When the cold winds blow across the fairways and frost and snow cover the greens to the North, golfers might want to consider making a southern migrations.
The 15 courses closest to the southern borders of Utah, all within what might be considered the winter heat belt, rarely close because of bad weather and very rarely see snow. Average highs in and around St. George are 53 in January, 59 in February and 67 in March. Average lows are 25, 30 and 36, respectively.
And, in these days of freeway speeds of 75 and 80 miles per hour, the distance isn’t all that great. From downtown Salt Lake City to tee-off times in St. George or surrounding courses is roughly four and a half hours. Consensus, too, is some of the southern courses are among the best in the state. Golf Magazine in 2010 listed four southern courses on its list of the top 10 public courses in Utah -- Sand Hollow (2), Coral Canyon (3), The Ledges (7) and Sunbrook (8). (It should be noted the magazine listed Entrada no. 1, but the course is not public but private.)
It’s common knowledge among golfers, also, that the southern courses, with the fairways and greens set against the red-rock backdrop are among the most picturesque anywhere. And just how accessible are the southern golf courses? “It’s not uncommon for people to drive down [from Salt Lake City] in the morning, play a round and then drive back, all on the same day,’’ Casey Fowles, head pro at Coral Canyon Golf Course.
More common is for golfers, sometimes with their families, to spend a few days in the warmer winter weather golfing and participating in other activities. Of the 15 courses -- spread along the southwestern border from St. George to Kanab -- only two are private. The remaining 13 are open to the public for tee times. Fowles said in the four years he’s been at the course, “We haven’t closed for a full day. We’re pretty much open every day of the year.’’
The staff at Sunbrook Golf Course said it is open 364 days a year, with the only closure on Christmas Day. Allen Orchard, pro at Dixie Red Hills, said because of the good weather, “Winter is our peak season and we seldom close.’’
Bob Burt of Kokapelli Golf Course in Hurricane, open for only a year and a half, said despite an elevation similar to that of Salt Lake City -- 4,500 feet -- the course was closed for only about two weeks, “during the really bad weather we had last winter at this time and our temperatures are very close to those in St. George.’’
Time was when southern Utah’s winter golf climate was pretty much a secret. The area’s main supply of golfers drove down from the Wasatch Front. Now golfers are coming from such unlikely places as Canada, California, Idaho, Wyoming and the Pacific Northwest. Why? “People are discovering [our golf courses]. Those along the Wasatch Front knew all along. Now the word is out,’’ said Joyce Kelly, who oversees the golf program for the St. George Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Part of this discovery process is centered on a project Kelly oversees -- the Red Rock Golf Trail. Golfers can, with a call or by pushing a few keys on a computer, get tee times and lodging booked, all at no extra cost. It has been, said Kelly, “Very successful. This is the sixth year and each year we keep improving. Like I said, people are discovering Southern Utah and golfing. Our peak season runs from Oct. 1 to May 31. Also, we’ve made it possible for people to book tee times up to six months in advance.’’
The process is simple enough. Individuals can go to the Golf Trail website. From there they can choose from a long list of lodging options and from a list of area golf courses. Prices on the various packages are displayed and from there can be booked. Also included is a list of things to do and a trip planning guide.
Between the golfing opportunities and sites such as Snow Canyon and Zion National Park and, of course, the good weather, Souther Utah is, indeed, something to consider as a winter getaway.
Coral Cliffs (Kanab) -- Public, 9 hole, Par. 36, 3,300 yards, $15 w/cart, 435-644-5005
Bloomington C.C. -- Private, 18 hole, Par 72, 6,486 yards, 435-673-2029
Southgate -- Public, 18 hole, Par 70, 6,134 yards, $47 w/cart, 435-627-4440
St. George Golf Club -- Public, 18 hole, Par 73, 7,238 yards, $47 a.m. & $36 p.m. w/cart, 435-627-4404
Sky Mountain -- Public, 18 hole, Par 72, 6,383 yards, $55 Fri. & Sat. - $49 weekdays - $39 p.m. w/cart, 435-635-7888
Coral Canyon -- Public, 18 hole, Par. 72, 7,070 yards, $105 Fri. & Sat. - $95 Sunday thru Thurs. w/cart, 435-688-1700
Sun River Golf Club -- Public, 18 holes, Par 71, 6,824 yards, $62 w/cart, 435-986-0001
Green Spring -- Public, 18 hole, Par 72, 6,859 yards, $58 w/cart, 435-673-7888
Dixie Red Hills -- Public, 9 hole, Par 34, 2,733 yards, $20 walk - $27 w/cart,435-627-4444
Entrada -- Private, 18 holes, Par 71, 7,059 yards, 435-986-2200
Sunbrook -- Public, 18 holes, 6,818 yards, Par 72 & 9 holes, Par 36, 3,384 yards, $70 w/cart, 435-627-4400
Sand Hollow -- Public, 18 hole championship, Par 72 & 9 hole link, Par 36, $100 a.m. &$50 p.m weekdays & $125 a.m. & $65 p.m. weekends w/cart, 435-656-4653
Valderra at The Ledges -- Public, 18 hole, Par 72, 7,200 yards, $45 w/cart, 435-634-4640
Thunderbird Golf Course (Mt. Carmel) -- Public, 9 holes, Par 31, 1,771 yards, 435-648-2203
Kokapelli Golf Course (Hurricane) -- Public, 18 hole, Par 72, 6,659 yards, $58 weekends & $48 weekdays w/cart & lunch, 435-272-4653