Field Notes: Understated southern Utah dazzles as unique destination

Brian Oar is an award-winning photo journalist who has played and photographed golf courses all over the world, so folks tend to perk up and listen when he raves about unique travel destinations. 

And it’s no accident that Oar and his brother Darin settled in St. George, Utah, a decade ago to start St. George Utah Golf, a golf travel package and tee time provider.  

What was once a sleepy gas station town located off Interstate 15 on the way from Denver to Las Vegas and then on to Los Angeles has been transformed over the last decade into one of the more jaw-dropping gorgeous golf destinations in the United States. 

“It’s very surreal here,” Oar says of the vast desert landscape void of natural trees. “Golfers get to play through these crazy red rocks, these jet black molten rocks, red sand — it’s so very unique. If you’ve never been out of Atlanta and come here you would think you’re on another planet.”

The Oars are in their 19th year and also service golf trips to Mesquite, Las Vegas and Laughlin, Nevada, along with the addition of Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2023. 

Green Spring Golf Course in 1990, designed by little known architect at the time Gene Bates, started the golf boom in the St. George and nearby Hurricane area, which now features must-play courses such as Sand Hollow, Copper Rock, Sky Mountain, Coral Canyon and The Ledges. 

“Personally, I think that a golf destination is two or more courses that are worth the effort to get there and spend the money. They have to be different and memorable,” Oar says. “You’re not going to travel hours and hours and hours to go see a run-of-the-mill place. You want to see something spectacular. This place is spectacular.”  

Oar dismissed the notion some have that St. George is a remote location, noting that it is just 100 miles from Las Vegas and right off a busy interstate. 

To that note, the first PGA Tour stop in Utah in 60 years will take place in October at new Black Desert Resort, which opened in 2023 to rave reviews. 

“I’ve got to be honest, man, I’ve seen over a 1,000 golf courses and every time I’m out at Black Desert it’s like I’m blown away,” Oar says, “And I start thinking about what people are going to do when they see this golf course on TV because it’s pretty crazy.” 


With a culinary scene arguably unmatched in Canada, coupled with award-winning craft breweries and wines, along with spectacular mountain and ocean scenery, what’s not to like about the Vancouver Island Golf Trail

The island along the Pacific Ocean stretches 285 miles, from the colonial capital of Victoria, British Columbia, in the south to Cape Scott’s windswept beaches and rocky headlands at the northern tip. The rugged island combines forests, snowcapped mountains and untamed shorelines to create one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. 

“Victoria has the most restaurants per capita in western Canada, and the local brew vibe is massive here,” says Jeff Palmer, general manager of Highland Pacific Golf. “It’s a great guy’s trip, right? You come over to the island for three nights, play four rounds, you hit the brew pubs, and there is a great nightlife, too.”

The meat of the golf season on Vancouver Island begins in a few weeks with 12 destination layouts awaiting travelers, which includes the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Mountain Golf Club — a Westin property with the only 36-hole Nicklaus design in all of Canada. 

Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Mountain Golf Club on Vancouver Island.

“Where can you play golf and then go surfing? Or play golf and go skiing? Or play golf and go whale watching? Or play golf and go hang out in downtown Victoria by the waterfront and see sea lions? It’s just a cool place,” says Rob Larocque, Bear Mountain’s director of golf.  

Golfers can opt to fly into mainland Vancouver and take a 90-minute ferry ride to the island with their car, execute home base in several boutique hotels in iconic Victoria, or lodge at Vancouver Island’s many golf resort offerings. 

Part of the allure to this area is the convenience of the locations of activities once you are on the island.

“Everybody always says everything’s 20 minutes away, but it truly is 20 minutes,” Larocque says. “If you want to wander downtown or go for a hike or go for a mountain bike ride you don’t have to get in the car and drive an hour-and-a-half to go do something.”

The Malahat SkyWalk is a must visit when in the area. Opened in 2021, guests can wind their way up a 10-story Spiral Tower (820 feet high) with observation decks that reveal 360-degree views of mountain, ocean and forest.

“I call it a walking gondola,” Larocque says. “It’s super unique.” 

And if you’re one of the fortunate ones to get an opportunity to play Victoria Golf Club, a private layout, consider yourself a part of golf royalty. Founded in 1893, the club is the oldest 18-hole course in Canada in its original location. 

“It is sort of known as the Pebble Beach of Canada,” Palmer says. 


Short course lovers take note. 

Streamsong Golf Resort in central Florida will be opening all 19 holes on its fourth golf course, The Chain, for preview play starting March 31. 

The 3,000-yard Bill Coore- and Ben Crenshaw-designed short course opened 13 holes in November 2023 and the remaining section of the layout is almost ready for play. 

The Chain moniker originates from decades old dragline chains found on site during the course routing process that were used to mine the land where Streamsong now sits. 

The 19-hole short course brings a new concept to the golf offerings at Streamsong with options for six- and 13-hole loops or a 19-hole round. Holes vary in length from 50 to over 300 yards and incorporate a mix of centuries old oaks, mining cuts and views of Little Payne Creek to create an exhilarating experience. 

Match play is the preferred format as there is no suggested par on the scorecard and each hole will be devoid of tee markers. Players will instead be encouraged to tee off from a location of their choosing designated by dragline chains marking the beginning and end of each teeing area. 

“Length is on everyone’s mind and a lot of people have a misnomer in assessing a golf course in terms of hardship to par,” Crenshaw said. “These holes, you have to be skillful and there are all sorts of holes of shorter length. This is not like a pitch and putt, there’s some real golf and we think it’s going to be a great amenity.”


Almeria Golf Tours is offering custom golf packages from March-May or September-November to an area it is billing as the one of the sunniest regions in Europe. Almeria, in the south of Spain, is also famous for its agriculture, especially greenhouse farming which produces much of Europe’s winter produce. It’s also known for its historic Alcazaba fortress, sandy beaches and as a filming location for many famous Western films. … PerryGolf Escorted Tours is offering three small group escorted tours to the British Isles in 2025. Two of the trips include weekend attendance to the 153rd British Open at Royal Portrush. The other — The Open Venues Escorted Tour 2025 — does not. However, it does include a guaranteed tee time on the Old Course at St Andrews, along with rounds at five other courses that have hosted Open championships. … Primland Resort in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains has announced the inaugural Highland Golf & Wine Classic over Memorial Day weekend. The event, to be held May 25-26, will blend golf adventures by day with intimate culinary and globally renowned wine experiences by night.