Battle starts at Soldier Hollow
It didn’t take long for the Soldier Hollow Golf Course to become the belle of the ball.
Just two years ago, the course located at the 2002 Olympic venue for cross-country skiing opened it’s greens to the public. This week, the vast double course in Midway will become the center of the Utah golf world by hosting the 2006 Utah State Amateur, July 5-7.
The use of a double course is something that the Utah Golf Association (UGA) tries to schedule intermittently for the country’s longest continuously running tournament. Nearby Wasatch Mountain State Park’s double course has hosted the tournament in previous years. Two courses mean more qualifiers, and with the tournament’s history, the opportunity is welcome one. This year, Soldier Hollow will welcome 250 golfers, about twice as many as usual. Players will be split and play on the Silver and Gold courses on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, the field will be cut to 31, who will enter match play on the Gold course.
According to Soldier Hollow head pro, Chris Newson, he had a feeling that his course would be selected to host the prestigious tourney at some point. The course has a good working relationship with the UGA and held the Mid Am Championship two years ago and the Utah-Arizona Shootout last year.
"We had a good experience, so they knew we could host this," Newson said. "I feel like we’ve been shaping up for this."
Still, Newson was honored that such a young facility would be selected. He was also excited that the UGA selected a public course rather than the usual private country club course. Most of all, he is eager to show off the beauty and challenge to the media, players and spectators from around the state.
"It brings a lot of focus, media attention and public attention," Newson said.
Newson says that already many qualifiers have made the trip to Midway to check out the nuances of the two courses. Most of the Park City State Am qualifiers are already quite familiar with the course. As one of the few public courses in the nearby area, Newson estimates that most Summit County golfers visit the course at least once a month. In fact, he knows many of the Park City qualifiers personally. Soldier Hollow is known as one of the more challenging courses in Utah, so Newson expects that familiarity to be a bonus for the Park City golfers and may have influenced their decision to try to qualify.
"We’ve kind of got a reputation of being hard," Newson said. "If they have a history, they felt more freed up to try and qualify."
Newson says that much of that difficulty is perceived. The shot from the championship tee is very long, 7,598 yards to be exact, and can visually intimidate many golfers. For the recreational golfer, Newson says that as people move forward in difficulty of the tees, things begin to look a lot easier.
For the State Am, Soldier Hollow has sped up the greens to make them faster and more fun. They have also lengthened the rough and made it higher. Other than that, Newson is keeping the two courses — both of which are par 72 — the same as usual.
The elevation of the course is 5,600 feet, which is about normal for most Utah golfers and slightly lower for the Park City crew. It will be a change for the regional golfers that qualified at the nearby Wasatch course, whose lowest point on course is still higher than Soldier Hollow’s highest point.
Newson is hopeful that the courses will give the qualifiers a fair course that favors golfers that work hard, not just those who are lucky. He says that the course will favor a player who hits the ball long and straight and is able to keep their score low.
"High scores reach up and grab you real fast," Newson said. " It’s not for the risk/reward player. It’s for someone who plays steady."
He also hopes that the course makes an impression on the public.
"Hopefully they realize that there is a championship-style golf course in their backyard," Newson said. "Because of that spotlight, people that haven’t come here will like what they see and come back."
Admission is free for spectators. During the first two days of stroke play, the public will be welcome to walk the course along with the competitors. On Friday, the course will shuttle people back and forth to designated viewing areas. There will be concessions and bathroom amenities available in the clubhouse. Newson also suggests wearing sunscreen while on the course. The morning round will tee off at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. The afternoon round will tee off at 12:30 p.m. Friday’s schedule is to be announced. For more information, contact Soldier Hollow at (435) 654-7442 or visit http://www.stateparks.utah.gov/golf/soldierhollow.htm .
To get to the course, take U.S. 40 to Heber and turn right on 100 South, which leads into Midway. In Midway, take a left on Center Street and a right on Tate Lane. The drive is about 25 minutes from Park City.
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Court report: Week of June 22