Most people would think that taking the family on a trip to visit one or many of the US national parks would mean that golf takes a backseat to hiking and camping. On the contrary! Some of the nation's best-known national parks also have some great tracks within or around their borders. Golf is about enjoying nature, and there is nowhere better to do that than at these amazing parks and the golf courses that go with them.
Out of bounds is really out of bounds in Zion — Photo courtesy of The Ledges Golf Club
Some of us are drawn to the desert, with Zion National Park in Utah being a prime target. There are no courses within the borders of the park itself, but the nearby town of St. George is positively brimming with golf options. The Red Rock Golf Trail features 9 courses in and around St. George, including gems like The Ledges and Coral Canyon. Most of the courses on the Trail are surrounded by the scenery and rock formations of Zion itself, making it a completely unique golf experience. St. George is also large enough to serve as a great base from which to explore Zion itself without "roughing it," with numerous hotels and other options within an hour's drive from the park.
Between checking out the numerous waterfalls and cliffs in Yosemite National Park in California, you can also experience one of the oldest golf courses in the country. In the small town of Wawona on the southern edge of Yosemite lies the town's golf course, a 9-hole, par 35 that was first designed in 1918 by Walter G. Favarque. As you can probably guess, the course is quite hilly. Both electric and pull carts are available, as are rental clubs. Wawona also includes one of the great historic hotels from which to explore the park. The Wawona Hotel is a National Historic Landmark and is within walking distance from the golf course.
Golf in the national parks presents new challenges — Photo courtesy of Estes Park Golf Course
For those of us who may be in the mood to set a driving distance record during a national park adventure, there are the two courses that surround Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Grand Lake and Estes Park Golf Courses are about 60 miles northwest of Denver on opposite sides of the park. Featuring stunning views and more than a mile of elevation, the locals are quick to remind visitors that balls do fly farther in the thin mountain air; they just don't fly straighter. Both Grand Lake and Estes Park are full 18 hole tracks that stretch to about 6,500 yards.