The Longest Golf Day - 4 courses in 4 states

Solstice Golf Adventure

By Mark Zobrist

The Longest Golf Day - 4 courses in 4 states

I consider myself an above average, mid-handicap golfer (+12 hcp.). A few times each year a group of my golfing friends and I go on a golf outing to a great group of golf courses. We usually play 18 holes in the morning, followed by another 18 hole round in the afternoon. We get by with ibuprofen and peer pressure, not to mention some great competition and side bets. A few months ago, I was in a meeting and sitting next to one of my golf buddies, Rod Leavitt, one of the owners of Leavitt Insurance Group. He leaned over to me and whispered, "the summer solstice is coming up in a few weeks; June 21, 2010". Nothing registered so I replied, "Big deal". Rod explained, "that is the longest day of the year. The most daylight. We can get more golf rounds in than any other day." Still leery, I asked him what he planned to do. Then he laid out his plan: Golf 4 different courses, in 4 different states in one day... no airplanes please.

I was incredulous. How could that be done? We live in Las Vegas and there are plenty of golf courses nearby. Playing 72 holes of golf in one day is bad enough but in 4 different states? Logistically I couldn't wrap my mind around it. He went on, "We can play one course in St. George, (a small town in Southern Utah). Then we can play another course in Mesquite, Nevada, only 40 minutes away by car. The third course would be in Arizona." Because land is cheaper in Arizona, one Mesquite developer built a course in what is called the "Arizona Strip" just outside of Mesquite but clearly in Arizona. He continued, "then we travel through Las Vegas to the band of casinos on the Nevada/California border known simply as 'state line'." Interestingly enough, Primm Resorts contracted with Tom Fazio to create a 36 hole paradise in the middle of the desert. Because of an exclusive deal with Wynn Resorts which precluded Tom from designing any courses in Nevada without involving Steve Wynn, Primm bought land in California about 5 miles south of the state line. That would be the concluding 18 holes. Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California; 4 courses; 72 holes; one long day.

Now I was no longer incredulous, I was stunned. I thought about it: 4 courses in 4 states and the longest day of the year. We would need every minute of daylight and it was theoretically possible, but could we pull it off? Fortunately my golfing friends include several well connected people, and, as with many golfers, people who are not accustomed to fail. Rod turned the concept over to his cousin Mark Leavitt, a successful business man in Cedar City, Utah, not exactly a metropolis but still the home base for a very successful nationwide insurance company which Mark and his brothers own. He quickly enrolled the support of several key directors of golf at the courses we would play. He created a detailed travel log and itinerary which included the times allocated to each round and travel time in order to make it all work.

First Call was to Cash Kennedy an assistant at Coral Canyon. Cash, like so many others, was enthusiastic and eager to help. The key to making this happen was getting out early, and Cash responded, "no problem, I will be there for you!" The Coral Canyon Golf Course is just off the Hurricane, Utah exit from I-15. Coral Canyon is a pristine course set amidst the splendor of Southwestern Utah. Originally, we were scheduled to tee off at dawn or about 5:30 am MST, but after compressing the numbers, Mark changed that to a 5:00 am tee off in the dark using "flash balls" that emit a flashing light for 5 minutes after they are struck by the club. We could not have met our goal without that extra 30-40 minutes made possible by Cash, Mark Whetzel, Director of Golf and the grounds crew at Coral Canyon who gave up a few more minutes of sleep to have one cart ready for each player before 5am.

Next our defacto tour director, Mark Leavitt, contacted Scott Sullivan, the General Manager of the Oasis Golf Club which operates both the Canyons Golf Course along with the Palmer Course in Mesquite, Nevada Scott was the real hero of this event, he not only arranged our round at the Canyons, but worked with neighboring Arizona club, The Palms,, and its director of golf Bob Ault to assure our success! They were a pleasure to work with and were more than willing to participate in our efforts. We estimated that we would need to play the Nevada course and the Arizona course in about 3 hours each and to leave for California no later than 3 pm, PST. That would allow 2 hours to travel the 130 miles to the Primm Valley Resort in California where we reserved a tee time for 5 pm. We were comfortable that we could complete those last 18 holes in 3 1/2 hours which would put us finishing at right at sunset.

