The LPGA Tour will be returning to Utah, this time at the remarkable layout of the new Black Desert Resort located in Ivins near St. George, just down the street from Entrada Golf Club.
This is a big deal.
The first LPGA event at Black Desert will be in 2025. The course held a grand opening in late May.
The popularity of the LPGA Tour has never been greater thanks to exposure on the Golf Channel and its global draw with a myriad of venues. I’m looking forward to watching this LPGA event because the players are so precise in how they play the game. Their tempo and short-game skills are among the best in the world and this stop will surely display southern Utah in ways that need exposing.
It also speaks volumes about the Black Desert course, a massive layout cut from the lava fields next to the mountains. It features forgiving fairways and big greens, accented by clean, crisp sand traps and grass bunkers strategically placed. It is eye candy and is destined to be one of the most popular golf tracks in the region.
Gina Higbee, one of the state’s most talented golf instructors who is popular in northern Utah County digs like Fox Hollow in American Fork, is an LPGA professional and will be director of volunteers for the championship series events at Black Desert.
To say Higbee is ecstatic about this event is an understatement. It will showcase her lifetime love of the game introduced to her by her father at age 12.
“I fell in love with the game instantly. Mom and dad put me in lessons right away with Jimmy Thompson so I was learning the right way and not just getting good at bad habits,” said Higbee.
“I was exposed to as much great golf and players as possible in the state of Utah. I had newspaper and magazine articles all over on the walls of my bedroom of Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan, Jan Stephenson and Dottie Pepper, just to name a few. I would dream and envision what it would be like to watch them play golf and how incredible it would be to watch them play in person.
“In order for me to do this my parents would have needed to take me outside the state to go watch them in an LPGA tournament, which would have been expensive and we couldn’t afford to make that happen.”
“Now ... after 60 years ... The LPGA Tour is coming to Utah!”
Higbee praises LPGA players for the hours they invest in practice on the range, putting, chipping and playing the course, figuring out yardage and more.
“They put hours into fueling their minds with the best books, podcasts, thoughts and trainers as well as fueling their bodies with the best foods to help them perform to the best of their ability,” said Higbee. “They put in hours of working on flexibility, strengthening and building the proper muscles in their body to be able to maximize their ability to hit that little white ball to the best of their ability as well as trying to prevent injury.”
Higbee says this event at Black Desert will open doors for many, especially young women who are learning the game.
“I am so excited for the opportunity that we all have to watch this level of play in the great state of Utah. I’m excited for the dads and moms to be able to expose their kids to the best players in the world right here at Black Desert Resort.
“I’ve taught countless lessons and 70% of those are to men. Most of them tell me they want to learn how to hit the ball like the LPGA Tour players. They say ‘They make it look so easy.’ Ha, ha.”
But it’s true.
There are great lessons to be learned by watching LPGA Tour players. Former BYU player and coach and retired UVU women’s coach Sue Nyhus should know. She’s one of the most accomplished competitors Utah’s ever produced — playing at the national level.
“What these women have to do to elevate their game is remarkable. Because they don’t hit the ball as far with as much power and length as men, they work hard at ball striking and scoring with finesse and accuracy with their irons, wedges and putters,” said Nyhus.
Black Desert Resort is a Tom Weiskopf design in collaboration with architect Phil Smith. It is a par-72 layout with generous “resort type” fairways that stretch 75 to 100 yards wide.
You’d have to really hook or slice horribly to hit it in the lava fields. There are two drivable par-4s, No. 5 and 14.
“We are thrilled to welcome Black Desert Resort into the LPGA family as a tournament partner and title sponsor,” said Ricki Lasky, LPGA chief tour business and operations officer. “This spectacular venue will undoubtedly provide an incredible test to our LPGA Tour athletes. We also greatly appreciate the dedication of the Black Desert Resort team in elevating the stature of the women’s game by making this partnership a key element of their corporate platform as they welcome golf fans to their venue for the first time this week.”
When I played the nine holes that were open back in April, it was a round comprised of holes from the front and back because the full 18 holes were not completed.
It was challenging and fun. The stark contrast between the black rocks and lush green fairways and white sand traps was impressive. There is a giant pit near the hotel currently being constructed in which fairway soil was dynamited out of the ground and transferred to the layout. Certainly, the area of the pit will be incorporated into a special feature on the property. It must have been rich soil because the course filled in fast and lush.
Black Rock is open to the public. It will soon be a destination resort with a luxury 150-room hotel and 1,050 residences with on-property trails, a wellness spa, and 80,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
“Black Desert is excited to join in furthering the elevation of women’s golf. It’s historic that it’s been almost 60 years, to the day, since an LPGA tournament was held in the great state of Utah,” said Lasky,
“I can’t think of a more appropriate day to make this LPGA tournament announcement than on National Women’s Golf Day,” said Patrick Manning, managing partner of Black Desert Resort.
For Higbee, this is a wonderland and dream come true for golf fans.
Black Rock can handle it.
It will be a gem for Utahns and its tourist industry.