By Guest Contributor Gigi Leonard
Quick question: who here among us active, outdoorsy people prefers a less traveled path? You do? Then by all means, put southwest Utah on your short list for places to go. Prior to this excursion, I was not aware that the St. George area is not only a superior centralized location for national park peeping, but also a quietly regarded golf mecca. So, being an avid golfer, when GMC invited me on an odyssey to drive the Canyon All Terrain, their mid-size truck, through the desert to play two sublime summer rounds of golf, there was only one thing to do: board a plane to Vegas, right away.
Upon deplaning at McCarran International Airport, we were whisked to the Tropicana and provided with a light lunch and plenty of hydrating beverages for the two and a half hour drive to St. George. Once inside the cabin of my truck, I was pleased to learn that the essential modern conveniences I am surrounded by in my own car hadn’t gone missing in the truck: it was packed with technology, including a rear vision camera, multiple USB ports and OnStar with 4G LTE.
With my luggage and golf clubs secured in the spacious cargo bed, I decided to take the scenic route and head through the Valley of Fire State Park, making my way through hilly, mountainous areas. The Canyon’s 3.6L V-6 engine provided effortless power to handle itself through this type of terrain. As I made my way leisurely through the park, I noticed the colors of the surrounding landscape becoming more saturated, and then I saw the first of what was to be countless immense, deeply colored sandstone cliffs. Truly, there is nothing more refreshing than being surrounded by massive rocks that make you feel so small. My meditative state was only enhanced by the Canyon’s comfortable and exceptionally quiet cabin, finished nicely with aluminum trim and contrast stitching.
Once my GPS efficiently delivered me to the resort where we were staying, the Inn at Entrada, I decided to take a stroll. Walking around the grounds gave the feeling of luxurious seclusion. Composed of individual self-contained casitas with open floor plans, all the accommodations are crafted from natural materials like wood, clay and stone, inside and out. Luxe and thoughtful touches like triple sheeted beds, original artwork and bathrooms with oversized soaking tubs ensure that guests have a relaxing visit. Water features in the backyards of every unit with the beautiful red canyons as the dramatic backdrop were a nice surprise.
After a catered dinner and breakfast in the morning, I was eager to get to the first of the two courses we would play. Like most desert courses, I suspected that the golf experience in Utah would be vivid, and intense. Beckoning us with sweeping vistas from the highway, we rolled over to Coral Canyon, Keith Foster’s user friendly course, in the town of Washington. With its flowing design, the track has beautiful views of Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park from the tee boxes, and features wide fairways, steep ravines and several holes that require forced carry of desert wash areas with vegetation as high as 30 feet, creating blind second or third shots into the double-tiered greens. With many risk/reward opportunities and sweeping vistas, this course is loads of fun. It was also a great reward to be able to sink into the roomy back seat in the Canyon for the drive back.
Once our party returned to the resort, I went back out with the truck to see how it performed off road. Even with no particular destination in mind, it was easy to locate a dramatic spot to put my skills to the test. I rolled over red clay and low scrub and a sizable variety of loose rocks, feeling completely in control the entire time. The Canyon handles its rough road challenges with aplomb.
After a lovely dinner, a good night’s sleep and a made to order breakfast the following day, we were treated to a round at the exclusive Entrada at Snow Canyon, a Troon course affiliated with the resort. Only club members and guests of the resort have access to the Johnny Miller course, a pristine juggernaut of holes winding through arroyos and cliffs that, at times, appear chaotic. The modern clubhouse was flanked by metal sculptures and the practice areas were expansive. Although the slick greens and manicured fairways are worthy of comparison with the country’s most esteemed courses, they couldn’t take the place of the highlight – three holes placed delicately among ancient lava fields. The stark contrast of the white sand bunkers, velvety green fairways and massive black rock made for magical and surprising photo opportunities. Entrada is challenging, pristine and memorable – absolutely worthy of a return visit.
After our round and a lovely lunch, we hopped back into our trucks to drive back to Las Vegas. With traffic starting to form through the mountain pass in Arizona due to construction, having Collision Alert tech made me feel more confident behind the wheel. The satellite radio soothed me when I wasn’t conducting business via Bluetooth. Really, it felt very much like a moving, floating corner office on the way back to the city.
Speaking of corner offices, my arrival back to Las Vegas was spent in a spacious corner suite at the Aria. The room had everything you could possibly desire – slippers and exotic chocolates by the bed at turndown, sweeping views and a well-appointed living room with remote control of all electronics in the room from a touchpad. A fabulous view of the glittering lights the city is notorious for could be viewed from the deep whirlpool tub. After dinner and drinks at the Todd English P.U.B., I made a few spins around the strip and sometime much later found myself laying in the middle of my pillowtop bed, peering out at the nighttime sky, thinking of shiny GMC trucks, and flying golf balls, and giant red rocks, and wondering if it was all just a dream.