With the courses arranged and the schedule set, the next pieces of the puzzle were the players. But how hard can that be? With a challenge like this, surely everyone would want to participate. Initially, we wanted to limit the group to one foursome, but with all the hype we expanded that to two foursomes. Many of our friends doubted it could be done, but others accepted the challenge and soon the group was filled. Unfortunately, last minute meetings and other complications forced three of the players to drop out. Maybe we should have had a "back-up" list, because it was difficult to fill those spots on short notice, even if it was for the greatest golf challenge any of us had ever thought of. In the end, there were 5 of us: Tom Higbee, a sitting judge in Cedar City and 3 handicapper; Rod Leavitt, Chris Utterback and Mark Leavitt, three active insurance executives with the Leavitt Insurance Group and me, a semi-retired attorney. I offered to sit it out and just leave it as one foursome, but the arrangements and the logistics were already set for up to 8 players, so everyone convinced me to stay in. Am I glad I did.

June 22, 2010, The Longest Golfing Day of the year:

4:15 am Mountain Standard Time and the alarm goes off. I'm up and excited. I consider starting that day with my favorite source of caffeine, a diet coke, but defer, thinking I'll have plenty of that on the courses today. I go with a protein drink.

5:05 am. I arrive 5 minutes late, but Mark, Chris and Tom - all from Cedar City and Rod from Las Vegas are already in their carts and waiting. Mark gives me a cart, my "flashing ball" and quickly explains how it works, including the fact that it only flashes for 5 minutes after being struck emphasizing the need to get everyone off the tee and down to the fairway before the ball quits flashing. I wipe the sleep from my eyes one more time, hop in my cart and blindly follow my partners to the first tee still in the black of night.

Hitting a flashing ball into the dark night sky is nothing short of 'weird'. You tend to swing more conservative but it is a real hoot to watch the ball fly like a tracer bullet into the sky. It reminded me of watching the latest technology you see on the big tournaments where the computer tracers the full trajectory of the ball flight but ours is in real time. Unbelievably, its 5:15 am and we all hit the first fairway. We are all off like race cars with no headlights, each in our own cart and frantic to get to our ball before it stops blinking. The next 3 holes are the same, with each hole a little lighter until finally we can see well enough to use our normal golf ball of choice. We play those first 7 holes as a five some, but as the sun rises, we split into a twosome and a threesome. The first group finishes the round in 1 hour 56 minutes and the second group is 10 minutes behind. With our official time logged in at 5:15 am and out at 7:15 am we are right on schedule. What surprises me most was that I shoot a 43/42 with no double bogies. I finish strong with a birdie, par, par on the last 3 holes for an 85, only one over my handicap.

7:25 am. With no time to waste we pile into two cars: one with the three golfers who would return late that night all the way back to Cedar City (about 445 miles) and the other with Rod and me who both live in Las Vegas. We headed straight to Mesquite, Nevada.

6:50 am Pacific Standard Time. (Thank goodness for time zones). We arrive at the Canyons and we are met by Kenny Davis who has been assigned by Scott Sullivan himself to get us out immediately. Our carts are already in the parking lot and he sends us straight to the back nine with our own marshal, Darrell Farmer, who squeezes us in between foursomes on hole #10. There is one foursome of members ahead of us, but the marshal assures us that they won't hold us up. We decide to play as a fivesome and use 3 carts. The back nine start was a great idea and we finish that nine in 1 hour 30 minutes. As we round to hole #1 to begin the front nine, there is a twosome ahead of us. Before we can even get out of our carts, the marshal shows up, explains what we are doing and asks the couple to let us play through. We are impressed with managements' support and with the locals' acceptance of our plan. This happens on 4 more holes on that front nine and each time the marshal and the local players wave us through with smiles and words of encouragement. I'm awake now and my scores improve. I shot a round of 40/40 for an 80 and I'm excited.

