Springville • Of all the vantage points for autumn scenery in Utah, the best might be the Sand Trap.
The cafe in Hobble Creek Golf Course’s clubhouse overlooks No. 10, a par-3 hole that plays downhill to a green surrounded by trees with varied colors that are just now emerging.
The Utah High School Activities Association made this discovery nearly 50 years ago, moving the golf season from spring to fall, when courses were less crowded and the weather was more predictable. The bonus, as golfers of all ages have learned, is the views that hillside and canyon courses offer. They become especially spectacular in the calendar window when the leaves change.
The way the yellow, orange and red leaves frame the green fairways of Wasatch Mountain GC in Midway “will almost take your breath away,” said assistant professional Bret Weston.
Hobble Creek, Wasatch Mountain and Salt Lake City’s Mountain Dell are the traditional answers whenever Utah public-course golfers are asked to rank the best fall landscapes. In an informal Salt Lake Tribune survey this month, Gladstan in Payson and Mt. Ogden completed the top five, amid a lot of competition.
A closer look at those five, plus others that merited consideration:
The logic seemed sound. A golf venue located 12 miles from the BYU campus was likely to be wide open on a mid-September Saturday when the Cougars were playing in a televised matchup of Top 25 football teams. The afternoon’s filled tee sheet defied that theory. “It never stops,” head pro Craig Norman marveled, and that was before the leaves really started turning.
The natural setting of Hobble Creek Canyon distinguishes Norman’s course, where the hillside forms a southern boundary. So the maple trees are visible on almost every shot, starting with the first drive of the day. The par-3 holes have their own striking landscapes, with trees framing the greens.
The 36-hole facility in Wasatch Mountain State Park is another phenomenon of Utah golf, a destination course that is popular all season. The fall makes the Mountain Course particularly appealing. The elevated tee of the par-5 No. 12 has “a magnificent view of the course, the park, Midway and the Heber Valley,” Weston said.
The Lake Course is more of a parkland layout, but also is lined with a variety of trees.
Salt Lake City’s 36-hole facility might offer the country’s best golf-course scenery that’s visible from an interstate highway. I-80′s westbound route is especially rewarding, starting with views of the par-3 No. 13 on the Canyon Course, at the eastern edge of the property.
As for actually playing Mountain Dell, each 18-hole layout has its own distinctions, while overlapping just enough to keep any golfer from feeling cheated. A good example is the Lake Course’s No. 17, a downhill par-3 that plays into a bowl of trees.
Located near Payson Canyon in the Elk Ridge area, Gladstan markets itself as a “hidden gem.” Loyal patrons of the municipal course are torn between promoting the course and wanting to keep it a secret; they certainly responded favorably to The Tribune’s survey.
The layout winds through canyons and valleys, with several back-nine holes tucked into the mountainside. Every tee shot on Nos. 10-15 comes with a remarkable vista. The elevated 12th green provides a look at the entire course and the valley below, while the back tee of the par-5 No. 14 offers a 360-degree view of the landscape.
The same elements that make Mt. Ogden a challenging course create a whole other dimension in the fall on the east bench of Ogden. The trees encroaching the fairways on both sides become as much of an attraction as a hazard.
Asked to pinpoint his favorite views on the course at this time of year, Mt. Ogden pro Todd Brenkman said, “All the holes are great.”
Bountiful Ridge: Similar hillside topography and tree-lined design as Mt. Ogden, although the fairway widths are generally more accommodating.
Park City: The higher elevation naturally causes the colors to change earlier in the season than at valley venues.
Soldier Hollow: It may seem odd to include a course where trees don’t come into play, but the hillside — especially looking toward Mt. Timpanogos on Nos. 15 and 16 of the Gold Course — creates a scenic backdrop in Midway.
Wolf Creek Resort: The canyon setting in Eden near Pineview Reservoir is always picturesque. That’s even more true in the fall, with the back nine winding through the trees.
Sand Hollow: Much like Soldier Hollow, the absence of trees is not necessarily a drawback in southern Utah. The late-afternoon sunlight in the fall adds to the contrast between the red rocks and green fairways.