“Sorry to wake you,” whispered my aide-de-camp, gently tapping my forehead with a spoon. “There’s an urgent message from Catch Basin.”
I rolled off my cot in one motion and threw back the tent flap. The desert sunlight seared my eyes, but I willed them not to squint. Or even dilate.
“It was inevitable,” I said, sounding a perfect note of fatalism. “I told her that no one would believe she was writing a sequel to my biography.”
“No, sir, it’s not that,” Walters said. “It’s the latest course ratings. The computer room is questioning Sand Hollow at number 20.”
Relieved, I stepped back into the shadows. “It’s not a mistake. Text them immediately” — I caught myself — “or rather, call them on the encrypted land line and tell them to post the new Top 50 pronto, or there’ll be hell to pay. Oh, and get me some eye drops.”
And that, readers, is how The Golf Course at Sand Hollow Resort cracked the Top 50 for the first time. Designed by former tour pro John Fought III and open for a mere four years (and already ranked No. 1 among Utah’s public courses), Sand Hollow makes the grandest splash in the ranking since Castle Stuart debuted three years ago at No. 10.
“I would rate Sand Hollow number one among desert and mountain courses,” says our course-ranking director, Gary Van Sickle, “not to disparage Arizona’s 51st-ranked Desert Mountain. I’d rank Sand Hollow higher even than Tom Fazio’s Vegas stunner, Shadow Creek, which, to be honest, I’ve never been invited to play — hint, hint — or 51st-ranked Coyote Springs, which I’ve had the pleasure of playing and recommending to travelers to Vegas who don’t mind an hour’s drive to a nest of mountain ranges not far from Mesquite, Nevada, which, as you know, is headquarters for the Re/Max World Long Drive Championship ….”*
*The complete text of Van Sickle’s quote will be published in a later post.
Coincidentally, Van Sickle and I played a fortuitous round at Sand Hollow a mere week before the course’s surprising ascent in the ratings. Also coincidentally, we played that round with Fought (rhymes with “boat”), who dropped in from nearby Scottsdale to show off the still-impressive skills that won him the 1977 U.S. Amateur, a spot on the victorious 1977 U.S. Walker Cup team, PGA Tour rookie-of-the-year honors and back-to-back Tour wins in 1979. (Fought’s designing career, launched when back and neck injuries drove him off the Tour, has produced original tracks such as 51st-ranked Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon and a wonderful restoration of Donald Ross’s Pine Needles GC in Southern Pines, N.C.)*
*The compete text of a Q&A with Fought will appear in a later post.
The Top 50 ratings are rigorously scientific, but I see no harm in sharing my subjective appraisal of Sand Hollow’s 7,300-yard Championship Course: “Fantastic … awe-inspiring … the best use of desert since John Ford filmed She Wore a Yellow Ribbon ….” From its pinnacle clubhouse, which affords one of the most spectacular views in golf, to its back-nine run of holes along red-sandstone cliffs, Sand Hollow provides scenic thrills heretofore available only on seaside courses like Cypress Point, Carne and Askernish.
Sand Hollow also has a Fought-designed 9-hole Links Course, which features broad, knobby fairways and sprawling greens that retain every feature of the underlying terrain. “We tried to keep everything as natural as possible,” said Fought, who added that Sand Hollow’s trademark red-sand bunkers were not a design conceit. “If we’d trucked in outside sand, it would’ve turned red. That’s just how it is out here.”
Situated just north of St. George, Utah, off I-15, Sand Hollow is no more than an hour’s drive from Mesquite and maybe two hours from Vegas.*
*In an upcoming post, I’ll examine the paradox of 20th-ranked Sand Hollow being much higher in elevation than 19th-ranked Sand Hills.
Top 50 on TV: Nothing this week, but the Top 50 Golf Team achieved modest success at last week’s Mesquite Media Classic in Mesquite, Nev. Team captain and past champion Gary Van Sickle finished second in the championship flight. Top 50 founder and CEO John Garrity tied for second in Flight 2 with Al Barkow, the legendary golf editor, biographer of Sam Snead and author of Golf’s Golden Grind. In a tie-breaker at the Oasis Golf Club, Garrity smashed a Big Break Mesquite window target in three tries, three fewer than Barkow needed. The tie-breaker, however, was not recognized by Tournament Director Bill Huffman.