I’d better bust out my thesaurus now because I can tell I’m going to run out of words to describe how amazing Sand Hollow Golf Course is…
My review queue is fairly long. I’ve got course reviews on my list from a year or more ago, and products can be months. I’m shoving all of those items down one slot and I’ve put my Sand Hollow Golf Course review at the top of the list. It has been 31 hours and six minutes since I walked of the 18th hole at Sand Hollow, making a par after missing about a five foot uphill birdie putt. Missing birdie putts, though a common occurrence during my round yesterday, didn’t matter. In fact, if I would have made a double bogey on every hole I wouldn’t care.
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite thing in the world to do is golf, and a close 2nd place is exploring the red rock country of southern Utah. I can hike for miles in the desert red rock. I’m like a little kid, discovering new adventures and letting nature’s wonder inspire and humble me. Sand Hollow humbled me. Like the Willey Nelson line, Sand Hollow is always on my mind.
Sand Hollow is a 27 hole golf course located just outside of Hurricane (pronounced Hurricun by the locals) Utah. The first 18 are the primary golf course, while the 3rd set of nine is called the “Links Course.” I’m reviewing the first 18. I attempted to play the Links Course, but was rained out before I could tee off. Trust me. I’ll be back soon to get in another round and experience that 3rd nine, even if I have to start walking the 300 miles from my house now.
Sand Hollow was designed by John Fought and Andy Staples. These are the two newest members of my favorite golf course designers list. There are now a total of four on the list, the other two being Baxter Spann (Black Mesa in New Mexico) and my all time favorite Tom Doak.
John and Andy probably had a relatively easy design job really. They didn’t move much earth. They let the sandy terrain of the area dictate the rolling hills of the fairways and undulations of the putting greens. In true links style, Sand Hollow has hard fairways with many humps and bumps. Flat lies are uncommon. The player must stay focused on all shots or the small variations in terrain will cause errant shots or produce errant and unexpected bounces.
Sand Hollow is a tale of two nines, or perhaps a tale of the first eight and last ten holes. The first eight holes are very linksey (I just invented that word). The links holes wind through the red sand dunes, defined by the areas of uncut sagebrush and spires of red rock.
Starting with hole #9, elevation changes become much more dramatic, crescendoing with the incredible trio of holes, the 12th, 13th and 14th. More on those later. And stick around will you? These holes are unbelievable.
Sand Hollow has a large driving range and short game areas for fine tuning your game. I hit a few balls and practiced putting before my round. Right next to one practice green is a great red rock mountain. I love it.
Like many links courses, the tees at Sand Hollow are not unnatural or constructed by moving a ton of dirt. Many of the tees on the links holes are very unassuming and find themselves fitting in with the surroundings. Views from the tees show green landing areas over and enclosed by sand dunes and sage. Looking out over the course is fascinating; rolling hills, contrasting green grass, red rock, gray sage and red sand.
On the more “desert plateau” style holes, the tees are in some very cool places. Some are elevated, up on cliff sides while others are down below the holes, requiring more club. Just wait until you see the tees on the signature par-3 15th hole. Amazing.
The fairways at Sand Hollow are fairly wide, though some may not look that wide from the tee because you may not be able to see them in their entirety. Size alone doesn’t mean you can hit any part of the fairways and be in a good position, or even in play for that matter. Hitting the wrong side of a fairway at Sand Hollow can mean a bad position for the next shot or even worse, a lost ball in the desert sage.
With all of the mounds and slants of the fairway, bounces are “interesting” to say the least. Some good shots can catch penalizing bounces, while some bad shots may bounce into better than expected positions. The mounds of the fairways can produce very interesting lies as well. Top level concentration is required to hit the correct shot type from the many different stances. For instance, I had many shots which called for a fade to the green, but the lie was influencing a draw.
The bunkering at Sand Hollow is amazing, stunning, dramatic. A great item of note on the bunkers, is that basically all they are is holes in the ground. No sand was brought in. The sand in the bunkers is the native red rock sand. I have a bottle of it at home above my mantle. This sand is so fine and consistent. When I found a bunker I was able to read a carbon copy of the dimple pattern of my golf ball within the trails the ball left in the sand.
