Golf in the Wasatch

Spring has come, the grass is riz. I wonder where my putter is.

Once again, it’s that time of year. The remnants of the black snow are melting leaving odds and ends of buried treasures, or bits of trash on the curbs. The birds chirp a little louder in the mornings. And blades of grass are popping up along the fairways. It’s Spring. It’s golf. It’s time.

“Golf…is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well”. – P.G.Wodehouse

Perhaps you were lucky enough to spend the winter with John Paupore, the Director of Golf at Red Ledges. While Red Ledges is a private course, the winter indoor school he runs is open to everyone. The school offers both group and private instruction, and a variety of clinic programs. During the colder months you can stay warm and enjoy the scenery while you practice your shots inside; hitting balls through two garage doors that are open to the snow-covered course.

John, a golfer since his dad put a putter in his hands at the age of seven, is feeling the opening day magic start to build. While a day on the course in spring is particularly weather-dependent, John has a smile in his voice as he talks about the start of a new season as a “rebirth of everything.” February is when everyone starts to get ready for it all to begin again. He is ready.

There will be a concern about carts this Spring. As sanitation and safety have come to the top of everyone’s list, the four golf courses in the Heber Valley — Red Ledges, Soldier Hollow, Wasatch State Park Golf Course, and The Homestead — have all adopted special procedures to ensure golfers are comfortable.

Chris Stover, the golf pro at Wasatch Park, knows golfers are concerned about COVID. He emphasizes Wasatch is in compliance with all state guidelines. He believes “going down the rabbit hole” to revamp his business model during last year’s pandemic season has paid off for both patrons and staff. Masks are on when in the building but not mandatory on the course. Carts are washed and sanitized; tee times are spread out to allow golfers to be at safe distances while waiting to tee off.

Spring brings a new crop of golfers to the Heber Valley courses. While there are always familiar returning golfers, Chris Newson, pro at Soldier Hollow, thinks he will see more golfers this season as everyone has spent the winter cooped up. While the courses in Wasatch County regularly see destination-oriented golfers and those coming from Salt Lake City, Chris anticipates welcoming a new crop of golfers looking to escape the indoors. Work will be starting soon to get both the Gold and Silver courses at Soldier Hollow in shape. For those unfamiliar with the courses; Soldier Hollows Gold Course is a mountain course with significant elevation change throughout the course and within each hole. The Silver Course is a more open, parkland-style course with shorter and wider fairways, and an amazing view of Mount Timpanogos.

Not only is spring a time to work on your swing, but it is also a time to see old friends and do a little of everyone’s favorite winter sport “bench golfing”. Spring fever ramps up as the PGA Tour starts, and once the winter weather breaks it is full speed ahead.

Soldier Hollow is a public State-run facility and follows all guidelines and mandates issued by the State for a safe and fun environment. While 2020 was a year in flux, Chris is confident that his teams are well-prepared to meet the new season.

The start of the golfing season provides a wonderful opportunity to go shopping for: new shirts, new clubs, new shoes and of course a new golf hat. Mike Jurca, head golf pro at The Homestead, is looking forward to the pro shop, cart barn, and locker rooms, receiving a face-lift in the near future. New ownership in the last 15 months has committed to setting The Homestead apart from other public courses. Their goal is to create a high-end experience at a reasonable price for the public course golfer as well as provide a high-end resort experience for guests.

Even though the weather is hit and miss, Mike says the phone starts ringing towards the latter part of winter. Golfers are looking for opening dates or trying to secure that first tee time before the spring green has sprung.

How do those greens stay so beautiful? While many of us are still on the ski slopes, the golf courses are getting ready for a spring opening. The main ingredient is not the grass seed. It is the fertilizer and, of course, Mother Nature’s contribution — water. Lots of water. Should everything turn brown, they can always paint. Yes, paint. Many golf courses use paint to deliver better fairway playing conditions while avoiding overseeding and reducing their consumption of water, fertilizer, fuel, and other resources.

“As you walk down the fairway of life, you must stop and smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.” – Ben Hogan

You don’t have to go to the Masters in Augusta, GA to smell the roses or view one of the greatest landscaping gifts we’ve ever been given. Each year the majesty and natural landscape of Wasatch County becomes a mecca, drawing thousands of golfers from around the world — this is their place of choice.

Golf is a game of integrity. And bonding. Friendships made on the green have lasted for decades and lifelong golfing partners have been created on every course. Business deals are solidified. And special bonds between family members are formed.

It’s Spring. It’s golf. It’s time.

Time to reconnect and renew. Time to take a lesson. Time to get out on the fairways, take off that mask, and shout “I love this game!”