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Sunbrook has a shining new addition

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For the past several years, the Sunbrook Golf Course in St. George has been ranked as the No. 1 golf course in Utah, according to Golf Digest Magazine.

So, after recently adding another nine holes to the spectacular layout, does that now make Sunbrook No. 11/2?Perhaps, but the new nine, which opened last summer, has done nothing to diminish the crown jewel of Utah golf courses.

The $2.2 million addition, which was remarkably completed in less than a year after construction began, fits in well with the desert and redrock setting in the west part of St. George.

The idea for an additional nine at Sunbrook was hatched a couple of years ago by St. George city officials, who felt that nine more holes at the popular course could only be a positive. The driving force behind the plan was city manager Gary Esplin, who helped procure the additional land, mostly on a donated basis and came up with the original routing plan for the new nine.

"With the success of the first 18 holes, we always wanted to be able to expand," said Esplin. "Twenty-seven holes was the most effective way because we could still run the course out of the same golf shop. There are a lot of positive economic benefits."

The new nine, which is north of the original course, has been designated "Black Rock" because of the black lava rock that surrounds three of the new holes, much like the Entrada course to the north. The old front nine has been renamed "The Pointe," while the old back nine is now called "Wood-bridge."

Sunbrook head pro Reed McArthur says the response to the new nine has been very positive since it opened. "There are just so many good holes here," he said.

After a gentle opening hole, a short straight par-4, comes perhaps the toughest hole on the nine, a dogleg right with a narrow opening to the green. The hole has been modified recently with a few trees cut down to make it easier to see the green on your approach shot. Still, even the best of golfers will have a hard time reaching this par-5 in two.

The third hole is a par-3 over water to an elevated green, while No. 4 is another par-5 - a double dogleg that turns right and then left up near the green. Except from the front tees, the tee shot must carry a lake, but there's a second, hidden lake, that golfers must beware of.

Every course needs a sucker hole and No. 5 is the one here. It measures just 283 yards from the back tees, but in order to hit the elevated green from the tee, you must hit over some tall trees growing from the bottom of a gully.

The sixth, seventh and eighth holes are the holes that give the nine its name with black lava rock just off the fairway, although it isn't quite as close and menacing as the lava at Entrada. No. 7 is the "signature hole," a dogleg left over a lake that hugs the green. Behind the hole look for a small three-foot high rock wall that apparently dates from pioneer times.

You leave the black rocks behind at No. 9, a pretty downhill par-4 with full-grown cottonwoods lining the fairway and providing a backdrop behind the green.

The way the course is set up most of the year, the Black Rock nine is included in both 18-hole setups, as the front nine with Woodbridge and as the back nine with The Pointe.