10:25 am. We are back in our cars. I haven't even seen the inside of a pro shop yet because we are always on the run. We leave the Canyons Resort for the Palms Golf Course in Arizona. Travel time is only about 15 minutes but when we arrive at the parking lot of the Palms we need to go to the last lot just to find an empty spot. These locals understand the summer heat in Mesquite and they get their play in early. Unfortunately for us, the course seems full. But Scott Sullivan from the Canyon's has already called ahead and talked to the Director of Golf at the Palms, Mr. Bob Ault. He is looking for a way to get us onto the course and speed up our play. He checks the daily play and verifies that there is a 2 hole gap at hole #14. Our carts are ready and once again, we are off behind Don, a marshal who personally takes us to hole #14.

The back nine at the Palms have some great golf holes. #14 is a beautiful par 3 from a very high elevated tee box. It measures 155 yards but I play one less club due to the significant drop in elevation. I stick a 9 iron on the green, two putt and walk away with a par. By the time we play #14-18, half the cars in the parking are gone and the front nine is virtually empty. The locals have finished their rounds and the sun is high in the sky. It is now over 100 degrees and we swing by the snack shack for cokes and a hot dog. The next nine holes are a breeze and we make the turn to finish up holes #10-13. We are done in just over 3 hours. The sun is shining and we calculate that we are at least 50 minutes ahead of schedule.

There must be something that helps you score better if you split a nine hole round in two. As we approach our final hole at the Palms, which, because of the way we started, is actually #13th, my cart partner for that round, Chris, tells me that I have a great score going on the back nine. If I can par this last hole, I will shoot a 35 for that nine, or one under par. Normally that would insure my getting at least a double bogey on that hole, but not today. I par the 13th and card a 35/42 for a 77 and I'm on cloud nine. We leave Mesquite almost one hour ahead of schedule.

2:00 pm. We celebrate by stopping at the local burger king for a burger and, of course more drinks. I think everyone added at least one extra bottled water to their order. We are back on the road within half an hour and eating in the car.

3:50 pm. Google maps on our iphones confirm green traffic conditions through the center of Las Vegas. We are lucky to have light traffic and we pick up a few more precious minutes. The first car crosses the state line into California around 4:20 pm. We are at Primm Valley Resorts in a matter of minutes.

This is like entering another world. The road drops off the desert floor and into a small, man-made paradise. Rod and I joke that with a little water, lots of imagination and a lot more money, you can create anything out of flat, desert land. Thank you Tom Fazio and Primm Resorts,

4:25 pm. We pull up to the bag drop at Primm and the starter is waiting for us. They are surprised we are early and they confide that there were several bets among the ground crew on whether we would make it. Primm Valley has two excellent courses: The Lakes course and the Desert course. The starter checks and tells us there is one foursome on hole #7 on the Desert course and a couple of foursomes on holes #1 and #4 of the Lakes course. He recommends the Desert course and assures us we will be impressed. We are not disappointed.

We tee off as a fivesome in 3 carts and we don't see another group until the back nine. The sun is starting to set now and the adrenaline begins to wear off. Each of us starts to feel the bake of the sun and the long day. I have been playing pretty good golf and score a 40 on the front nine. But by the back nine I finally start to fade. I triple bogey #13 and #14, followed by a double on #15. I finish with an 85.

8:10 pm. We all expected that we could push it to 8:30pm but the sun is already behind the mountains and it is dusk. We had no time to spare. We put the whole adventure in the record book and begin to think about the long ride home.

As momentos, we have kept the individual score cards from each round along with a logo ball from each course. But most important, we created a great golf memory. The people from each resort helped us immensely. The starters, the marshals, the ball boys and the local players.. in short, everyone we dealt with today made it that much more special for us. What could have been a frustrating day, instead became a lasting memory for the five of us who shared what truly was the "longest golf day". We will never forget it.


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Revised: 11/08/2010 - Article Viewed 21,797 Times

Written By: Mark Zobrist

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