Desert Willow Golf Course in Henderson: The long and short of a fun executive course

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The words "executive golf course" can have negative connotations to many golfers for many reasons: not long enough, not enough challenge, and on and on.

18 Holes | Semi-Private | Par: 60 | 3811 yards
Desert Willow Golf Course
Desert Willow was designed by heavy hitters Billy Casper and Greg Nash.
Desert Willow Golf CourseDesert Willow Golf Course - 5th holeDesert Willow Golf Course - 3rd holeDesert Willow Golf Course - 18th hole

Well, at Desert Willow Golf Course, those fears can be put to rest.

The course designers, Billy Casper and Greg Nash, are two of the heavy hitters in the design game. This par-60 course plays to 3,811 yards, but the elevation changes and water features make it a scenic and challenging course.

"It's great for the short game," said Terry Boyle, Desert Willow's director of golf. "It's a course that won't beat up players but it's still a good test for the low handicappers as well."

With elevation changes from tee to green, and fast, undulating greens, players have a golf course that will have them forgetting about the distance and concentrating on the next shot.

And that's fine with players such as Pete Murphy. The 48-year-old resident loves the course for a couple of reasons.

"I'm a bogey golfer so I get the chance to work on my short game," Murphy said. "Plus, there are times I just can't take the time to play a full-length course. That makes this one perfect."

The challenge of Desert Willow Golf Course

While Desert Willow is a shorter course, that doesn't mean any less challenging.

The ninth and 18th holes, both par 4s, can make or break your round. A good drive off the tee on both holes will leave players with a short iron in hand. But water in front of both greens makes pin-point accuracy a must.

"These are great finishing holes for each nine," Boyle said. "With the water and the sand all around, it definitely makes players think for their second shots."

Or third shots -- or more. Boyle recounted the story where a good player lost the Desert Willow club championship by taking a 10 on the final hole. "So it's not easy -- even for very good players," he said.

Murphy agreed the ninth and 18th are solid golf holes.

"I have managed to par both of them so I feel real good about that," he said with a laugh. "They are definitely the toughest holes on the course."

Others might give the honor to the par-3 14th hole. While many of the par 3s at Desert Willow will have players looking at a short iron off the tee, the 14th plays to 209 yards…and it's uphill.

"That's one hole that really proves to be tough," Boyle said. "It's long -- plus it's uphill. The green is large so just hitting the green won't guarantee players will make par. It's just a good test for everyone."

On the range at Desert Willow G.C.

A large practice facility awaits players at Desert Willow (mats on Monday-Thursday and grass on the weekends). Add in a huge putting green (7,500 square feet) and you've got an ideal place to warm up before the round or a spot to just work on your game -- with or without an instructor (which they also have on staff).

Area resident Jerry Delos Reyes was on the range. He's there four days a week and plays about three days a week. "I really like the course," the 72-year-old 10 handicapper said. "I've been coming here about four years. It's got a great practice area and the course is a lot of fun. My friends and I play around the area quite a bit, but we play here more often."

Off the course

Desert Willow Golf Course has been honored as a top executive course by publications such as VegasGolfer Magazine and Golf Range Magazine. And Desert Willow was also one of the first courses in the state to provide junior tees and has a junior program that gets the kids started young.

In Willows Restaurant, fine food, great gaming and a relaxing atmosphere await players (or non-players for that matter) before or after the round. And players also receive discounts on food and beverages simply by showing the receipt from their round.

Desert Willow Golf Course: The verdict

You're in Vegas for fun and golf certainly fit that bill. But, you may not want to spend your whole day on the course. A layout like Desert Willow Golf Course is ideal. You're in and out (including lunch if you'd like) in three and a half to four hours. Add in views of the Las Vegas Strip and the Black Mountains and you've got a course that may be short in length, but it's long in challenge and scenery.

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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