LAYTON -- Watch for the fox.
The regulars at Sun Hills golf course know the importance of keeping an eye out for the local wild life. Watching for the fox -- there's probably more than one out there -- is more than just a quaint expression, it's important advice for anyone teeing it up on the undulating 18-hole links-style track on Layton's north side.
The course is home to a mischievous little gray fox, who has been known to collect golf balls for his very own.
"He's kind of our mascot," said Chris Oostyen, Sun Hill's director of golf. "He comes out and he'll steal your ball. He chews them up."
Oostyen said the fox - or foxes, as the case may be - has stolen balls from fairways, bunker and greens. The pro shop even has a collection of chewed-up balls on display.
Oostyen said the regulars at Sun Hills do indeed think of the fox as the course's mascot. Players have been known to run into the pro shop after their round, just to let him know they saw the little fella playing in the native rough.
"Someone will run in and say, 'I saw the fox tonight out on No. 12,' " he said.
The fox as become a symbol of Sun Hills. He's everywhere, including on the course's yardage book, its hats and there's even fox headcovers with the Sun Hills logo stitched on.
On a personal note, I've lived near Sun Hills for several years and have played there often by myself, with my children and with close friends. I'd heard stories about the foxes but had never actually seen one, much to my chagrin.
Late last fall, as my youngest son and I went out for one of our last rounds of the season, I lamented my bad luck for never having seen the famed creatures. I spent the better part of the round worried more about seeing a fox than carding a decent score.
We finished playing and I'd still been shut out. However, unbeknownst to me my son returned to the pro shop a few days later and bought one of the course's colorful fox headcovers for my driver.
Several weeks later, on Christmas morning, I opened the gift and immediately began counting the days until the start of golf season.
Sure enough, on one of our first outings this season we saw a fox near hole No. 4.
But really, the foxes at Sun Hills are liable to show up anywhere, at any time.
No. 4, which runs along the northernmost boundary near Hill Air Force Base, is one of the most challenging par 3s in Northern Utah. Like all the holes at Sun Hills, it has character. The two rolling, downhill par 5s on the front nine are great holes, as is the uphill par 4 12th and the straight downhill par 4 17th.
But my favorite hole on the course is No. 11, a long par 4 - the longest on the course - that plays more than 460 yards from the blue tees.
The tee is elevated and there is a significant drop moving toward the green, which sits down in a little valley.
The elevated tee is a big help, especially to big hitters who can pipe a driver 250 or 300 yards. From there, provided you're in the fairway, it's an easy low iron into the rolling green, which is protected by bunkers.
For the rest of us, No. 11 requires a well-struck driver off the tee. There is hard rough to the left as well as some thick stuff off to the right as well.
Because No. 11 plays so long, even a good tee shot will challenge a high handicapper to fire a fairway wood to the green. Accuracy is important, especially with those traps.
But even hitting the spacious putting surface doesn't guarantee a low score. Far from it, actually.
Because the green is big and wavy, putts will break considerably toward the south.
While playing No. 11, it's a good idea to stop and look around. From the tee there's a spectacular view of south Davis Country and the Great Salt Lake beyond. Even when you're on the green it's worth looking around at the natural vegetation and thick rough.
And by all means, watch for the fox.