For your winter golfing fix, go west
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
There are a lot of times in Colorado when we can play golf every month of the year. You may have to travel to Denver or the Grand Junction area, but as a fanatic, playing golf in the winter is possible. Not so this year. The closest golf this winter without hoping a plane is southern Utah or northern Nevada just off Interstate 15. I suggest Mesquite, Nevada, and the Wolf Creek Golf Club (www.golfwolfcreek.com/) but you better still have some of that late 2007 season mojo left because this course isn’t for the rusty swing or faint-hearted.
I’ve been playing golf since I was 14 and it’s the first time I wished I had some Dramamine with me. It is the first time I have ever gotten dizzy playing golf. Boy was it fun.
I drove to Mesquite, which is about 6 hours from Grand Junction. It’s an easy drive, all interstate highway with particularly great scenery on the Interstate 70 leg from Green River to Richfield, Utah.
In Mesquite, during the high season winter and spring, rooms are cheap but not the golf. Wolf Creek Golf Club 18 hole rates range from around $110 (twilight rate) to nearly $200. The Virgin River casino rooms are about $30 a night.
Wolf Creek is more like a mountain bike ride or a ski run than a golf course, and just like either of those sports, you can readily choose the degree of difficulty you’d like to take on. But, unlike a lot of courses where you can usually play tees farther back on the course than your handicap suggests, you should not do so at Wolf Creek. I quote from their score card, “Play a realistic set of tees for your ability.” That same score card lists the back tees, rated 75.4 with a slope of 154, for the “professional player.”
Welcome to desert golf in southern Nevada. Tee box vertigo. You might have to learn how to breathe all over again. There’s breath-taking scenery each time you unleash a drive but you could just as easily be holding your breath until your ball safely finds green fairway just beyond that 200-foot deep desert wash.
Wolf Creek is on Golf Digest’s Best 100 Courses list and ranked second best course in Nevada by the magazine. Wolf Creek is cut into the hills near the gambling and golfing Mecca’s airport, which is situated to the northeast and well above the city of 18,000.
Cut is the defining word. Wolf Creek is a geological engineering marvel. Once you play it you will understand why they can get nearly $200 a round (in high season) to play the track. The course was in fabulous shape when I played it in mid-December. I lucked out. I attacked the course solo arriving just after 11:30 a.m., garnering the bargain rate of $80 ($110 in high season) for what they call “twilight rate.”
The nearest golfing humans was a twosome who teed off an hour ahead of me. By the second hole I had stripped off the warm up pants covering my shorts. The temperature was in the mid to upper 50s, not bad for late December. While I toured the course in just over three hours solo, don’t expect to spend less than 5 hours in a foursome on a typical day. This course demands your attention and course management here takes time, even for the best players.
I deliberately budgeted time and money to play the course twice to garner that valuable local knowledge. I enjoyed Wolf Creek a bit more on the second day even though we had cooler temperatures and wind. Even mild breezes can drastically affect the golf ball at Wolf Creek because of its high plateau location and plethora of altitude changes.
If there is one thing a round at Wolf Creek will teach you, it’s club selection. Some holes require as much as two or three clubs simply because of the drastic altitude changes. There are only a few absolutely blind shots. Bring a lot of golf balls. Any ball hit into the protected desert environs has to stay there unless you can reach it from the course with a ball retriever. There are lots of little round, dimpled grave markers in the protected area marking the remains of an errant shot.
There are a lot of other courses in the St. George/Mesquite area that make the trip south worth it. According to my friends, who have more experience in the area than me, an avid golfer should make time to play Falcon Ridge (Mesquite ” http://www.golffalcon.com), Entrada at Snow Canyon (St. George ” http://www.golfentrada.com), and Coral Canyon Golf Course (St. George ” http://www.coralcanyongolf.com), which are all now on my list to play. But I will always remember that it was Wolf Creek that got me hooked on winter golf in the area.
Oh, yeah, plan to make a dinner reservation at Katherine’s in the Casablanca resort hotel in Mesquite. I’d give Katherine’s four stars and put it up against any price comparable restaurant in Vail or Aspen. Besides, what better way is there to blow that skins money you won from your golf buddies on Wolf Creek Golf Club?
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Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon closed around 9 p.m. Thursday for a flash flood warning.