Last week I had a spectacular time camping in Zion National Park with my dad and two of my three offspring. Zion’s topography is unlike any place in the world with red sandstone cliffs rising thousands of feet from the canyon bottom. That trip is a story for another day.
We decided to take a “scenic byway” on the way home, rather than driving on the main freeway, I15. The scenic byway, Interstate 9, would take us through several small towns in the middle of nowhere, Utah. I mean nowhere.
We found a town called Mt. Carmel Junction, about 12 miles east of Zion where we made a pit stop. This was a sort of outpost from where one could head to Zion, the Grand Canyon or northern Utah. Out the window I saw a very small golf hole with perhaps the smallest and most narrow sand trap I’ve ever seen (upper right). Literally the trap was two feet wide and about eight feet long. I’d soon learn that the hole was the 5th at the Thunderbird Golf Course, which I’d never heard of.
Thunderbird golf course is a par 31 track with a slope of 102 and rating of 63.3 (for 18 holes if you play the nine twice). This salty little golf course looked intriguing so I drove around the “Thunderbird Motel and Restaurant,” home of the “ho” made pies (see pic below), and found the golf shop.
Inside the golf shop was a fun character to talk to whose name I neglected to write down but I think it was Marty. It appeared that Marty was running the pro shop and possibly running the hotel front desk at the same time. Marty showed me around the shop, told me about the salty golf cart in there which was the first ever on the course, then showed me the rate sheet. 10 bucks to golf. My kind of price.
I asked Marty how old the course was and he gave me a classic small town answer I’ll always love:
“Well it has been around about as long as Ed, and Ed’s pretty old.”
I didn’t know who Ed was, but now I know that he’s the measuring stick for how old things are in this little town. Marty also told me that the course originally opened because the owner at the time (don’t know if it is the same owner) was at risk of losing his water rights and by opening a golf course was able to keep them. Perhaps this was once a farm in which the farmer gave up on that trade and opened the Thunderbird Motel.
Unfortunately I didn’t bring my sticks, nor would I have had the time to test my skills out on the Thunderbird. But this course is now a golf bucket list item for me. I fully plan to get back there to see my new pal Marty, meet the legendary “Ed” and test my golf game out on this layout soon.
I’ve created a HOG Thunderbird Gallery for you to see more images. I’ll get better ones when I play the course soon.
This is a great post. I am from Utah and have never heard of this place either. It reminds me of an old course that used to exist in Brigham City, UT called Brigham Willows. Unfortunately it no longer exists, but when you described the pro shop attendent and the using of names of existing residents to date things, it took me right back to the days when I played that little course as a kid. Thanks for your thoughtful post.
Thanks for the comment Jake. I’m from Utah as well. See you on the course one of these days… Bonneville today!