I am going to admit it right off the top: I’ve had worse assignments over the course of my career as a sportswriter at The Salt Lake Tribune.
Much worse, although this particular one hasn’t been good for the ol’ waistline, and this article obviously isn’t in the sports section.
My task was simple, sort of: Find which of Utah’s many wonderful, public-access golf courses serve up the best food. It was a toughie, but somebody had to do it, right?
So which course won in our very non-scientific research? The “study” included dozens of personal visits and requests for reader input on Twitter and blogs.
Will you settle for a three-way tie?
The inaugural Best Golf Course Food in Utah awards go to the Canyon Pines Cafe at Mountain Dell Golf Course in Parley’s Canyon, the new Pheasant Coop eatery at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course in Orem and the Fish Rock Grille at the Ledges Golf Club near Saint George.
Almost every course serves up hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries, so keep reading to find out which courses have the best of those.
Overall, however, I found Mountain Dell, Sleepy Ridge and The Ledges had that little something extra, be it the blackened chicken wrap and spectacular views from the patio at Mountain Dell, the famed sweet potato fries and ribs with watermelon barbecue sauce at the Pheasant Coop or the drive-up window at The Ledges, where the huge breakfast burrito will keep you going for 18 holes, or at least until lunchtime.
Canyon Pines Cafe at Mountain Dell Golf Course
Generally, golf courses don’t own and operate the eateries on their property. They lease them out to private businesses, such as Red Onion Catering, which is the food concessionaire at Salt Lake City-owned courses Bonneville, Glendale and Rose Park.
However, the menus and ownership at the city’s Wingpointe — which has some of the best breakfasts you’ll find anywhere — and Mountain Dell are different. And it is at Mountain Dell’s Canyon Pines restaurant where manager Amanda Blank serves up Reubens, pulled pork sandwiches, buffalo wings and the delectable “Canyon Pines Burger,” for $7.50.
Made-to-order deli sandwiches, fresh ingredients and the ability to eat out on the patio east of the clubhouse also make the dining experience at Mountain Dell memorable, Blank said.
Pheasant Coop at Sleepy Ridge Golf Course
A 30-year veteran in the restaurant business, Craig Borlik started the Pheasant Coop (named after the pheasant farm that once inhabited the land near Utah Lake that Sleepy Ridge was built upon) in March as an offshoot of his successful State Street Feed & Supply catering company. Borlik, who once worked as actor Robert Redford’s chef, calls the offerings at his first foray into golf course cafes as “classic comfort food, but with a current twist.”
Along with the aforementioned ribs and sweet potato fries, the shrimp Caesar salad and chicken chipotle wrap are very good, but a bit on the pricy side.
Another unique feature: A sign on the ninth tee at Sleepy Ridge promises golfers that they can phone in their order before they tee off, and “if it is not ready [at the turn], it is free.”
Borlik said the promise is inspired by the “Lightning Lunch” promotion Applebees used to run, having opened a franchise of that chain in Orem years ago.
“We don’t win all the time, which is OK, if we are busy,” he said.
Fish Rock Grille at the Ledges Golf Club
Longtime Tribune reader and avid golfer Presten Norton of Sandy, a Saint George native, says he would put the food at The Ledges up against any course in the state “and they’d win in a landslide.”
Norton recommends getting the breakfast burrito during warmups, one of the many beverages available at the turn, and a scrumptious Reuben in the elegant dining room when your round is over.
Saint George is Utah’s golf destination to many, and the food at all of the area’s courses is generally pretty good.
Sunbrook deserves a mention because the 27-hole course serves breakfast all day, and the french toast sticks are good any time. The Sunbrook menu also has more offerings than any course in the state, it seems.
OK, now for some more specific honors:
Perhaps it is because I’ve enjoyed so many while covering Utah State Amateurs at Wasatch Mountain State Park and Soldier Hollow over the years, but I’m going to say the Park Cafe at Wasatch and the Grill at Soldier Hollow serve up the best burgers in the state. The restaurants at the state-owned courses just a few miles apart in Midway have the same ownership and menus.
The meat is ground on-site and the burgers come with all the toppings — tomato, lettuce, pickles, onions, etc. As a bonus, they are accompanied by a good portion of homemade fries.
Thanksgiving Point’s Hall of Fame Grill in Lehi also presents a great hamburger, the “Big T Burger,” but at $10 it is a tad over-priced, as is the $9.50 “Big Bertha” hot dog.
Many golfers say the best public-access course in the state is Hobble Creek in Springville (I chose Hurricane’s Sand Hollow last year when I reported on playing every course in Utah), but the canyon layout’s snack bar, called the “Wedge Grill,” is just average, except for the barbecue ranch burger, which comes with a side and a drink for just $7.99.
Then again, are you greeted by a humongous, stuffed elk head at any other golf course snack bar in Utah?
Best hot Dogs
Reader Justin Woodland told me the “Big Dog” served by The Barn Golf Club in Pleasant View (north of Ogden) is the best in the state, so I made the drive up to Weber County to check it out myself. He was right, and at just $3.75, the price was right, too.
Taylor Van Hooser, the cook, served my grilled dog up with jalapeños, relish and onions on a toasted bun. Worth the trip, and the course is one the state’s best-kept secrets.
The “Ridge Dog,” a foot-long hot dog on a foot-long bun at The Ridge Golf Course in West Valley City is also good, thanks in part to a vast array of serve-yourself toppings available near the counter. Nearby Stonebridge’s 28th Hole Grill lists the Chicago Dog at $2.50 as its house speciality, and it is also a keeper.
Glenmoor Golf Course in South Jordan also does dogs right.
Wait a minute. Didn’t Golf Digest’s August 2009 issue about the best municipal golf bargains in the country list Bountiful Ridge and note that the course has “a snack bar chili-cheese dog that will make you forget your name?”
A plaque on the snack bar’s wall even says so. Unfortunately, we have to put Bountiful Ridge down for a double-bogey because the item is no longer on the menu.
Best french fries
Sleepy Ridge’s Pheasant Coop has the delightful sweet potato fries, but for best golf course fries in the state, and the best value, head off the beaten path a bit to Payson’s Gladstan Golf Course and order up a batch of “Brew City Fries.”
Doused with Morton’s Season-All salt, they are reasonably priced at $1 per basket and go well with the course’s malibu chicken sandwich.
I’ve also had good golf course fries at the Mountain View Cafe in West Jordan, which reminds customers that “Tipping is not just for cows.”
Best patio views
As mentioned, Mountain Dell has the best patio views in the state, the best place to cool off with a beverage after a long round and take in the surroundings.
A couple of Salt Lake County-owned courses, Old Mill and South Mountain, also have excellent eateries and world-class views. It’s also hard to beat the atmosphere and patio views at Park City Municipal Golf Course’s Bandanas Bar & Grill.
Best golf course food in Utah
Mountain Dell Golf Course (Salt Lake City), Links at Sleepy Ridge (Orem), The Ledges of Saint George
Best patio views
Mountain Dell, South Mountain Golf Club (Draper), Park City Municipal
Wasatch Mountain State Park (Midway) and Soldier Hollow Golf Club (Midway)
Best hot dogs
The Barn Golf Club (Ogden), The Ridge Golf Club (West Valley City), Glenmoor Golf Course (South Jordan)
Gladstan Golf Club (Payson), Links at Sleepy Ridge, Mountain View Golf Course (West Jordan)