About 10 years ago Scott Truman stood atop the small plateau next to Millsite Reservoir and Millsite State Park and envisioned what many now find hard to believe - a golf course winding through the rocky terrain and dropping off the steep ledges.
"I could see the holes, and to me the layout was all there," Truman said.As a member of the Ferron City Council and economic development director of Emery County at the time, Truman felt a golf course was necessary to bring the community of farmers, ranchers, miners and power-plant workers together. Ferron's population was only about 1,800, but about 15,000 people lived in surrounding communities.
"Towns like this need something to gather around, and nothing brings a community together more than a golf course," Truman said.
For more than four years Truman and dozens of other volunteers went to work acquiring land, doing engineering work and seeking donations of labor and material. With volunteer help, donations and a $250,000 grant from the State Community Impact Board, Ferron residents built a nine-hole golf course on land most would only find fit for lizards. In 1987, Ferron-Millsite Golf Course opened and is now one of the most scenic layouts in the state.
"When people come to visit Ferron now, what they see is a lot of pride and a group of people that caught a vision and made that vision come true," Truman said.
Similar stories can be told about all of Utah's rural golf courses. All were built with tight budgets and a lot of volunteer help. And they all have common characteristics - they provide a cheap and uncrowded place to play golf, and none make money.
"It would be nice if the course can pay for itself and turn a profit but I don't think that can be done with a nine-hole course in rural America," said John Fillmore, Canyon Hills Park professional. "It provides recreation for the community and that's why it's here."
Courses like Ferron-Millsite and Canyon Hills Park in Nephi reached a milestone last year when their revenues exceeded $100,000 for the first time. Some rural courses are subsidized by city budgets to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000 annually - figures that would make council members and mayors in cities with much larger budgets go ballistic.
"It all goes back to golf," said Shane McAfee, Vernal City recreation director. "It's a commodity people want and are willing to pay for."
Vernal recently added nine holes to Dinaland Golf Course because Uinta Basin residents, workers and businessmen believe a quality golf course is an important community asset, McAfee said. Nearby Roosevelt is doing the same. Green River officials, monitoring the success and benefits of Ferron-Millsite, will be the next rural community to add a links.
"I hate to use the line from the movie `Field of Dreams,' but it's a fact. If you build it, they will come," Truman said.
Because rural golf is not profit-driven, green fees at rural courses are usually $3 to $4 lower than Wasatch Front courses. And tee times are not needed during weekdays.
"Golfers come down here from Salt Lake City and play golf faster and cheaper than if they stepped right out their own back door," Fillmore said. "It's golf like we used to know it everywhere."
Rural golf courses
Blue Mountain Meadows, Monticello
Canyon Breeze, Beaver
Canyon Hills Park, Nephi
Cedar Ridge, Cedar City
Coral Cliffs, Kanab
Cove View, Richfield
Oquirrh Hills, Tooele
Sunset View, Delta