Our friend Jay Morse from Forelinksters has just finished listing the top ten golf courses in Las Vegas.
Everyone eventually gets to Las Vegas, and Linksters like to get in a round of golf or two in between the shows and gambling, or the convention they’re attending. My first time in Vegas, in the early 1970’s, we played the current Las Vegas National Golf Club, which at that time was a pretty swanky place, a PGA Tour stop, and a relatively new course. The Desert Inn, or DI was the top public access course in town, and wished I’d known about it and played it, cause it’s gone now, the site of the new Wynn Hotel and golf course.
Today, Las Vegas National is somewhat run of the mill, a little tired, but still fine layout overshadowed by some incredible layouts. The Vegas of the 1970’s had only 35,000 hotel rooms, today, there’s 150,000, the same thing has happened to golf in Vegas. I would be marginally wealthier if I’d only visited Vegas once in the last 35 years, instead of the 100+ times I’ve been there, and played most of the golf courses. If you’ve never been, and plan your holidays to Las Vegas, you’ll want to pick from the top shelf of golf courses in town. Everyone has their top 10 lists, ours is from the readers and members of Forelinksters who have rated and reviewed the best courses in town and have come up with the following list of the top 10 golf courses in Las Vegas you can play in alphabetical order:
1. Aliante Aliante is in North Las Vegas, between I-15 and US 95, routed through a tightly packed residential development, seems like a retirement community. The golf course’s main feature is wide open fairways off the tees, bordered by desert and the houses. From the tips the course can play to 7,022 yards with a 72.9 course rating and a 133 slope, and is a Gary Panks design.
2. Badlands The course is west of downtown Las Vegas, 30 minutes from the strip, just off Charleston. It’s a 27 hole layout, the Desperado, Outlaw, and Diablo, and was designed by the team of Johnny Miller & Chi Rodriguez as a target style desert terrain course. It’s a beautiful and challenging course, scenic with good elevation change, with excellent guest service.
Badlands Golf Course
3. Bear’s Best Bear’s Best is out in Summerlin, west of the Strip by about 30 minutes. It’s a collection of Nicklaus’s favorite holes he’s designed over the years and includes: Cabo del Sol, PGA West Private, Desert Highland, Old Works, Eldorado, Pamillia, Las Campanas, Castle Pines, Desert Mountain, Bear Creek. It may be a collection of his best designs, but it was all lost on me since I’ve never played any of these courses, but very well done and enjoyable nonetheless.
4. Cascata Don’t even read this unless you have $500 to spend on a round of golf. Not sure golf is ever worth that, but this is a very special course. It’s a Rees Jones design, was originally opened as an exclusive private course, but opened up to the public, and is affiliated with Harrah’s. The course measures 7137 yards and 143 slope from the tips, and has been dubbed “The Eighth Wonder of the golf world” due to it’s construction. The customer service is way over the top, but for this price you have pretty high expectations when you enter the massive Italian style clubhouse. Conditioning is pristine here and the greens are slick and undulating. The course is located toward Boulder City south of Henderson, and maybe 30 minutes from the Strip.
5. Paiute Reservation Paiute is 45 minutes from the Strip and has three excellent 18 hole courses, if you’re looking for a 36 hole day, this is the place for you. The Sun Mountain course was designed by Pete Dye, and is the more forgiving layout of the three courses. It’s course is routed through a gently rolling and mounded desert waste areas, surrounded by native grasses. There’s a number of water hazards, plenty of room off the tee, and large green complexes. The course is moderately bunkered with traditional sand bunkers and long waste areas. The course plays to 7,112 from the back tees, and has several of the Dye standard of railroad tie bunkers along with pot bunkers. The Wolf is newest of the courses here, designed by Pete Dye as well. This one is 7,604 from the tips, the longest course in Nevada. The course is fairly flat with moderate mounding and fairway undulations, a few holes with water including an island green, 182 yard par three. The course is routed through the desert, but not a desert target course. There’s plenty of room on the fairways which are framed by native grasses and wildflowers. The greens tend to be large and well guarded by deep, large bunkers, as well as false fronts, and raised approaches. Snow Mountain the original course here, Pete Dye design which opened in the mid 1990, at 7158 yards, 73.9 handicap and /125 slope from the back tees. The course has wide, fairways and heavy fescue rough and nice movement to the fairways through the desert. Dye’s traditional railroad ties, numerous pot bunkers, and traditional sculptured bunkers surround the greens. The greens are moderate sized with good undulations, and generally fast. There are seven holes where lakes come into play, and no parallel fairways. The setting for Paiute is far off from the Vegas concrete and lights in a pure desert environment, and a good getaway from the Strip environment.
