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Canyons Golf Course opens

Years before course architect Gene Bates arrived in Park City to design Canyons Golf Course, a course route had already been designed. But, with most great artists, plans are often tweaked, reworked or completely cast aside.

That was certainly the case with Bates, who worked tirelessly with Canyons officials and contractors to design the best course possible in the space available.

"I didn’t have a clue how it was going to work," Bates said of the first time he saw the setting for what is now Canyons Golf course. "Of course, we were handed a golf course routing that was developed maybe 10 years before I ever came on the scene. I can honestly say I wasn’t very impressed with the routing, as a golf course professional.

"But the Talisker people, and then ultimately the Canyons/Vail people, were really, really helpful in being able to make some adjustments to make the routing and the golf holes a little more golf-friendly, if you will."

The end result is an 18-hole, par-70 course with expansive views of Park City and the surrounding areas. The course, which plays at 6,256 total yards, opened on Wednesday afternoon for a couple days of invitation-only play. It will open to the public next spring.

"It is absolutely a fantastic day to have the golf course and the grand opening," Canyons Resort Vice President and General Manager Mike Goar said on Wednesday. "We’ve got community leaders and government officials here and a lot of people who have been involved in it over the years."

Even after the permitting battles and other snags were resolved, the course still had to be built. Bates said that’s where the hard work began.

"We blasted 180,000 cubic yards of rock," he said. "That’s like some interstate highway project going down through the canyon trying to build a four-lane highway."

Of all the challenges in designing the course, Bates didn’t even hesitate in naming Hole No. 10, a 503-yard hole with a 279-foot drop from tee to green, as the most difficult to design.

"There’s not a question about the challenge on No. 10," he said. "One of the biggest challenges was actually getting a cart path to our back tee. We could get the bulldozers and heavy equipment up there because they’re off-road pieces of equipment. But to build a cart-path road up there? My god, it looks like some of the switchbacks you’ll find in the city of San Francisco."

Bates’ favorite hole on the course, though, is Hole No. 5, which offers spectacular 360-degree views from a green that almost seems like it’s floating on the horizon.

"That Hole No. 5, that’s a glorious hole," he said. "It plays at about 354 yards, so it’s not a long hole, but it’s all about shot selections."

But what Bates is most proud of is what his team was able to do with Willow Draw Creek.

"We had to rebuild the stream heading down Willow Draw," he said. "It runs down Hole No. 4 and then through 1 and we tumble it down around the green on 18 and then it goes past 17’s green and charges into it’s normal stream bank.

"Before, it was all just rubble it was destroyed. Part of the approval process in being able to build the golf course was stream restoration. Casey Bates, my co-designer [and nephew], he was the man in charge of that on his own. His fingerprints are on that from top to bottom and he did a wonderful job."

On Wednesday, Bates and his team were finally able to show off their years of hard work and open the course for play. Goar said Wednesday’s event was the culmination of years of hard work finally coming to fruition.

"It has been a long time," he said. "It was a complicated thing. A lot of people had to come together. But it finally worked in the end and we could not be more excited to be opening it and sharing it with the community today."

But, in typical Park City fashion, as the golf course was being played for the first time, excitement abounded about the dusting of snow gracing the highest peaks of the resort.

"It’s funny," Goar laughed. "As we’re here talking about golf, I’m not sure that we’re not at least as excited about the snow on the ridgeline."


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