Utah Course Review: Coral Canyon Golf Club

By Michael Hegarty, Contributor

WASHINGTON, UT - Just two hours from the lights and glitz of Las Vegas, a new golfing community is rising from the red clay dust and black rocks in the middle of the barren desert and sprouting a hidden gem of a course.

Coral Canyon Golf Club, just north of St. George in Washington, Utah, is a beautifully challenging course with forced carries to pristine bluegrass fairways and large bent greens, lots of vegetation and panoramic views of the vibrant mountainous desert at an elevation of 2,800 in Southern Utah's "Color Country."

Part of a 2,600 acre master-planned community by SunCor Development Company, the par-72 championship course was designed in 2000 by Keith Foster who carefully placed the 80 acres of turf, 55 bunkers and two lakes into the native desert without disturbing the indigenous landscape that is intersected with rocky mountains, deep canyons and ravines, and a myriad of diverse vegetation.

Coral Canyon, located off Interstate-15 at the Zion National Park exit and also close to the Grand Canyon, has a high season greens fee, with discounts for Washington County and Coral Canyon residents (for Vegas travelers, there is a time change when you cross into Utah so be mindful of this when making tee times and departing for them).

The dips and valleys can be felt on the first tee, part of back-to-back par-5s that opens with an elevated tee box overlooking a majority of the course that can be played to a wide variety of length thanks to five sets of tees ranging from 7,029 yards to 4,125 yards.

No. 1 is a slight dogleg left at 485 yards from the championship tees (the markers used for yardage in this review). The second hole plays to 548 yards which is split in half between the target fairways and a pair of bunkers just short right of the green.

Coral Canyon's most scenic hole is the 110-yard sixth. This par-3 is a wedge shot over a deep ravine that doesn't offer any bailout with 20-foot red rock encompassing the back of the green.. The tournament tees offer a different look at the flag as the tee box (at 122 yards) is lower than the regular markers and brings a lot more vegetation into play, not to mention even more of the ravine.

No. 7 is the toughest hole on the side, a 432-yard par-4 with bunkers waiting for errant tee shots and a long approach to the green that breaks sharply to the left.

The next hole is drivable, but a huge boulder sits just off the tee box to impede any low drives and a well-positioned bunker guards the front of the green. The canyon winds around to the left side, so play it right of the green for a short chip.

The ninth hole is the only one where water comes into play. The lake runs the right side of the fairway at the dogleg all the way to the green. It's a decent sized par-4 at 405 yards and you can cut the corner but be sure that you don't bite off more than you can handle as the rocky canyon swallows any balls hit short of the fairway.

The back nine - which features an equal number of par-3s, 4s, and 5s - begins with another elevated tee box to a straight-away par-4 at just 375 yards. It's a good playable hole, especially if you take advantage of the well-stocked hot dogs at the turn (that come buried in all the ingredients that make a grilled dog at the course one of the game's more fulfilling treasures).

Holes 13-15 are the longest at each of the pars: A 202-yard par-3 (229 yards from the way back) with a large bunker on the right side of the green and a slope that carries away shots hit long or left; a 554-yard par-5 with a slight right-to-left bend in the fairway; and a 455-yard par-4 that has a generous fairway and just one bunker blocking the right side of the green.

The final group of holes is a pair of par-5s sandwiching a reasonable 188-yard par-3 that is downhill, and usually downwind. Choose your club carefully on No. 17 and watch out for the trio of bunkers on the left side of the green.

No. 18 is a good battle home, a 533-yarder, slightly uphill and with the mountainous slope on the left side throwing shots hit that way deeper into the vegetated trouble, including a dry ravine. Approaches to the green, which can be reached in two, must work their way through a narrow opening between a bunker on the left shy of the putting surface and a vegetated outcropping on the right.

All around the final hole - and the course - the beauty of the area surrounds you. So if you enjoy playing golf in desolate areas, Coral Canyon offers one that's tough to beat. But as time goes by, the loneliness of the course will eventually be overcome with life as the master-planned community's plans include residential homes, schools, churches, parks, restaurants, and retail and office space, plus plenty of trails to explore the beautiful landscape - terrain that well-traveled golfers can discover today.

Tournament 7,029 yards; 73.0 rating; 137 slope
Championship 6,515 / 70.4 / 135
Back 5,953 / 67.9 / 130
Forward 5,026 / 69.1 / 130
Junior 4,215 / NA / NA

Michael Hegarty, Contributor

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