Paiute Golf Resort
6. Primm Valley Primm Valley is about 45 minutes from Vegas at the California border. Two very good and different 18 hole championship courses here, the Desert and the Lakes. The Desert plays to 7,131 yards, 138 slope, and is routed through the desert landscape scrub with a scattering of trees, and water in play on only five holes. It’s the tougher of the two courses, and a fairly typical desert layout, but with some elevation change. It’s a Tom Fazio layout with plenty of large and long waste bunkers, mid-sized to large, well guarded greens. The Lakes is shorter at 6,900 yards, 130 slope from the tips and is Fazio as well, as it’s names says, has a lot of water-11 holes. It’s more of a parkland style of course with some trees lining the fairway, more forgiving off the tee, but still plenty of trouble with water and a good amount of bunkering.
7. Royal Links Royal Links holes are designed as replicas of holes from courses from the British Open. It’s a bit overpriced, like most of the courses in Vegas, but it’s cheaper than going across the pond to Scotland or England. It’s located 30 minutes east of the Strip off Desert Inn Road. From the back tees, it’s 7029 yards, 135 slope, and a 72.7 course rating and is a tough course. Sometimes the conditions aren’t up to par, as well as the overall service, but it’s fun to play a course where the holes aren’t typical desert or parkland styles, especially in Vegas. The course was designed by Perry Dye, and has holes from the Old course at St. Andrews, Royal Troon, Carnoustie, Turnberry, Royal Liverpool, Prestwick, Royal Lytham, Muirfield and Royal Birkdale, along with a castle-like clubhouse.
8. Shadow Creek Shadow Creek is a Steve Wynn development, with the course designed by Tom Fazio in 1989. It plays to around 7,500 yards from the back tees, and while the USGA hasn’t formally rated it, based on the level of difficulty, I would say a 130 slope from the regular tees. It’s the most expensive golf course you can play, maybe anywhere at north of $500 per round. although the price has come down lately. It used to be much more exclusive, but now if you pay the freight you can play. It’s a beautiful course, you hardly know you’re in the desert with the amount of mounding and vegetation they’ve grown in here. Very nice condition, and service was way over the top, but then at these rates it should be. Have played Pebble for similar costs, and Shadow Creek doesn’t even come in a close second
9. The Wynn The Wynn is the golf course associated with the Wynn and Encore, and is in the middle of the Strip at Desert Inn, between Las Vegas Blvd, and It’s on the same property where the classic Desert Inn was until it was demolished in 2001. I suppose you could call the new course the old DI on steroids. Tom Fazio designed it, brought in 800,000 cubic yards of topsoil, 1200 trees, and created a very solid golf course, that will mature nicely into a great course. It’s a good solid layout, mounded fairways, lots of bunkers and water features, including a waterfall, and plays to 7,000 yards from the tips, but no USGA ratings, but IMHO it’s overrated and too expensive.
The Wynn Golf Course
10. TPC Las Vegas TPC Las Vegas, formerly known as TPC Canyons, was designed by Bobby Weed, with Raymond Floyd, and opened in 1996. The course is routed through desert arroyos and barrancas, with several of the par threes are green islands in the midst of the desert waste areas, and force accuracy. The course has moderate mounding, natural waste area sand, and traditional bunkers. The bentgrass greens are fairly generous in size, but extremely quick, as the course advertises 10.5 Stimpmeter readings. Top playing conditions all throughout the year. The course plays to a par 71, 7,063-yards with a 73 handicap rating, and a slope of 131. It’s one of the more expensive courses in Las Vegas, but the TPC experience of service and conditions make up for the cost.
The second tier of golf courses in Vegas are very well the first tier courses in any other city, save Pinehurst or Myrtle Beach, and are generally lighter on the budget, but still a stout greens fees and include: Angel Park, Bali Hai, which may be its last year, Black Mountain, Boulder Creek, Desert Pines, Painted Desert, Revere at Anthem, Rhodes Ranch, Rio Secco, Siena, and Tuscany.
There you have it from the members of Forelinksters the best of the many golf courses in Las Vegas, my next trip out, I’m avoiding all of them, and heading to my bucket list course Furnace Creek in Death Valley, a 2+ hour drive, but it will be off my list!
Here’s the link to Jay’s article at Forelinksters: link