Historically speaking: Las Vegas National Golf Club is a stellar link to the past
LAS VEGAS -- Take a little trip back through golf history next time you're in Las Vegas with a stop at the legendary Las Vegas National Golf Club. This Bert Stamps design, which opened in 1961, transports players back to a simpler time where architects simply used trees, bunkers, water and lush fairways to entice players to tee it up.
"The history alone here is just incredible," said Scotty Greer, general manager. "Every major tour has played here, and we've had a wide variety of sports stars and celebrities play here. It's a pretty amazing place."
This golf course doesn't have the bells and whistles of new layouts, and with good reason: It just doesn't need them. It's golf, pure and simple.
That doesn't mean it's a pushover. In fact, it's far from it despite the fact it tips out at right around 6,800 yards and plays to par 71. But put in enough bunkers to create your own desert, water on half the holes and undulating greens that test even the best putters, and you've got a challenging course from start to finish.
How challenging? Well, Las Vegas National has played host to PGA Tour and LPGA events, and Tiger Woods' first PGA Tour victory in 1996 saw him play one of his tournament rounds at National and he shot his highest round of the event, a 70. And one more fact on its toughness: The course record is 62 and is held by Tom Kite and David Graham.
Las Vegas National Golf Club: A tough score
The course starts out giving players a great scoring chance with a par 5 of just 521 yards -- and that's from the tips.
Avoid bunkers to the right, and it's smooth sailing into this green. Well, almost. Bunkers short-right and long-left and a huge pond to the right give this green much-needed defense to those going for it in two. A back-to-front sloping green will remind players to leave approach shots under the hole for the best scoring chances.
While the opener is a great chance for birdie, it's the par 3s that attract the bulk of the attention. Three of the five par 3s can stretch out to more than 200 yards with the 14th reaching a jaw-dropping 232 yards from the tips. Driver anyone? Oh, and bunkers left and right add a little more to the challenge here. Birdie this baby, and you'll pick up a skin in your group every time.
We are in Vegas, so at National, it's only fitting there are two holes where players get the chance to gamble big time. The par-4 13th reaches 312 yards from the back tees. But if you're playing up a set of tees it's 285, and players often get that look in their eyes as they reach for driver to give it a go.
It's reachable, but a pond to the right with a beachside bunker between it and the green can often cause just a little doubt to creep into players' minds. Be careful because a mid-iron and wedge can set up a birdie putt. Is it worth the gamble to drive the green? You decide.
The 18th is a par 5 that also is a risk/reward hole. A big drive will give players the option to go for it in two, but three bunkers surround the rolling, three-tiered green that slopes from back to front. Eagle or birdie are definitely possible and a great way to end your round and cement your place in Vegas' golf history.
Las Vegas National Golf Club: In the clubhouse
There's plenty of room to stretch out before and after the round in the spacious clubhouse. The menu features a wide variety of tasty dining options, and the cold beer just tastes a little better when you're sitting back and watching this week's PGA Tour stop on the overhead TVs.
Las Vegas National also has plenty of room for those special occasions including weddings, business meetings or corporate outings.
Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame
With all of the history surrounding Las Vegas National, it's only fitting that the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame is on site.
The Hall of Fame showcases the history of golf courses in Vegas ... those still going strong and those that have been replaced by high rises. It documents the high-profile events that have take place in Vegas, including the original Tournament of Champions and the current PGA Tour stop: the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Also on display are various pieces of memorabilia that link Vegas' past, present and future. And best of all, the exhibit is free. Next time you're having that post-round drink at Las Vegas National, wander over to the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame and take a trip back in time.
Las Vegas National Golf Club: The verdict
"It's a traditional golf course with grass everywhere," Greer said. "It's not a target course. People still like to play where there's grass. And it doesn't cost an arm and a leg for a family to come out and play."
Las Vegas National is simply a fun round of golf. Add in a staff that makes you feel like a friend from the moment you drive up, and you've got the makings of a great day on the course.
And watch out. With all the history oozing out of this place, you just might learn a thing or two.
May 28, 2010