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The City Journals

New look coming to Mick Riley Golf Course for first time in 53 years

Aug 05, 2019 05:19PM ● By Carl Fauver

The new Mick Riley Golf Course clubhouse and golf cart storage building (left, background) are scheduled to open Oct. 1. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Mick enjoyed a big year here in Utah, back in 1966.

While Jagger and his bandmates were playing their first concert in the state (Lagoon, July 23), Murray golfers were getting a little “Satisfaction” of their own, with the opening of the Salt Lake County operated Mick Riley Golf Course (421 E. Vine St.). Friday the 13th of May, 53 years ago, proved to be anything but “unlucky,” as a course opened that continues to thrive today.

But the same way the Rolling Stones’ Mick needed a little work done this year (heart valve replacement surgery in April), the venerable golf course—named for a Utah golfing legend—also needed some improvements. 

“With this golf course and clubhouse constructed more than 50 years ago, we were overdue for some upgrades,” said Mick Riley Head Golf Pro Steve Young, while sitting in his serviceable, but well-worn office, adjacent to the pro shop. “This construction of our new clubhouse and golf cart storage building is a welcome addition.”

And, no, before you ask, this Steve Young has never thrown a Super Bowl touchdown pass.

“He (The Steve Young) is my second cousin,” the golf pro said. “I’ve had many people ask me, ‘Why in the world did your parents name you Steve?’ They don’t stop to think, the other Steve was only about 3 or 4 years old when I was born. He wasn’t a famous NFL quarterback yet.”

The golfing Steve Young enjoyed his own time in the athletic spotlight though, on a smaller scale, when he led Salt Lake’s East High School golf team to back-to-back state championships in 1982 and ’83.

From there it was on to a year of collegiate golf (at what was then Southern Utah State College), an economics degree from the University of Utah and what is now a 29-year career, and counting, in the golf division of the Salt Lake County Parks and Recreation Department.

“I’ve been here at Mick Riley for 9 years,” Young said. “We’ve wanted to make these improvements to the course for quite a while, but first some ownership issues had to be resolved.”

When the 125-acre course opened in 1966, it was built on both Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County land. Because the county operated the course, it paid a nominal lease fee to the city.

“The problem was, the parcels of land were not contiguous,” Young explained. “There were county and city parcels scattered throughout the course. We (the county) did not want to start adding new buildings until the ownership was resolved. We weren’t going to construct on city-owned land.” 

Through a series of land trades, Salt Lake County finally gained full ownership of the course very recently. And that’s when they got to work on the long overdue amenities.

“The county approved a one-time, $4 million appropriation for the two new buildings and for installation of a sprinkling system,” Young said. “Until now, our water sprinkling has all been done by hand.”

For more than a half century then, crews worked overnight to set sprinklers to keep the Mick Riley course green. The improvement will be significant.

“The entire sprinkling system will be automated,” Young said. “In fact, if we get a heavy rain and want to change the watering for a night, we will be able to do that remotely, on our phone.”

The high-tech irrigation system cost about $1.8 million and was scheduled for full completion last month. The two new buildings  along with the current clubhouse demolition and subsequent landscaping will consume the other $2.2 million in the budget.

“Both buildings are scheduled to open Oct. 1,” Young said. “They are each about 3,000 square feet. The storage building will hold about 50 golf carts to keep them out of the weather. And the new clubhouse will feature more restaurant seating and even better views of the Wasatch Mountains. It won’t be a lot bigger than our current clubhouse. But a lot of things in the current building are falling apart, so it will be improved.”

The new clubhouse café will seat 40 people inside and 32 on an outside patio. The new storage building replaces an awning and chain link fence that did little to protect the golf carts from Old Man Winter.

“We lost 21 work days to rain this spring, which is much more than normal,” said Valley Design and Construction (of Layton) Project Superintendent Lee Walczak. “But we have 15 to 20 people working on the site each day and should still open on time, Oct. 1. I think people will like some of the architectural features of the new clubhouse and the view from the restaurant will be great. The covered (dining) porch will also be very nice.”

One of the employees who works under Young—Second Assistant Golf Pro Gavin Eckert—is excited for the change. He arrived at Mick Riley the same time as Young, when the county shifted them both from Old Mill Golf Course in 2010.

“This is a family-friendly environment and a great place to learn the game of golf,” Eckert said. “(The new buildings) will make the course even nicer. Our old saying about Mick Riley was ‘Great players start here,’ and I think that is still true.”

The site actually features two separate 9-hole courses, a “regular” course and a smaller par 3. Round costs range from $7 to $15 (depending on which course and the age of the player) with cart rentals $8 for a 9-hole round. Because it is a public course there are no membership fees or dues.

“We also operate a lot of golf leagues,” Young said. “We have men, women, senior and junior leagues. Murray City has a league here also.”

Last year, the course hosted about 31,000 golf rounds on its larger course and another 12,000 on the par 3.  

“I’ve been golfing here since the course opened and still find it a challenge; I don’t get bored,” said Ron Heugly, 70, of West Jordan.  “I golf here about two dozen times a year, as well as some other courses. It’s a great course to walk. There are a lot of trees. The greens can be a bit tricky. I really like it.” 

His 78-year-old golf partner, Norm Graft of Taylorsville, agreed. Like Heugly, Graft’s been playing Mick Riley off and on from the beginning or since Steve Young was in diapers and Mick Jagger was becoming a household name.

“The greens are very well maintained,” Graft said. “When it’s windy you don’t feel it too much, because of all the trees. It’s a good solid public course.”

For more about the course visit slco.org/golf/mick-riley. To reserve a tee time, up to a week in advance, call 385-468-1400.