Highland Falls at Golf Summerlin: Casper-Nash design perfectly combines beauty and challenge

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- It's really quite simple when it comes to golf: Players want a challenging course at rates that won't break the bank. Well, at Highland Falls Golf Club in northwest Las Vegas, that's exactly what they'll get.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 72 | 6512 yards
Highland Falls at Golf Summerlin - 1st hole
Highland Falls Golf Club: A thinking-man's challenge.
Highland Falls at Golf Summerlin - 1st holeHighland Falls at Golf Summerlin - 5th holeHighland Falls at Golf Summerlin - 16th holeHighland Falls at Golf Summerlin - 7th hole

The Billy Casper/Greg Nash-designed Highland Falls, one of three Golf Summerlin layouts (along with Palm Valley Golf Course and an executive course, Eagle Crest), plays to just 6,512 yards from the tips.

The course opened in 1993, and as well as offering an exacting test of golf, it throws in some stunning views free of charge. An example: Standing on the 14th tee, a 206-yard, downhill par 3 (it's about a 30-foot drop from tee to green), players can take in a panoramic view of the entire Las Vegas Strip skyline in the background. Before picking a club to hit on this dramatic par 3, take a minute to drink in the view and maybe even snap a picture.

Highland Falls: On the course

The elevation changes on this course come early and often -- starting with the par-5 opener. At 521 yards, it's fairly short. But it's all uphill adding to the test. Throw in about a dozen bunkers, and your accuracy is tested from start to finish on this hole.

It's that type of design that appeals to Donna McDowell who lives in the area and plays Highland Falls often.

"The course has a lot of personality," she said. "It's pretty narrow, and there are a lot of elevation changes and hazards so it's definitely a challenging course."

She added: It's a layout that has a lot of variety to it. "Every hole is different and has its own character."

That's especially true on the back nine and spot-on when talking about the two closing holes.

The 17th and 18th holes offer what every golfer is looking for: a dramatic end to the round. The par-3 17th plays just 168 yards from the tips, but water on the right and bunkering on the left make pin-point accuracy tee shots a must. The green is large, so just hitting it with the tee shot doesn't necessarily mean you'll walk away with a birdie or par. Because, like most of the other greens on the course, there aren't many truly flat putts, and the undulations are a challenge to read.

That brings us to the finale -- drumroll, please. Check out the par-4 18th. At 387 yards, length (as with most of the holes on the course) isn't the biggest factor on this dogleg right hole. The key is avoiding the water along the entire right side. A couple of bunkers, one short right and one long and left, also come into play off the tee. But find the fairway and then the green with that approach shot, and it's a definite birdie possibility and a great way to end the round.

Gary Kuehl, who has lived in the area for five years and plays all three Golf Summerlin courses regularly, has a couple of tips for players checking out the course for the first time.

"The greens are probably the biggest challenge here," Kuehl said. "That and the narrow fairways make accuracy a must, especially off the tee."

Kuehl has another way to add to the variety playing the course. "Depending on who may be in town visiting me when we play, I'll play from different sets of tees to change it up -- from the forward tees to the back," he said. "It also gives you different looks at the course."

Highland Falls Golf Club: The verdict

If you're looking for a Las Vegas golf course with a down-home feel, Highland Falls will fit the bill. It's a layout that is ideal for your next outing: It's challenging enough for the low handicappers but very playable for those who don't always hit it straight.

And don't forget the other two courses. Palm Valley and Eagle Crest are both are within a driver and long-iron of Highland Falls and offer two more spots to tee it up if one round of golf just isn't enough.

Bonus: Stop at The Highlander restaurant before or after the round for a quick bite. In addition to burgers and hot dogs, there are a variety of salads and sandwich options for those looking for other dining choices. In the pro shop, a choice of apparel is available along with those necessities (sun screen, lip balm, etc.).

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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