ST. GEORGE Golf in this desert wonderland just took a step up by adding a caste system, if you will.
The new Ledges in Snow Canyon opened more than a month ago, and its $3 million clubhouse is sleek and beautiful. Already selling memberships, the Ledges is headed toward privatization some day, so the pass for public use is right now.
Entrada, site of the women's Mountain West Conference championships this weekend, is by far the best manicured course in southern Utah since Troon management took over three years ago. It will absolutely be private in six months.
After Oct. 1, 2006, the only way to play Entrada is if you are a member, a guest of a member who is playing in your foursome, or if you buy a golf package that is part of the resort offering linked to staying at the Inns at Entrada, also under Troon management.
There is talk of adding another 18-hole course, possibly a Fazio design, right next to Entrada, as that property is headed for exclusivity and a destination golf atmosphere similar to stops in Scottsdale, Ariz. The $9 million clubhouse at Entrada is one of the classiest in the state. It oozes the look of money, big money.
The net result in St. George will be club atmospheres added to Bloomington Country Club, where golf has been locked out from outsiders. And, gulp, it will be expensive.
Because there is a market in this burgeoning community for a private golf club experience, now that closed-gate communities are popping up like jackrabbits. Upscale houses approaching a million dollars or more are being erected as fast as land is available in St. George, part of the migration from California through Las Vegas to the Beehive State. Most of the land is gone and now the property rush is headed up Snow Canyon and into Washington and Hurricane.
Joe Morris, manager of the Inns at Entrada, estimates the lavish cottages that line the No. 9 fairway will be filled with the elite top 5 to 10 percent of Entrada regulars who are sold on the atmosphere and golf.
Troon has poured money and time into Entrada. During wintertime, this is more than evident when compared to other Dixie courses. It isn't even close.
"There are plans for even more construction around the property, and we haven't even begun to market what we offer," Morris said.
Troon wouldn't sink the dough into Entrada at this rate unless there was a payoff coming, and population growth figures, mixed with projected economic indicators of who those new move-ins are and what they have to spend, clearly leads the way.
Coral Canyon is a popular golf stop in St. George, one that quickly found favor with the public and groups who book vacations through Golf Mesquite and Red Rocks Golf Trail. These are co-op groups that cater to the demand for desert golf during winter months, a ticket that's becoming hotter by the month.
The Ledges and Entrada are also part of those co-ops. But they are separating themselves right now.
The Ledges, a course linked to real estate development, has a sleepy front nine that sets the stage for a breathtaking back that borders red cliffs, buttes, washes and beautiful Snow Canyon. While the back needs some growth and time to fill out, the Ledges is in full operation and accepting all comers. There is talk of staging some UGA championships at the Ledges in the near future.
Ledges director of golf Coby Cowan reports club memberships are moving right along and there will come a time it will be private. If the model home just off the left side fairways of holes 11 and 12 is any indication of the expected neighborhood, it will be as upper class as anything this side of Las Vegas.
The bottom line is Utah is a bargain land for golf in terms of green fees and quality of courses, but there are some upper crust courses like Ledges and Entrada that will soon be beyond the reach of the ordinary player without a club-carrying ticket.St. George. It's no longer just a place to stop for gas and snacks on the way to Vegas. And for golf? Now there are layers upon layers, with no end in sight.