FRUIT HEIGHTS --Mother Nature huffed and puffed with historic force on December 1, 2011, but she never did blow out the magic of the Davis Park Golf Course.
Nearly 18 months removed from the storm that sent hurricane-force winds howling down the Wasatch Mountains into Davis County, Davis Park remains one of Northern Utah's favorite golf locations.
The hilly 6,500-yard track lost approximately 500 trees during the record-setting windstorm and its look has changed in places. But in a state filled with absolutely breathtaking golf courses, the picturesque landscapes around Davis are second to none.
"It's fun to play, everybody can play it," head pro Brad Stone said. "If you're an average player, it's fun. If you're a skilled player, it's fun. That's part of the enjoyment of Davis. All levels and all proficiencies of golfers can enjoy it."
Frankly, there isn't a bad hole on the course. Whether it's looking southwest toward the Great Salt Lake and beyond or eastward toward the mountains, each hole has its own character, some with more challenges than others.
There's hole No. 12 on the back, a 498-yard (from the championship tees) par-4 that might have you swinging out of your FootJoys with your first two shots at least. And there's hole No. 2, a splendid little 146-yard (from the friendlier white tees) par-3, which is by no means a gimme.
They're all pretty to look at a fun to play, but my personal favorite has long been No. 4, a marvelous spot on the southwest end of the course, doglegging left like ... like ... well, a dog's leg.
From the white tees (I'm no longer too proud to tee it forward) No. 4 plays 368 yards, which seems more than manageable. But be warned, it's not as easy as it might appear on the scorecard.
Before the windstorm, No. 4 was seriously tight with trees galore to the left. Many of those trees fell victim to the storm and their chipped-up remnants can still be seen nearby. New trees and high rough have been planted, so there's still some trouble along that side, though not quite like before.
There are trees and out-of-bounds on the right, so even if a golfer pipes one straight, the fairway quickly shortens and even good shots can roll into bad locations along the back side of the course.
Before December 2011, the trees along the left side of the fairway protected the No. 5 tee box from golfers who might otherwise have tried to cut across the dogleg.
After the windstorm, the protection wasn't there and safety became a concern, Stone said.
But it's better this year than it was last year and next year figures to be even better.
"Our biggest worry was safety because it just opened things up," Stone said. "That's why we've gone in with new plantings and grown some more penalizing areas of long grass down the left hand side. You'd have a tough time hitting out of that long grass that goes down the left hand side of the hole."
No. 4 has always been fun for me personally. During younger and stronger days gone by, a lofted fairway wood (they're actually made of metal now, for those who don't golf or haven't changed clubs in a while) or a mid-iron was the play off the tee. These days it's a 3-wood or perhaps a hybrid off the tee and a quick prayer to the golf gods imploring the shot to stay up, leaving a good look at the green.
But No. 4 remains a risk vs. reward hole, even without as many trees on the left.
Golfers who don't take enough club can leave themselves with a tricky downhill approach to a green protected by a bunker, plus those trees (they're new yet still good-sized) on the left. Golfers who hit too much club will find themselves with a long, uphill approach ... assuming they're still in bounds.
Get closer and there's a little pesky berm in front of the green. Like seemingly all the greens at Davis, the putting surface is well kept and fast enough to present a challenge.
Truly, No. 4 is an interesting, high-character hole. Play it one day and you're liable to score a birdie; play it the next and you might just slink away with a double or worse.
If the former happens to you, smile and be grateful. If it's the latter, breathe deep and take a good look all around.
After all, the views at Davis Park are spectacular, even after withstanding some of the worst Mother Nature can dish out.