RETIRING MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT UTAH, BY GEORGE
by Todd Hartley
This may sound a little odd given how young and vibrant I am, but I often think of where I might like to retire someday if I were a normal person. I know right now a lot of you wisenheimers are saying, “Retire from what?” but I’m serious. Well, not really, if you consider actually planning for retirement, but let’s pretend for the sake of this column.
For that reason I’ve always been curious about St. George, Utah, which also might sound a little odd to many of you given the stereotypes often associated with Utah. (People in Utah are well aware of the stereotypes, by the way.)
I’ve driven through St. George on my way to Las Vegas or California a couple of times, and back before the recession I’d heard that the city was booming and was a pretty cool place, so I always wanted to check it out because it seems to fulfill all the criteria I’d be looking for in a place to retire.
Basically, I’d want somewhere I could have reasonably good access to the outdoors, skiing, entertainment and golf. And, let’s be honest, it would probably need to be affordable.
By virtue of the fact that it’s in Utah, St. George automatically qualifies in the outdoors category. It’s surrounded by red rock canyons, mesas and pine-forested peaks just 45 minutes from Zion National Park, which I visited once and was astounded by.
When it comes to skiing, Brian Head Resort, which lies about an hour and a half from St. George, is admittedly not Alta or Snowbird, but if I needed to go to the real Alta or Snowbird, they’re just four hours away — or about as long as it took my family to sit in traffic to go ski ice in Vermont when I was a child.
Entertainment-wise, St. George is a couple hours from Las Vegas, so if I needed a Celine Dion or Cirque de Soleil fix, I’d be set. That just leaves golf, and that’s where the mention of Utah also might seem a little odd. The state really doesn’t have a reputation for having good courses, with none ranked by Golf Digest in America’s 100 Greatest or 100 Greatest Public and only one ranked in the Second 100 Greatest.
Anyway, a couple of months ago, a buddy emailed to see if I wanted to be included in a golf trip to St. George, and I naturally said yes. So I drove down there last Sunday to see if I could play seven courses in five days, and I’m there as I write this, with five courses played and hopefully two more to go tomorrow.
Let me say this about the golfing: the stereotype about Utah not having good courses is dead wrong — at least as far as St. George is concerned. This place is pretty amazing.
The first morning we played a great layout called Coral Canyon in the nearby town of Hurricane (pronounced: “HER-uh-kin,” apparently). That afternoon we played an astonishing course called Sand Hollow that has four of the most dramatic cliffside holes you will ever see. I defy you to show me 100 better public courses in America. Heck, I defy to show me 50 better in the world. No offense to Coral Canyon, which is a really nice public course, but Sand Hollow is awesome.
The next morning saw us at The Ledges, a challenging track with spellbinding views of Snow Canyon State Park, and that afternoon we played Sunbrook, one of four courses owned by the city of St. George. My friends and I, seasoned golfers all, agreed that it might be the nicest municipal course we’ve ever played.
The third morning’s course, Sky Mountain, was another excellent muni owned by the town of HER-uh-kin that cost about one-sixth as much to play as a comparable course in a better-known golf destination such as Scottsdale or Monterey. I couldn’t recommend it and the other four courses more highly.
As for your other stereotypes about Utah, you should know that they’re pretty much all wrong. I’ve had beer, wine and liquor to go along with some excellent food, and I didn’t need to join a club or anything to get it. Furthermore, no one I talked to around here knows any polygamists or tried to convert me to Mormonism. They were pretty much just normal people, and were I one of them, I could easily see myself living where they do someday.
Todd Hartley has retired more often than Brett Favre and might do it again next week.