Monday, September 21, 2015

Review of Canyons Golf Course in Park City

This is a bit delinquent.  Julie, Cathy Clark and I played the Canyons golf course about two weeks ago.  I wanted to write up a review, but we headed out to the east coast and I got behind.

There is a very long history to this golf course.  It was supposed to be developed about a decade ago as part of the Canyons' master plan.  Unfortunately, there were all sorts of disputes about land agreements, several of which ended up in court.  Then American Ski Corp went out of business. Then the new owner, Talisker, leased everything out to Vail.  A decade late, the course is in place and playable.

It was actually completed last fall and they allowed one day of invitation-only play, but they really opened it up to the public late this spring. The course winds around the lower areas of Canyons ski resort.  I have to give them credit for figuring out how to fit a course around all those buildings, which are surrounded by lots of steep mountains.  While an impressive achievement, it also resulted in a number of things I didn't like.

For being one year old, the course is in great shape.  As you can see from this photo of the first hole, the fairways look nice, especially for fall.  The grass on the greens is good, but the course definitely needs to settle in a bit.
The first thing you will notice playing the course is that there are some extreme elevation changes.  These make for spectacular scenery, but some fairly unpredictable golf shots.  In the photo below, we are aiming for the green in the middle of the photo, by hitting to the fairway on the left.

This photo also shows some of the issues.  The cart paths everywhere are fairly rough gravel roads.  They advertise this as "soft cart paths that you can play from."  There is no way in hell I would take a swing off one off these paths.  There is also a real gravel road running right along this fairway and we saw construction trucks driving through as we played.  The course distances aren't well marked and it isn't on any of our GPS systems yet.  I don't know how long that process normally takes.

There is a drink cart, but the elevations are so steep that the cart can't get to half of the front nine.  That's probably for the best.  Some of the cart paths wind up switchbacks so steep that you wouldn't want to drive them if you had been drinking.
Now my problems.  The course is very short.  Right now it is a par 70, with the tips playing less than 6300 yards.  To compensate for the shorter course, they designed the greens to be something like Extreme Putt Putt.  I regret having not taken some photos of the greens, but they normally have tier after tier with steep slopes between tiers.  This means that you may hit a nice lofting shot within 5 yards of the flag, only to have the ball roll 30 yards and you are off the green.  Now you get to judge the speed to putt the ball back up two or three tiers to get to the flag.  A mistake can result in a long putt ending up right where you started.

That's exactly what happened to me here.  This is a short par 5 (450 yards?) with a monstrous drop in elevation. You are aiming at the green to the left of these two lovely golf models.  My first tee shot was a nasty hook off to the left.  I teed up another and absolutely crushed it.  With the massive drop in elevation, it took forever to come down, but it ended up just short of the tree next to the green.  I was about 10-15 yards from the stick.  I made a decent chip, which for me is a rarity. The ball rolled onto the green and hit the side of the flag stick, deflecting it a bit left.  I thought I would have a 5 foot putt for a 3, but that isn't the way in extreme putt putt.  The ball slowly rolled down tier after tier, finishing about 30 yards away. It simply didn't feel a bit like golf.  I was so annoyed I just picked up my ball.

I played the rest of the round, enjoying the scenery, not keeping score, always looking for the windmill or the clowns mouth on the greens.
Just to reinforce my frustration, the golf Gods left a divot repair tool in the cart path, which my cart immediately found.  I have had problems with golf carts before, but never a flat tire.  The Canyons employees were great about getting us another cart quickly.

It is a great course to go play once.  The huge elevation changes and beautiful views of the Snyderville Basin make the course unique.  Just the same, I doubt I would ever put this course into my rotation.  I prefer Park City, Soldier Hollow, Wasatch and Mountain Dell better.  And if you can get on them, the numerous private courses like Red Ledges and Promontory, while difficult, are much more interesting as golf courses. 
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