Wasatch State Park, which stretches from the northern edge of Midway south to the city limits, is home to two, 36-hole golf complexes. Midway and Heber City are in the Heber Valley, over the Wasatch Range from Salt Lake City and just 20 minutes from Park City and Deer Valley.

Midway’s architecture is based on the Swiss Alps so expect plenty of that style throughout the village, including at City Hall.

Aerial view of Solider Hollow courses

The southern golf complex, the Gold and Silver courses at Soldier Hollow, sprawl up the foothills in the shadows of the massive Timpangos Range which top at 11,400 feet above sea level. The huge mountains are readily visible from Heber City to the east and then grow smaller and smaller and vanish from sight when you reach the clubhouse at Solider Hollow.
The clubhouse is spectacular, with huge glass sides facing north and east, and is a popular breakfast and lunch spot with fair pricing and good value. It’s worth stopping in for a meal or simply a beer to enjoy the wonderful views looking east.

Glass-walled clubhouse

Gene Bates designed both Solider Hollow courses that opened in 2004. The Silver course plays downhill a total of 200 feet from the clubhouse located at an elevation of 5,600. It is plays like a links course set on a gentle hillside except the aprons are sticky—don’t expect to run the ball onto the green.

Enjoy the holes doing out—they were both downhill and downwind when we played. Brace for the return when the opposite conditions were true. The sister Gold course plays on the uphill side running north-south so uneven lies are expected. It reaches 5,750 in elevation.

One interesting feature on the Silver course is that both nines had three par 3’s and three par 5’s.

Solider Hollow Silver

The course also challenges golfers with long par 3s that generally require forced carries over junk or water.

The course has hosted the Utah State Opens as well as many other tournaments. From the tips, it plays 7,355 yards with a rating of 74.2 and a slope of 142. The blues play almost 6,500 yards at 70.7 and 126.

The Silver  course is generally forgiving off the tee and tougher on the approach shots and around the greens. When we played in mid-July, the course was in excellent condition, which meant plenty of sticky grass around the greens that required quality pitch shots.

Playing on a warm summer day and going off mid-morning, we waited on many shots and still finished in about 4 ½ hours. That’s probably typical on busy summer days with plenty of people—to say nothing about the men’s club shotgun start that went off earlier.

The Wasatch State Park sister courses, the 50-year-old Mountain course and the Lakes course, are located right off the road that leads from Midway over the mountains to either Park City or Big Cottonwood Canyon over Guardsman Pass to Salt Lake City.

Mountain course No. 8 green

The Mountain course certainly earns its name. It starts at 5,800-foot elevation with the clubhouse for both courses and then climbs up the Snake Creek Valley to about 6,000 feet at the highest spot. Going up, there are excellent views at the granite Wasatch cliffs that are framed in the valley. Look the other way and you can see views of the Heber Valley.

Once you get by No. 3 on the front side, the climb to the high point starts. Most holes are sharply uphill or equally downhill. The first sharply uphill hole, No. 4, plays only 328 from the tips, but presents a narrow fairway framed by trees and bushes on both sides. Miss the tee shot and you’ve lost a ball. It probably plays about 400 yards.

The front nine finishes with back-to-back par 5s, No. 8 going 591 yards downhill, while No. 9 plays 503 yards back uphill. A snack shack and restrooms are available at the turn.

There are three par 3’s on each nine and they test your accuracy. Club selection is key because most play uphill—you may get the 5 percent more carry for altitude, but it is easily offset by the elevation gain.

Wasatch Mountain course plays up Snake Creek Valley

I am struggling to find a California or Nevada equivalent in terms of the layout. I have played almost all of the Truckee area courses and most have fairways with some elevation change, but nothing like what we saw at the Mountain course. I would say the same for the Tri-Valley country clubs such as Castlewood or Blackhawk.

I understand why our playing partner, Tom, drove over from Park City to play the Mountain course and had no interest in the Lakes.

Tom and Bob, our playing partners, are lifelong friends who grew up as neighbors, played sports in high school and then married sisters. Tom vacations in the Park City area yearly. Between the timeshares he owns and properties his kids own, Tom travels once a month to play golf. He has traveled widely—he was just back from Maui and Kapalua and had an Indian Wells resort towel on his bag.

For his money, he said you can’t beat the Branson, Mo. area courses, with many owned by Bass Pro Shops founder, Johnny Morris. Morris also developed Big Cedar Mountain in the Ozarks, site of a PGA Champions event featuring its Jack Nicklaus-designed par 3 course.

The Mountain course is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. There are only three sets of tees—it plays 6,459 from the tips (70.4, 131) and 5,787 from the whites (67.2, 120).

 

The only non-state-owned course in the area is Crater Springs located on the historic Homestead Resort. It’s celebrating its 28th year of operation. It was designed by PGA pro Bruce Summerhays, who built a great deal of flexibility into the course.

From the tips, it’s 7,095 yards with a daunting slope of 147 and a rating of 73.5. From the whites, it plays 6,595 yards with a slope of 131 and a rating of 68.9. The course starts on the Homestead grounds and then turns up the hill for holes 2-7. On the front side, water only comes into play only on Nos. 1, 3, and 5—stay tuned for the back.

Swiss-style homes overlook 5th green

No. 4 plays uphill at 403 yards, while No. 5 is a par 5 that doglegs sharply to the right. It plays 600 from the tips on the highest point on the course. It is deservedly the No. 1 handicap with a lake guarding the left side of the green.

No. 9 takes you back to the clubhouse and sets up a very different back nine.

Summerhays took full advantage of Snake Creek to route holes 11-13 among the wetlands before venturing out in the pasture lands and then returning the wetlands for 17 and 18.

It makes for an enjoyable and challenging round. Even from the middle tees, there are forced carries in the wetlands and creeks cross the fairways or guard the greens.

The GPS is helpful, but it is an older system without touch screens to calculate current yardages. The system in our cart checked out too frequently to read “yardages unavailable.” It was random, but bothersome when it did occur.

Like the two 36-hole complexes in the Wasatch State Park, Crater Springs welcomes corporate outings and tournaments.

Homes border many holes at Crater Springs

While there, we also had to check out The Homestead Crater, a natural hot spring inside a crater open to the sky. As a routine user of our hydro-spa at home, I am used to the benefits of soaking in hot water. This was a different experience—for $18 each ($14 through Groupon) you get 40 minutes in the water. Lifejackets are mandatory and there is little to do or see once you are in the water, but it is relaxing to simply float in the 96-degree water. Crater personnel also will train people in scuba diving so that’s a delightful temperature water to learn a new skill—snorkeling masks also are available.

By Tim Hunt

 

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