The greens at Sand Hollow are very large with many distinct quadrants. Subtle and not-so-subtle mounding and tiers make putting a difficult but fun challenge. Creativity around the greens is required to score. The greens are firm and fast, requiring control on approaches and chips.
On the par-5 17th hole I was short-sided left in two shots. I was about 15 feet off the green, and the pin was on the other side of a large hump about another 15 feet. In order for me to get the ball close I had to play a bump-and-run shot up the fringe and die it at the top of the hump, letting it feed down and left to the hole. I had to play a British Open style shot. This particular shot I executed with an 8-iron and a putting stroke to perfection. My one foot birdie was the only birdie putt I’d make all day, though I had many opportunities within 10 feet. I told my playing partner after that putt, “I’ve found my range: One foot.”
There are several holes which could be “signature holes” at Sand Hollow. But the 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes are a stretch of golf holes like no other I’ve ever seen or played. In fact, nothing I’ve experienced to this point on a golf course really can compare to the stunning views and awe inspiring scenery of these holes.
I got my first glimpse of #12 from the 11th green. 11 is a very cool par-3 with a huge drop off to the right of the green, protected by a massive and deep bunker. I was in that bunker and short sided. The hillside where the green lay was so slanted, I blasted my bunker shot out, far past the pin and off the green up the hill, watching it roll back to the pin to about five feet. Unfortunately my putting woes continued and I carded a bogey.
But while on #11 I caught a glimpse of what is now one of the most visually amazing golf holes I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of feet below, down the cliffside, was a golf hole. It was so strange to see just a sliver of the hole, so many hundreds of feet down and away, that it didn’t even look real.
As I got closer to #12 (below) I was awestruck. Elevated tees on a red rock cliffside to a fairway with a cliff rising to the right and another cliff dropping off hundreds of feet left. The hole is very steeply uphill as well, with an elevated green guarded by many big bunkers. The green was at the top of this small cliffside canyon.
My drive was in the left rough, three feet from dropping hundreds of feet into the desert abyss. My heels were almost on the edge of the cliff as I thrashed my 17 degree hybrid. I was over 200 yards out and severely uphill. I caught a great bounce, then the ball rolled up onto the green about five feet above the hole.
I was actually shaking over this putt, like I was putting to win my first green jacket or something. I wanted to birdie this hole bad. Somehow my downhill putt came up about one inch short, or I would have birdied one of the most visually stunning and difficult holes I’d ever played. Still, a one inch par putt is a no-brainer.
#13 (first image) is a great risk/reward hole. 320 from the tips. When we played it, the yardage I lazered from the tee we were on was 287. We all took out driver and went for it. I ended up in the bunker short of the green, and was saved from going in the right greenside bunker by the rake. My running chip was too hard and I couldn’t make the recovery putt. The view of this hole from the next tee, off a small cliff, is stunning as you can see.
#15 (pictured below) is Sand Hollow’s signature hole, though 11, 12, 13 could qualify for such status as well. This par-3 has more sets of tees than I can count, and they’re all at different angles and elevations. The shots to this beautifully framed green can vary greatly. One set of tees which is down below where I played from, is framed by two red rock spires on each side of the tee.
I knocked an 8-iron to about three feet on this beautiful hole, and once again couldn’t convert the bird. But by that point I was so humbled and in such awe of this golf course that I didn’t even care about my score.
Sand Hollow Images
Unfortunately the day was overcast with occasional rain when I played Sand Hollow. Even in unfavorable lighting conditions I shot over 150 photos, all of which are posted in my Sand Hollow Image Gallery. I plan on heading back down for the 3.5 hour drive when the weather is right, and spending some time on the course not only with my golf cubs, but with my Nikon.
I’m still in awe of this incredible golf course. I’m already looking at my calendar, trying to find a date I can go back and play the course for 2-3 straight days. Sand Hollow golf course is tough, but not unfair. The course allows for ball striking and short game creativity with the rolling hills and links style play. I was quite satisfied that I managed my way around the whole thing with one golf ball.
The scenery at Sand Hollow is 2nd to none. When you play this course, and you WILL, let me know and I’ll meet you there. And bring your camera.