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’s 11th hole aerial shot by me
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.
Above: Sand Hollow’s 10th hole
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.
Above, I’m teeing off on the par-4 12th. Left of the fairway is a cliff which drops 100’s of feet.
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.
Loyal readers of The Golf Space and Hooked On Golf Blog had a long and painful read a few days ago. That piece has been removed. I’m happy to say that all issues between myself and Martini Media Network have been resolved. The wounds are patched and healing, and we’ll all be better off in the end as a result of the experience.
I’m now pals with the CEO of the company Skip Brand. He’ll be taking me to lunch (at the most expensive restaurant in town) in a couple of weeks. I’m a cheap date though so no worries.
Skip and I had a long talk last night and I was able to sense that he is really a good person at heart with good intentions. He may have been a bit insulated to happenings within his company as some execs can be. I helped expose some of those happenings, bringing Martini the opportunity to address them and improve.
Skip’s company is new and growing fast. This is a good thing, except for the fact that their infrastructure couldn’t keep pace with their growth, causing some problems. The issues I brought up were a surprise to him, and in the end I hope will end up helping his company grow and have better relationships with advertisers and publishers.
A good quote from my new account manager today:
Your reaction is changing the way we do business.
Glad to help. Perhaps I should go into business consulting…
As a result of this situation, Martini will be implementing monthly meetings with publishers like me to discuss anything and everything. They also have other policies in place, and have secured the resources necessary to handle their fast growth. I wonder if I can get a few shares of founder’s stock before they completely blow up.
Maybe I can learn something
At lunch I’ll pick Skip’s brain a bit and get some tips from him on how to make companies grow fast, and he can get some tips from me on putting.
I haven’t typed anything in about 36 hours now. Why? Because my hands have just thawed. I couldn’t wait to get back home from Orlando to Salt Lake. I couldn’t wait to get back to 4200 feet above sea level, 12 degrees farther north in latitude than Orlando FLORIDA so I could WARM up. The big decompression day after my biggest and most exhausting PGA Show ever turned out to be nearly a complete train wreck, except for the fact that I got to spend it with two great pals.
I should have known when we couldn’t find a Starbucks within a 500 mile radius yesterday morning that it was going to be a rough day.
Thanks to our pals at Falcon’s Fire for playing host to this year’s battle. Unfortunately for us it was so cold and windy we were battling hypothermia, rather than battling the golf course. The winds were high and the temps down. After blading three irons on the range, numbing my hands, then hitting two low worm-burners left with my driver, I was ready for play after a two month golf hybernation… Right.
Time for some excuses
Until yesterday I hadn’t played golf for almost two months. That is like John Daly going 6 minutes without cracking a beer, Obama going 34 seconds with saying the word “change” and Tiger going three hours without picking up a busty waitress at Perkins… Oh, did I just go down that road? My apologies.
On the first hole I hit the fairway with my driver and I was 100% fairways hit for the decade. That’s as good as it was ever going to get. That stat would soon vanish, as would many of my shiny Srixons and Bridgestones in my bag. My confidence as well as my cash faded away as well, as I flamed out in the frozen wind blown tundra of Orlando.
I didn’t manage even one solid iron shot. It could be because my hands were frozen, or that I hadn’t played golf in weeks, or that I’d just worked my ass (or lack of one, since someone told me at the show that I didn’t have one) off for days at the PGA Show. It could just be because I’m a hack.
OGB and Into The Grain are fun cats and I hope to play many holes of golf with them in the future. I gladly handed my hard earned cash to Dave (OGB) for his triumphant victory, and like a good sport congratulated him on his victory while watching him celebrate. The taste of defeat is bitter, but a character builder for sure.
16th hole fireworks
Because we were so cold and our scores were all blowing up, John and Dave decided to have some fun on the 16h. Could John, a right handed player, beat the left handed Dave with his own clubs on a hole? The video below contains the answer. Be sure to watch for the incredible green side bunker shot.
I’m happy to report that the Salt Lake International Airport has free wifi. How cool. It isn’t terribly fast but I’m able to make an update about the next leg of the HOG world tour, which starts now.
Southwest could be the best airline for golfers
I’m currently waiting for my Southwest Airlines flight to Denver. Lunch in Denver airport then flight to Orlando. The reason I mention Southwest, is because I don’t think there is a better airline for golfers. Though Though I have a bunch of Delta frequent flier miles, I prefer SWA because they don’t charge for bags. The same set of bags I’m taking to Orlando, with my Ogio Monster, would cost almost $100 EACH WAY on Delta.
I’m stoked for this show and the new set of experiences I’ll be logging over the next 6 days. Once again, if you want to stop by and say hello I’m in the Sumi-g booth #3629, near the new product center.