IT FEELS LIKE a scene out of a G-rated version of Caddyshack. A dog lopes aimlessly on the fourth-tee green. A pack of teens throws Frisbees in the fairway. And a family of four with a toddler—none of whom is wearing shoes—putts on Hole 5. A runner jogs through as the dad takes his turn, but instead of giving the jogger a talking to, he offers a friendly wave as he passes. “This isn’t a golf course,” laughs Red Ledges Manager John Johnson. “It’s a golf park. We don’t have a lot of rules.”
Red Ledges’ golf park (205 N Red Ledges Blvd, Heber City, 877.733.5334), which opened to members last summer, and driving range/entertainment facilities like Topgolf, are part of a larger trend going on in golf right now aimed at demystifying this traditionally elitist sport and, hopefully, getting the next generation out on the links.
With its tony homes and stellar 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Signature course, Red Ledges seems like the last place you’d find anything other than serious linksmen and women. But the golf park there was designed by none other than the legendary Golden Bear, who has jumped on board with the concept, recognizing that the sport he loves is not engaging for newcomers because, well, it’s just too hard. “Jack talks about making the game inviting to the beginning golfer, and, while there will always be a place for competitive, pro-level golf courses,” Johnson says, “he also believes we’ve got to make room for people to fall in love with the sport.”
The Red Ledges golf park consists of 12 par-3-only holes that players can navigate on GolfBoards, surfboard-like vehicles that make moving from hole to hole more fun, says Johnson. Greens are large and are also sloped to move the ball toward the holes. Gone too are the stuffy country club rules. There’s no dress code; sneakers, flip-flops, and even bare feet are encouraged, as are pets and family. “This is a beautiful, green space; we want people to use it,” Johnson says. “They don’t even have to come out and play golf. They can just hang out. Basically, it’s a park, and we want people to use it like one.”
Topgolf (920 Jordan River Blvd, Midvale, 801.208.2600) is helping revive the game, too, but by stripping golf down to its individual elements—primarily driving—and presenting it in a social, nightclub-like atmosphere. Here’s how it works: players rent bays, furnished with upholstered furniture reminiscent of a bowling lane, but swankier. The front of the bay is open to a huge driving range facing the Wasatch Mountains where players hit balls into a series of targets, each with its own point ranking. And then the wait staff comes by to serve players food and, of course, drinks.
But Topgolf isn’t all about the party. There, beginners and seasoned duffers alike can take high-tech lessons focusing on the fundamentals of the swing, designed to improve basic levels of competence. And for the kids, Topgolf offers seasonal academies that consist of several half-day clinics for 6- to 12-year-olds. “We’ve made the game of golf accessible and approachable to everyone,” says Topgolf Director of Corporate Communications Adrienne Chance. “We foster a come-as-you-are social environment where people can hang out and have fun. We also offer more competitive experiences and lessons for those wanting to improve their game. Our philosophy has always been that there is more than one way to enjoy this game.”
PC’s Public Links
Red Ledges and Topgolf aren’t the only local facilities attempting to shed golf’s stuffy rep. Area courses offer plenty of fun learn-to opportunities, including the following:
Park City Golf Club
Park City’s namesake golf course offers camps for juniors (ages 7–12) and teens (ages 13–17) to encourage the next generation of golfers. For adults, the Happy Hour league (which meets once a month, June through September) is a perennial favorite. Men’s leagues, women’s leagues, and a junior league are also available. 1541 Thaynes Canyon Dr, 435.615.5800, parkcity.org/departments/park-city-golf-club
Wasatch Mountain Golf Course
Set among the stunning, unspoiled scenery of Wasatch Mountain State Park, Wasatch Mountain Golf Course has two public courses with low fees designed to encourage parents with young children (ages 6 and up) to come and play. They offer a youth pass for $250 for play at both Wasatch and Soldier Hollow (below). 975 W Golf Course Dr, Midway, 435.654.0532, wasatchgolfcourse.com
Soldier Hollow Golf Course
Built as part of the effort to maintain the Soldier Hollow Olympic Legacy (Soldier Hollow was the site of cross-country ski events in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games), this Olympic-themed course offers a unique configuration with two courses, “Gold” and “Silver.” Of the two, the Silver course, naturally, is the more forgiving and is an exciting place for entry-level golfers to try the sport. 1370 W Soldier Hollow Lane, Midway, 435.654.7442, soldierhollowgolf.com