HURRICANE, Utah -- It's always easy to say a golf course is an amazing traditional golf course -- or the design is an unbelievable links course. It's a whole different ball game when you can say both sentences about the same golf resort.
Welcome to Sand Hollow Resort in Hurricane, Utah, two hours north of Las Vegas. The 27-hole John Fought design is part of the Golf Mesquite Nevada group and, simply, has to be seen to be believed. Also in the Golf Mesquite Nevada group are Oasis Golf Club (Canyons and Palmer courses), CasaBlanca Golf Course, Coyote Springs Golf Club, Conestoga Golf Club, Coral Canyon Golf Course (in St. George, Utah), Falcon Ridge Golf Course and Palms Golf Club. In all, it's a golf group that will appeal to players of every ability.
But it's the 27 holes at Sand Hollow Resort that will provide jaw-dropping views and a golf experience that keeps getting better and better the further players get into the round.
While many golf courses rely on bells and whistles to impress players, Sand Hollow Resort's Championship course stands out with just the basics: Great conditioning, solid staff, wonderful views and ... best of all ... an amazing layout.
Colby Cowan, the head golf professional, talks about the challenges the golf course provides with the pride usually reserved for a new father.
"It's an amazing course," Cowan said. "The layout doesn't beat you up, but it's certainly a challenge. The front nine is pretty easy-going through the valley, but the back nine can be quite the test."
That's an understatement. The front nine weaves through a valley and sets players up for a nine-hole finish that has to be seen to be believed. The back nine includes a signature stretch of holes (forget one signature hole, this layout has a stretch of holes) that will both amaze and terrify players on the tee.
The 12th, 13th and 14th holes on the Championship course at Sand Hollow Resort are three of the best anywhere. All three provide forced carries and breath-taking views ... and that's just from the tee box. The holes also feature fairways and greens perched alongside cliffs with, probably, thousands of golf balls resting some 100 feet below. Needless to say, hitting the fairway on this stretch is paramount to scoring well and not depleting your supply of ammo.
The dynamic stretch of holes on the back starts with the 12th. This one will stick in your mind for a long time. From the championship tee, it's just a 452-yard, par-4. That's the good news. The bad news is there's a forced carry to a narrow fairway. The worse news is that a cliff runs all along the left side with a mountain guarding the right side. Add in the fact that the hole plays uphill all the way and you've got the makings of one tough golf hole.
The 12th is just one example of what a great golf course can -- and should -- be: a solid test of golf that is beautifully designed. And there are 17 other examples (26 counting the Links course) at Sand Hollow Resort.
"It's just an excellent layout," Cowan said. "Plus it's fun to play."
Don't forget Sand Hollow Resort's Links course
After you've tackled the Championship course, don't forget about the nine-hole Links course at Sand Hollow Resort. Windblown drifts and old-style sheep fencing add to the natural look and feel of the layout.
"It's our hidden gem," Cowan said. "It's a great addition to the resort and once people find out about it they want to play it. Once they play it they want to come back."
The bunkers aren't your typical sand bunkers ... not by any stretch. In fact, the bunkers consist of the natural red rock sand that covers the area.
Fought moved very little dirt when designing the course and it shows with the rolling fairways that provide players with an added challenge that just about no lie will be flat. "He tried to keep the setting as natural as possible and did a wonderful job of it," Cowan added. Players might stand a little above the ball, below the ball or with uphill and downhill lies. It's another added test that will bring out the best -- or worst -- in a player's game. Be prepared.
Hone your game at Sand Hollow Resort
Just when you thought you'd seen it all, there's another challenge awaiting you on Sand Hollow Resort's putting course. In the same style as St. Andrews' Himalayan Putting Course, this layout -- with tough contours and speedy greens -- will be enjoyable for everyone from youngsters to the best putters around.
It's not often the warmup area is almost as impressive as the course itself, but it is here. Two tiers of turf give players different angles and distances to work with every shot needed to tackle the round coming up.
Sand Hollow Resort: The verdict
No matter your taste in golf courses, Sand Hollow Resort fits the bill wonderfully. Mix and match the Championship course with the Links course for a nice change of pace, or do it right and play all 27 holes. "It's a challenging course for everyone, but it's still playable as well," Cowan said. "It's always in excellent shape and once people come out to play it, they want to come back. And you can't ask for more than that.