Dale Hadley speaks reverently and almost poetically of his regular morning rounds at the historic Mount Ogden golf course, with the sun rising near Ben Lomond Peak and shining on the stone clubhouse perched high above the ninth green.
“Around 9, the winds die down and the sun comes out, with a nice breeze,” Hadley said. “Just perfect for a round of golf.”
Imagine him pausing, before this tongue-in-cheek conclusion: “But by then, we’re done.”
That’s because Hadley, who tries to visit El Monte twice a week with her brother, Craig, and son, John, likes to play in the first group of the day. His preference is mostly related to the challenge of the wind blowing off Ogden Canyon and how that element keeps the course from being too crowded, but it’s also partly due to the financial rewards.
El Monte and The Oaks at Spanish Fork, a field similarly located at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon, and where, in case there is any doubt about the potential power of the wind, nine 280-foot-tall turbines loom further Beyond the 10th green, they offer significant “wind rate” discounts for golfers who tee off before 9 a.m.
It may not be an original phrase, but golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. popularized the phrase “invisible danger” for wind as a factor in hole design. That’s a good description of the way the wind comes into play at Ogden and Spanish Fork, practically and psychologically. Fiscally too.
City managers in those cities believe they need to incentivize golfers to brave the canyon winds that are also familiar to patrons of courses like Bonneville GC in Salt Lake City and Logan Country Club.
Some strategy is involved here. Booking the latest tee time before 9 am at Spanish Fork or Ogden greatly reduces the percentage of holes played in the most difficult conditions. That’s especially important for 18-hole golfers at The Oaks, where every minute they can put off the battle helps at No. 10, a par 5 that plays uphill into the canyon and is totally exposed to the wind, with problems on both sides. sides.
There may not be a more intimidating tee shot anywhere, which is why I was surprised to see two cars of players making their way through the tunnel to No. 10 to start their day shortly after 6 a.m. in mid-June. That evoked a memory from 30 years ago. Having signed up to play the back nine, I hit a shot that practically went over my head, so I immediately turned around and walked through the parking lot and around the clubhouse to No. 1 and hit a westbound drive. , with the wind.
On the other hand, there is value in learning to hit shots through the wind and in the conditioning that comes with playing in that environment.
Jordan Rogers, who coaches the Spanish Fork High School boys’ golf team, deliberately schedules a 6:30 am tee time for one of his test rounds in August. The canyon wind will “definitely separate” some would-be Dons from genuine players, he said. “I have eliminated the less serious children by playing early. On multiple occasions, kids just didn’t show up for the second day of tryouts, and I have to believe ‘tornado’ winds played a part.”
Rogers, whose team finished second to the mighty Skyline in last October’s Class 5A state tournament at The Oaks, added, “Players have told me they are happy when tough conditions greet us when we come to a high school meet. The funny part is that I think they mean it.”
The survival aspect, albeit wind-hardened, is as much a part of what draws Hadley, 72, and her son and brother to their twice-weekly El Monte hikes as the $9 fare. This time of year, playing in the wind also has an anti-heat aspect, so jackets are required.
In the spring and fall (and, when possible, in the winter), Hadleys have been known to wear woolen hats and gloves while playing in extremely cold conditions, as the wind prevents frost from forming. The absence of dew in these courses is surprising; At The Oaks, the freshly cut greens are firm and fast, even before the sun moves across the course.
Unlike The Oaks layout, where three of the first four holes are played downwind, El Monte’s starting hole goes into the canyon. The long par 5 comes with the added challenge of two huge poplar trees in the middle of the fairway.
The compensation is a friendly ending. Numbers 8 and 9 play with the wind, towards the stone clubhouse that is approaching a century old. Hadley labels it “really my favorite final hole of all the courses I’ve played…reminds me of the historical nature of the game.”
The Hadleys also love the pace of the mornings, when they occasionally finish nine holes and realize they have the course to themselves.
And although the wind is relentless in the early morning, both courses are designed with variety. Once you get past the tricky No. 10 drive, three subsequent par 4s offer downhill and downwind tee shots that are fun to hit on holes the late Billy Casper designed with options in mind.
Casper, a legendary golfer with 51 PGA Tour wins, would probably forgive us for choosing to wait out the morning wind. His best chance of winning the British Open was lost in 1968 at Carnoustie in Scotland, where conditions in the final round became so difficult that Gary Player’s 73 was good enough to overcome Casper’s lead.
A sample of the discounts offered by public golf courses in Utah:
• Wind Fees: Starting before 9 am, $9 to walk nine holes at El Monte GC in Ogden; $15 for nine holes at The Oaks at Spanish Fork (essentially, a free cart).
• Senior Fees (60+): $12 to walk nine holes at Stonebridge GC and The Ridge GC, operated by West Valley City.
• Summer Fees: Approximately 40% discount on green fees from June to September at the four courses operated by St. George City.
• Twilight Rates: $500 Season Pass to play nine holes Monday through Friday after 4 pm at Talons Cove GC in Saratoga Springs; $36 including cart for 18 holes in October at the Homestead Resort & GC in Midway.
• Youth Rates: $5 or less for nine holes at 30+ courses, with a Youth on Course membership.