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Tee Thursday: Utah’s Black Desert impresses

Golf course enthusiasts: Pull out that bucket list and hit edit because there’s a new course that will soon rise up your list like a bullet.

Black Desert Resort ( rolled out the carts, enthusiastic crew and 18 holes of OMG this past May in a soft way; there’s no real clubhouse yet (a taco truck does the job for now), just a small, temporary pro shop and around you – everywhere it seems – is construction on what will be one of Utah – and the nation’s – largest, most diversified (16 restaurants, lodging choices for every kind of stay and more) luxury golf resorts.

While the resort’s to-do list is long, the course is ready, and already winning rave reviews. “One of the top three I’ve ever played,” one of my golf pals I played there with who’s visited more than a thousand courses world-wide told me.

The PGA gave Black Desert a massive stamp of approval: The new PGA Black Desert Championship will be added to the tour’s FedEx Cup in the Fall of 2024. That will follow with a LPGA event debuting in 2025.

That means when golf-lovers worldwide watch that event from their couch, Black Desert’s reservations lines will be lit. It’s impossible to see this unique and challenging Championship course and not, as Liz Lemon said, want to be there now.

My advice is listen to your inner Liz. Visit now and be among the first to score a round on what is sure to become a must-play club.

Black Desert is located just outside growing and vibrant St. George, tucked down in the corner of Utah near Arizona near both Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park.

And while golf isn’t new there – you’ll find a handful of satisfying and lovely courses around you – this unique setting tucked into dramatic black lava Basalt rock fields and looking out on breathtaking red and white sand canyons is a sensory trip.

The owners, who are quiet about how much they are investing, dropped sand down in the shape of the holes imagined by famed designer Tom Weiskopf and set it up to grow lush, green grass right up to the edge of those black lava rock fields and hills.

Weiskopf, who in a lovely touch narrates each hole via your ultra modern cart as you approach the tees, passed away shortly after designing the course. There’s something about hearing his vision, inspiration and how he suggests you play the hole in his voice. It’s like he’s speaking to you from heaven while you feel like that’s just where you are.

While that lent a touch of classic, my round started out with a big “We’re for everyone!” vibe as speakers blasted “Back in Black” across the driving range just above the first tee. Eager staffers handed us icy waters, cool towels and told us the beverage cart – which is currently on the house – would find us regularly.

Now, for the play. It’s hard, as in PGA Championship Course hard. First, there’s scant forgiveness if you hook or slice; should your ball soar into that lava, you’re asked not to try to climb up and get it, and I’m told the jagged stone chews the ball up anyway.

But it’s playable. With Weiskopf’s advice, my friends Olivia and Jason and I found some glory, a few extra challenges (even the par 3’s are no joke here; you work hard every hole) and a whole lot of fun.

One hole, as we approached the green, a desert turtle stood above the green, seemingly assessing our play. Those greens are large, undulating and take a whole lot of study to avoid extra strokes. We named him Speedy.

Between holes, the cart path winds and weaves right through the middle of all that nature. You climb up high and then soar downward, the Greater Zion Region spread out below you like some kind of masterpiece painting.

When we rolled into the 18th hole and a smiling staffer handed us fresh, cold towels, we were giddy and – while there was no beer because they’ve yet to secure their liquor license (it will come when restaurants begin to open – soon), we were drunk; drunk with the beauty, the fun and the understanding that some day, when the rest of the world discovers what we just did, we’ll be lucky enough to say we were among the first.

Don’t wait for that TV moment to inspire you – go now. You can connect to the St George airport or drive about 90 minutes from Vegas. And while lodging will open over the coming year, you can stay now at private homes for rent, at the very nearby Red Mountain Lodge or in downtown St, George, just a few minutes away. Try the Avendire, a new Marriott Autograph collection property smack in the middle of town.

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