A little after midday, in the heart of July, I went to scope out Slate Canyon disc golf course in Provo, UT. My youngest sister Jocelyn and her husband Bradford had wanted to go out and throw an evening round with me while I was in town. Because of the scorching summer heat, and the fact that I’m always a little wary of any course with the word canyon in its name, I arrived in the dirt parking lot for the course that over looked the patchwork of green that was Provo, and the shimmering reflection of the sun on Utah Lake out much farther beyond, wondering if I’d even be able to survive playing there.
For the Quick Course Guide please click HERE.
And considering how steep the course looked from the parking lot, I wasn’t feeling super confident. Plus it was a west facing slope with little to no shade. Definitely was not my ideal. I knew that the high temperature was supposed to be in the upper 90’s, but I decided to check my phone anyways. To my surprise it showed a quick drop into the 80’s by the time we would want to be out playing that evening. I decided to suck it up and give this course a go, in the very least for some quality family time, and to say I played it.
By the time Jocelyn, Bradford, and I came back in the evening it was already noticeably cooler despite the sun still seeming like it was hung high in the sky. After I lent a couple discs to the both of them we started to throw. From the beginning, I had a feeling it was gonna be a tough round physically.
Slate Canyon disc golf course had no grass. Just dirt, and rocks. It had some trees and shrubs, all of which seemed to provide very little to no shade during our round. While it had been a seemingly bleak environment to throw in, the course provided nice sized concrete tee pads, as well as decent signage that seemed to give reasonably accurate hole length descriptions. The baskets used at Slate Canyon all look like the typical basket installed on many courses created in the early 2000’s.
The layout of the holes throughout the course definitely took advantage of the switch backing terrain to create many challenging drives, approaches, and putts. The switch backing , tee pads, and signage did not necessarily make it easy to always find the next hole so I would recommend having a map if possible. By the end of the round it felt like most holes had had some kind of elevation change between tee pad and basket, and if they hadn’t, that usually tended to mean there was some kind of steep drop off lingering just behind, or to the side of, the baskets.
The going was slow right from the start. Fairways on the front 9 were often no more than the dusty lane and deep ruts left by park maintenance long ago, and everything was going up for those first 3 holes. Once we had reached the tee pad for hole number 4 we had probably already gained almost 600 feet in elevation.
From hole 4 through hole 9 we criss crossed back and forth, up and down the steep hillside, constantly being challenged in new ways. It was during those progression of holes that I started to appreciate why one might want to come out and play this course, despite its harsh terrain. Our enjoyable evening was cooled primarily by a thin layer of clouds cast out across the valley, and from our vantage point high up on the hillside the shifting golden light had really begun to cover everything in sight in its warm ethereal glow.
It was at hole 10 that we were offered the largest single elevation change for a shot on the entire course. Staring down, we saw the basket sitting between 2 telephone poles on top of a mound almost 400′ away at the bottom of an almost 200′, very sharp, drop from the tee pad. The view of the sunset, the valley, the town, and the lake was unobstructed from 10’s tee pad. That spot alone had the potential to be one of the best views in Provo. It was also at this hole that a suspicion of mine was confirmed. The day prior I had been playing at Utah State Hospital (A rather chilling and unique experience – Click HERE for my post on playing at USH) which is also in Provo, and despite taking a different route to get to Slate Canyon, I had felt that the 2 courses were pretty close to each other. In fact, from the tee pad of hole 10 I could clearly see the compound and the park in which the USH course resided. It turned out that the 2 courses are only about about a mile drive from each other, and much closer as the crow flies.
The tenth hole does come with a warning though. After everyone has teed off, the ideal path to get down to basket level is actually behind the tee pad a ways. One needs to backtrack to find the right path. DO NOT FOLLOW THE PATH FORWARDS! It goes nowhere good, promise.
Luckily after hole 10 the course really started to even out elevation wise. This was lucky because the light had started to wain in ernest. Another helpful aspect for the speed of play on those final holes was that many of them had a pretty wide open fairway. Was there still risk of being punished down by the basket? Often there was, but honestly I had been pretty beat up from the rest of the course so I wasn’t trying to go big on anything at that point. Especially during that quickly darkening twilight.
When we finished the round it was practically dark. I got my dusty discs back, and we exchanged plans to see each other again before I left for my next adventure. As I got into my car while they pulled away, I finally started to let myself process how challenging that course was. Without a doubt this course had me at my limit physically. The elevation change there was steep, frequent, and usually on uncertain footing. Many fairways are extremely narrow or non-existent. Basket placement was constantly making any approach or putt one to think about, and while O.B. (Click HERE for more on disc golf terminology) isn’t a concern, it was made up for by the almost constant threat of potential errant rolls that would punish even seasoned pros. And just because there was a lot of elevation change does not mean that the course creator shied away from having longer holes. Multiple 400′ holes, one of which gains over 100′ in elevation, really is the cherry on top of this difficult course.
Sitting in my car I could feel how beat up I was from that round, but I felt good at the same time too. It wasn’t a round that I really cared about my score, and I knew it wouldn’t be from the moment I had laid my eyes on the course. It was a round that I got to spend some awesome quality time with family, help teach my sister and her husband more about disc golf, and catch an epic sunset as it laid the valley to rest in a gold, then pink, then purple blanket of sky. I felt blessed, and incredibly thankful. It may be a really tough course, but if you have the physical stamina for a course like this, and your timing is good enough to hit it up for an evening round, than I would highly recommend it as it is one of the best seats in Provo to catch a sunset with the bonus of getting to throw while experiencing it.
**Additional images courtesy of my sister Jocelyn C. ©2017