Taming DragonRidge a fiery challenge

By Murray Anderson, Contributor

HENDERSON, NV -- DragonRidge Golf Club burst onto the Las Vegas scene in the summer of 2000. . .then was quickly stuck in traffic, as dozens of new, upscale courses jockeyed for position in Sin City's newfound boom in the golf market.

But from the beginning, DragonRidge immediately bypassed the public resort route for the strictly private club. The community itself is gated, and the only way Vegas visitors will get a peak is through Stay and Play packages with cooperating hotels.

Star power is paramount in Vegas, and perhaps that's one of the reasons for DragonRidge's early success.

In the club's first years, golf's biggest name kept coming back, which is a heck of an endorsement. And DragonRidge's marketing honchos make no secret the Tiger Woods Foundation came not once but twice with Tiger Jam to their fairways, most recently Tiger Jam IV in 2002. Each year, Tiger Jam features a night of entertainment at the Mandalay Bay Resort (featuring performances from likes of Christina Aguilera, Kid Rock and in 2004 Prince) then brings a star-studded lineup onto the course, which was hosted in 2004 by Rio Secco Golf Club.

"I think it's a great honor we've been selected for these events," said Cliff Lawson, director of golf at DragonRidge. "I know I'm a little biased but I think our course is one of the top three or four in the valley."

The tricky, 7,039-yard layout was designed by the team of Jay Morrish and David Druzisky who took the rocky desert landscape and carved the course through the land's rugged hills and valleys.

"It was fun to design a golf course and be able to put golfers through a host of different experiences," said Druzisky, who has worked on courses with a handful of legendary designers including Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Bob Cupp. "I think the course plays like a storyline, through the front nine with the water elements to the back nine with the more challenging holes and rugged topography."

The front nine features the par-3 No. 2 measuring 229 yards from the tips. No need for a long iron, however: the steep 125-foot elevation drop from tee to green makes this beauty play much shorter. The tee is the highest elevated point on the 18-hole course and the views of the Las Vegas Valley are stunning, including the rock formation atop one of the mountains which resembles a scaly dragon's back, hence the club's name.

"Despite its length, the hole is extremely fair," Lawson said. "The tees are elevated so it plays shorter than its actual length and the green and the surrounding area are generous."

The signature par-4 7th is the lowest handicapped hole and plays a brawny 441 yards. An elaborately created creek lines the right side of the fairway, which winds right along with the lay of the hole and collects behind the green.

"This is a very intimidating looking tee shot. The fairway is not very wide and you see water all along the right," Lawson said. "The second shot can also be intimidating because there is sand in front of the green and water on the right."

DragonRidge's back nine holes feature more gambling options than a parlay bet at Caesar's sports book.

"The front nine holes have a definite desert flow but it is a little more traditional than the back nine," points out Lawson. "Along the back there are a lot more forced carries with some desert flair."

The back nine features two holes with split fairways in No. 10 and No. 18 and a tough par-5, No. 12.

No. 12 plays 570 yards uphill with a desert wash running across the middle of the fairway. Big hitters may be inclined to leave the driver in the bag, it is possible to reach with a big drive. The second shot will likely find sand as bunkers are prominent in front of the green and to the left.

"Along with playing uphill, this hole generally plays into the wind when it gets gusting out here," Lawson said. "The second shot is a lay-up shot."

The black lava rock along the back nine offers a dramatic visual image to the course as well as eats up sprayed shots.

"The course is a definite challenge. It's not long and most of the fairways are generous, but if you spray the ball, you will be in trouble," notes Lawson. "With the lava rock you would swear you are on the big island of Hawaii."

Neither hula girls nor lush, volcanic vegetation included at DragonRidge however. But since when did a Vegas property try and make money attempting to fake another luxurious, exotic destination, anyway?


DragonRidge Golf Club is approximately 20 minutes south of the Las Vegas Strip, with the main gated entrance located on the corner of Valle Verde and Horizon Ridge Parkway.

From the Las Vegas Strip

Get onto Interstate 15 going south (you can access it from either Spring Mountain, Flamingo, Tropicana or Russell Road). Exit Interstate 15 onto the 215 Freeway east to McCarran Airport/Henderson. Continue approximately 10 minutes until you reach the Valle Verde exit. Exit south (right) on Valle Verde Drive. Continue on Valle Verde to Horizon Ridge Parkway, cross Horizon Ridge to the MacDonald Highland/Stonehaven gated entrance and proceed straight up the road that ends at the clubhouse.

From the McCarran International Airport

Exit right (south) to the 215 Freeway/Henderson through the airport tunnel. Stay in the left lane. Take the Henderson exit, which circles around and puts you on the 215 Freeway. Take the 215 Freeway and exit right (south) on to Valle Verde Drive. Continue on Valle Verde across Horizon Ridge to the MacDonald Highland/Stonehaven gated entrance and proceed straight up the road that ends at the clubhouse.

Murray Anderson, Contributor

Murray Anderson attended Imperial Valley College for two years and then California State University, Fullerton. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications in 1992 with an emphasis in journalism. He began his journalism career at the Imperial Valley Press newspaper as a sports writer and later became a full-time news writer, then sports writer and eventually sports editor.

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