Surrounded by red sandstone cliffs, the Entrada course at Snow Canyon Country Club was unveiled in the mid 1990s. It’s an exciting layout that weaves around a desert landscape with fairways skirting black lava beds and rugged arroyos.
Most of the fairways wind through a residential development and water hazards come into play at several holes, but the signature feature of the course is the black lava flow known as “The Devil’s Triangle” from the 15th to the 17th.
Other noteworthy holes include the 410-yard downhill 2nd, which plays to a peninsula green; the 613-yard 9th, where desert scrub flanks either side of the fairway; and the 229-yard 14th, requiring a forced carry over a sea of sagebrush to reach the green.
The club is private, but guests of the Inn at Entrada have playing privileges, allowing golfers to stay and play if they book a package at a first class facility featuring beautifully appointed villas, indoor and outdoor pools as well as tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts.
Tom Doak made a point of playing Entrada at Snow Canyon in 2016 and awarded the course a rating of five out of ten. He commented as follows in his Christmas 2017 Confidential Guide update:
“The first desert course in Utah, the Entrada resort and housing development sits in a broad valley up against striking rock formations to the north. Many holes are laid out around desert washes before the “Devil’s Triangle,” the card-wrecking three-hole stretch from the 15th to 17th set in a black lava flow. The visual excitement of these holes is offset by the need to play very cautiously if you want to finish any of them without taking a “desert rule” drop.”
In November 2019 it was announced that David McLay Kidd would spearhead a ten-month, $7m course renovation project, starting in November 2020.
One of the two private courses of St. George, though getting access to play it publicly is surprisingly easy. But first the course itself. A Johnny Miller Design, it delivers some quality golf with many hallmarks to expect from the area: dramatic rises and falls throughout the course. It says something that Disney chose to film High School Musical 2 here, as it does have some true standout holes. As I played it in a shotgun round format for a UGA day, reviewing the 9s properly is tricky, but I'll do my best.
The Front 9 provides some quality holes, where careful shot placement is required on some, but others have large amounts of room for error. Also has quite a bit of water in play for many holes.
The Back 9 is pretty similar, except for the signature "Devils Triangle" trio. They deserve some great praise for how immaculately they were built into the beautiful black-rock landscape. However, they are not the kindest designs, as the player that struggles to reliably hit straight will lose many golf balls to these rocks.
-9th: A great finish to the front 9, it's a downhill dog-leg right par 5. A fun way to end the 9.
-15th: The first of the Devil's Triangle, a long-hitter could conceivably drive the green. The smart play though is a middle iron to the center, then approach the green.
-16th: The second of the Devil's Triangle, and while it's technically the shortest of the par 5s on the course, the small fairways and hole length all but guarantee some lost balls for all but the best and luckiest players. A par here is well earned.
-17th: The last of the Devil's Triangle, it's a longer par 4 got a decently wide area for the drive. Still don't be surprised to lose a ball to a nasty slice or hook though.
A great course to play if you have the connections or a friend or wife to say at the Inn at Entrada with (though the latter option is very expensive). Otherwise, the layout is great but mostly not exceptional for the region. And the fact that the 3 standout holes can easily be among the course's most aggravating mean that it might not be for everyone. While I'm glad to have played it, the difficulty of playing it, both in access and course difficulty, meant it wasn't high on my priority list for replays.
However, this review comes with a big asterisk. The course is currently under renovation by David McLay Kidd of Brandon Dunes fame, who seems to understand the fundamental problems with his statements declaring a desire to offer more options on the course. How much the course changes as a result has yet to be seen, but for me it provides a decent excuse to check out the course again in the future.
Playability and fun are two central elements in attracting players -- especially those looking to golf as an ongoing recreational pursuit. Brian's earlier review highlighted "fundamental design flaws" and if one reads the quote from the club's Website from David McLay Kidd who's been hired to upgrade the course you see something of a similar statement -- albeit via a more diplomatic bent.
"When a golf hole offers options on how to play it, the game become so much more interesting," said McLay Kidd. "We want to increase those options at Entrada, allowing players to use their imagination, creativity and skills to play hole and attempt to score." The planned $7 million project clearly is a big-time financial investment but when you add things up it's clear Entrada as originally constituted could be nightmarish for those having golf skills of a lesser order.
Kidd has clearly shown a propensity in maxing out the fun side of things with his stunning achievement at Gamble Sands in Washington. However, it's important to point out Kidd needed to see things in a far broader manner after many had panned his efforts at Tetherow in Oregon for being too demanding and too limiting. Clearly, Kidd , readily admitted, a new pathway was needed in architecture with an anchored emphasis on fun golf where multiple ways to play shots and holes certainly resonated with a broader slice of golfers.
Entada's hiring is a clear admission that the original layout, while clearly challenging was also far from being elastic enough in terms of overall playability. Brian stated correctly that the famed lava holes provided too much of an "either or" result. The intimidation factor for someone not having a good day driving the ball would likely mean a steady diet of reloading as errant shots would forever disappear. That's not a formula for repeat play and therefore the hiring of Kidd to change the storyline makes perfect sense.
Golf clubs do not sustain themselves simply by entertaining single digit handicaps. To be successful in a broader and more lasting manner -- it requires golf architecture that enhances the overall experience so a desire for repeat play is promoted to the max.
In the different times I've played Entrade I was impressed with the challenge but that's when viewed through the eyes of a low handicap golfer. Hole such as the quality par-4 2nd and the long dog-leg right pat-5 9th are without question memorable.
But the original layout is not helped in having a number of holes on the outward side bracketed by housing as seen with the par-3 5th and par-4s at the 6th and 7th and par-3 8th.
The inward half is less impacted by the clutter. The par-5 11th is appropriately challenging and the long par-3 14th is a most vexing target with a green having a higher rejection rate than those applying to Harvard or Yale.
Entrada's fanfare is tied to the three holes that encompass "The Devil's Triangle" -- the 15th thru 17th -- and while the juxtaposition of the verdant fairway and the black lava rock is eye-catching -- so is the high probability those unable to control one's golf ball will make a fast donation into never / never land. In its own way the lava rock is the equivalent in having water penalty areas lined up on both sides just off the fairway. For a one time play the situation may be adrenaline pumping but doing so on a steady diet could likely mean utter exasperation.
How things come about with Kidd's involvement will be something to see. The broader St. George area is a fascinating locale and with other golf additions on the horizon the finished effort at Entrada has all the possibility in really adding to the overall draw the area provides.
We shall see.
M. James Ward
Entrada is one of the few private clubs in this area. The conditioning was absolutely spectacular. The front nine was very good, but it’s the back nine that features the memorable holes. unfortunately those holes were marred by fundamental design flaws making them almost unplayable. outrageously narrow fairways and even landing areas that were only 25 yards wide in spots made for a very frustrating experience. While the “lava triangle“ was certainly memorable and unique, fairways that are narrow and pitch to spit your ball into the lava or no fun to play. And on at least one of those holes, the proper play from the back tee would’ve been a 160 yard tee shot on a par four. I’m told the course is going to be shut down in November 2020 for a multi million dollar renovation led by David Maclay kidd. Will be interesting to see what is changed.