Playing at a Mental Health Compound – Utah State Hospital Park Provo, UT

It wasn’t even that late in the morning, but the sun was already hot and high as I arrived at Utah State Hospital on the edge of Provo, Utah, situated south of Salt Lake City by about a 45 minute drive. And the location decision for this course is by far the strangest I have ever been to.

Click HERE for the quick course guide of Utah State (Mental) Hospital Park.

Welcome to Utah State Hospital

I was at Utah’s only state level mental health institution, nestled into the base of the Wasach mountain range that created the eastern edge of town.  USH appeared to be a 3 building complex that was spread out in a triangle over several acres (2 of the buildings were fenced off by a  20 foot high chain link fence topped with barbed wire. What.). Situated between those 3 tan and brick buildings was a moderately sized, very green, open park space. The staff and visitor parking lot for the hospital was right near hole 1, and as there were no prohibited parking signs posted, I took advantage of some open  parking I found in the back row.

Still not entirely sure if I was allowed to have parked my car there, or even to be in the park itself, I geared up and started my round. The state hospital park seemed relatively open. A small pond was off to the right of hole 1 and a few decent sized trees were scattered through the lower part of the park. For the front 9, the tee pads were all grass, and it stayed that way through most of the course, except for a few times where the designer had taken advantage of a couple  asphalt cart paths that cut  through small portions of the course later on. Luckily though, large wooden posts that had an attached piece of plexiglass with the hole’s information on it had made it easy to find the next hole’s “tee pad”.

Hole 1’s pond
Hole 1’s sign

 

By hole 6 or 7 I realized that there must be quite a bit more to this park than meets the eye though. I knew when I had started the round that it was a full 18 hole course, but I couldn’t spot any baskets beyond hole 12. I did not however have much time to think about where those last 6 holes might be, as  the back 9 was immediately different from the front 9, and required a great deal more attention and effort. Hole 10 introduced a sizable 468′ drive (click here for terminology) that was slightly uphill, and over a lot of open ground. Until about 400′ out from the tee pad where the fairway had a clear make or break line created by a small bustling creek no wider than 2′ at any point. Finally, the hole finished off by dropping into a tree filled hollow near what appeared to be the main building that attached to the parking lot.

The quite bustling 2 foot wide creek.
The bustling creek present on hole 10

At this point the course had stepped it up quite a bit, and I liked it. It was an uphill battle, quite literally, for the next 5 holes that followed. Many of which had a lot more trees than any one particular hole had had in any of the front 9. The additional trees were craftily incorporated to create defined and challenging lanes, or to create some very guarded baskets. A couple times it was both. I had found it a little difficult to find the basket on hole 12 from the tee pad because of said trees, as well the obstacle course that took up much of the fairway, but beyond that, every other basket was easy to spot, and the holes were easy to navigate between, which created a real nice flow for the round.

Standing near one of the few trees in the lower section of the park.
View of the Wasach Mountain Range from hole 5’s “tee pad”

Hole 16, 17, and 18 really finished the course off in a fun and challenging way. 16 was a huuuuge RHFH hyzer shot (see Common Disc Terminology) around a massive pine from about 80′ high on the upward sloping hill side. There are few shots I find more fun than letting go of those huge hyzers that are intended strictly for dropping a bomb on the target, and this was definitely one of those shots. 17 was a little longer and definitely flatter than 16, but it did have the added challenge of throwing towards the edge of 16, 17, and 18’s fairway that came up to the steep downward slopping hillside, and while not on the immediate edge of the hillside, this particular basket placement was on compact dirt near enough to the edge, so the chance for getting punished by an aggressive first or second shot was much higher. Hole 18 then proceeded to turn around and use back up all of the fairway created by holes 16 and 17 for the course’s second 450’+ shot. Besides the distance factor it was not a particularly challenging layout for the final hole, but it had felt particularly good going for that last big rip of the round.

Innova discatcher holding wizard super stupid soft putter and the wasach mountain range behind it
Super Stupid Soft Wizard resting in hole 4’s basket

It was at those last 3 holes though that the weird feelings I had got from Utah State Hospital park since the beginning of the round seemed to fully solidify. On the eastern side of the fairway for 16, 17, and 18 , along the upward slope of the mountain’s foothill, was a vine covered stone wall that more resembled the front of a castle than anything else. With its one door closed firmly and video surveillance equipment posted above it I decided to keep moving.

Creepy.

A selfie of Brigand (founder of Destination Disc Golf) at Utah State Hospital Park in Provo Ut
A rare selfie as I walk down 18’s fairway with the stone wall off to the right in the photo.

According to later research, this stoned off area was used every year for 2 decades from the 70s-90s as a place for the staff and patients of the hospital to put on a, at first private, and then eventually, public halloween performance that was finally shutdown after being cited in court for its effects on the public’s opinion of the mentally handicapped. It was stated in court, that among a number of other issues, the performances that involved patients were literally causing the public to associate the mentally handicapped with monsters.

Wow, and I just played disc golf here?

It was a bit of a trek from the end of 18 back down to the parking lot, but I was relieved to find my car still remained. All in all, the park itself was very well maintained, had grass throughout a majority of it, got more shade and more difficult as it progressed, and was a course well designed to entertain all levels of players.

I don’t believe that the odd, even sometimes slightly creepy feelings that I experienced while I played at Utah State Hospital, had been in any way related to the fact there were mentally handicapped people being housed and treated there, but more from how such a bright, open, and green space could feel so suppressed and isolated.

Plus that stone castle thing was real weird and creepy. Its background story doesn’t make me feel any better about it either.

The stone amphitheater used for mental health patients Halloween performance
A very unexpected feature of the park. Photo credit: livingnewdeal.org

While not being a top tier must play course, Utah State Hospital disc golf course was in my opinion a very well rounded and fun course. Its size and location offers a full, well paced, round for its patrons, and I recommend playing it to anyone who has the time if they are anywhere in the greater Salt Lake area. I look forward to when I get to play it again. And who knows? Your game might just be the entertainment the isolated mental patients are waiting for…

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