Plan of attack: How to play Desert Pines Golf Club

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- It's important to strike early if you're looking to score well at Las Vegas' Desert Pines Golf Club. Here's a look at the green-light golf holes at this Sin City favorite, as well as a few holes where a little caution is called for. Play these holes well -- and smartly -- and you'll have a successful round.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 71 | 6222 yards
Desert Pines Golf Club - no. 1
The tree-lined fairways on Desert Pines' opener make club selection simple: hit any club you hit very straight.
Desert Pines Golf Club - no. 1Desert Pines Golf Club - no. 7Desert Pines Golf Club - No. 18

The early holes on each nine -- 1 and 10 -- are great openers as players take their best shots at this Dye Designs layout that can stretch out to 6,810 yards from the tips.

While Desert Pines is not a long course, the tree-lined fairways that are abundant provide great challenges from start to finish.

"It's narrower than most courses," said Head Professional Josh Gafford. "There's not as much room for error so you've got to play intelligently."

With that in mind, let's tee it up.

Holes 1 and 10: The opening hole on each nine (No. 1 is 355 yards from the tips, and No. 10 is 372 yards from the tips) offers many options, but those tree-lined fairways make club selection simple: hit any club you hit very straight. Whether it's the driver (not necessary) or even a hybrid, being in the fairway will leave players a simple mid-iron or wedge into the green.

"These are two good starting holes," Gafford said. "I try to play these two like I try to play every hole -- fairways and greens." A birdie putt on each of these holes will give players confidence. But beware, the challenges will become more difficult.

Holes 2 and 11: These are two key par 3s for your round after opening with those short par 4s -- and hopefully a pair of birdie putts. One of them (the second) is an early test of nerves while the other one (11) is another green-light special. The second hole plays a daunting 195 yards from the tips with a front bunker guarding a large green. Finding the putting surface, obviously, is key and a par here is a great score. The 11th is another scoring chance as it plays just 156 yards from the tips. Bunkers short and right shouldn't come into play but left is dead with a large bunker awaiting. Another chance to take dead-aim at the pin.

No. 4: This is the one you've been waiting for: A driveable par 4. "The average player is going to play it safe," Gafford said. "Once you've played the hole, you may give it a go the next time but most of the time only players with certain skill levels will attempt to drive the green." From the tips it's 322 yards, but the forward tees (255 and 310) will have players pondering which route to take. The answer isn't so simple. On the one hand, the green itself is fairly wide open. That's the good news. The bad news is there are five bunkers in front of the green starting at 236 yards out that must be avoided. The smart play (and we all know everyone plays it smart, right?) is to take a mid-iron and lay up to 100 yards as the fairway is narrow off the tee.

No. 7: Now comes the tough part -- a trouble-laden par-5. It's a short hole at just 517 yards but bunkers (starting at 260 yards off the tee) and desert areas narrow landing areas. Unless you hit it dead straight, driver may not be the best choice off the tee. Sure, we all like to go for it in two on par 5s, but this one is different. Even if you bomb it off the tee and find the fairway, a pond on the right and a bunker left force a pinpoint second shot into a narrow, but deep green. Is it worth the risk?

Desert Pines Golf Club: The closing holes

Desert Pines' ninth and 18th holes are definitely make-or-break holes. Both are long par 4s (467 yards and 466 yards). Both have water coming into play off the tee and on the approach shots.

"Both are long holes and driver is the key," Gafford said. "You've got to hit a good drive on both of these holes."

Bunkers also stand guard around the greens should players bail out to avoid the water. Sound daunting? It should be as these are two of the best finishing holes around. Put up a pair of pars -- or maybe a birdie -- and you'll impress yourself as well as your foursome.

Overall, Desert Pines G.C. is one of those courses that will make players to think about every shot during the round.

"You've got to play it smart and keep it straight," Gafford said.

Bill BowmanBill Bowman, Contributor

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

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