91,000. 866.320.5024. To visit their website, click here.
New Life For An Old Mine
Near Butte, a fabulous Jack Nicklaus golf course restored an industrial waste site over a community eyesore after a century-old copper smelter was shut down in 1980. The world-class course, set among rolling rock hills, now protects the environment in perpetuity. Nicklaus innovatively used “sland” (black slag left behind by the smelters) to create the unique black bunkers and traps that inundate the course.
19th-Hole Treats: Enjoy gourmet dining at Jack’s Grille and take your pick for daily versions: hiking, biking, fishing, and camping in nearby national forests. Day trip to Yellowstone? You’re just a few hours away. 406.563.598. To visit their website, click here.
From the May/June 2018 Issue.