Like sand? Head to the desert-heavy Arroyo golf course at Red Rock Country Club in Las Vegas

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS - If you like sand, you'll love the Arroyo Course at Red Rock Country Club.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 72 | 6883 yards
Arroyo Golf Club - No. 14
The 14th hole at Arroyo Golf Club features a sizeable green, making for an easy target. Still, the putting can be a challenge.
Arroyo Golf Club - No. 14Arroyo Golf Club - No. 18

The Arnold Palmer signature golf course has close to 100 bunkers, but even more importantly, some 40 acres that used to be irrigated turf have been returned to the desert - ergo more sand ... and rocks and cacti.

The truth is the sand doesn't really make Arroyo, the only course at Red Rock Country Club open to the public, all that difficult. (The Mountain Course at Arroyo is private.) It just makes it more striking, nestled in the natural landmark of Red Rock Canyon. The bunkers, though plentiful, are shallow and generally not difficult to play from, and the new desert landscaping shouldn't come into play if you're smart and moderately skilled.

The turf-reduction program is part of a partial renovation of the four-year-old layout that also includes new drainage and irrigation and some new areas of turf. The result is a golf course that has evolved for the better in a short amount of time.

"It's in the best shape it's been in since we opened," says Thom Blinkinsop, regional general manager for Red Rock Country Club.

Playing at 6,857 yards to a par-72 from the back tees, the Arroyo Course isn't overly long and not particularly tight either. Keeping the ball in play is fairly easy for most players. Couple that with superb conditioning, and the Arroyo Course, which is situated in the master-planned community of Summerlin, is enjoyable for all skill levels.

Many of the recent changes occurred on the back nine, but both nines are strong. The first hole is the longest on the course, a 580-yard par 5 that gets you warmed up in a hurry. And the seventh is a downhill 210-yard par 3 with water to the right of the green. The seventh is both picturesque and potentially profitable. For an extra $5, players can enter a hole-in-one contest that pays $10,000. But, as they say in the old sweepstakes contests, "you have to enter to win."

"Just the other day, we had a guy make a hole-in-one there," Blinkinsop says.

But he didn't pony up.

Last year, a woman aced the seventh hole at Arroyo's sister course, nearby Siena Golf Club, which runs a similar promotion. It occurred on July 7, 2007. She used a 7-wood.

Only in Vegas.

Back to Arroyo, though. While the golf course is very playable, it certainly isn't a pushover. You find that out from the very first green, one of the largest on the course and perhaps one of the most undulated. Hit the wrong portion, and if the greens are speedy, avoiding a three-putt will be top priority.

Still, there are plenty of opportunities to score. The course presents several risk-reward opportunities, and there is no better example now than the reconfigured 16th hole, a 530-yard par 5 reachable by long hitters.

Before, the 16th provided little risk. Players could hit whatever they wanted on the second shot without fear of reprisal. Now there are two arroyos that cross the fairway. The first one should be out of play for most golfers, but the second one figures into the second shot. Players can lay up short of the second arroyo for a longer, but safe third shot, carry the arroyo to a lay-up spot short of the green, or go for the gusto.

"It gives you two or three different options on the second shot," Blinkinsop says. "Before you could just blast the second shot. Now you actually have to think about it."

The 17th, a 370-yard par 4, also provides risk where there was little before turf was removed and replaced with desert in front of the green. Before, players could blast their tee shots over a bunker on the left side and be left with a very short pitch shot to the green. When the hole played downwind, some players could even come close to the green. Now, the fairway runs out around 240 yards off the tee, which means most players, if they are smart, should hit a fairway wood or long iron off the tee to set up a short-iron approach.

The 16th and 17th are great lead-ins to the finishing hole, a 401-yard par 4 with water to the right and fairway bunkers that can come into play off the tee shot. Hit it in a fairway bunker and finding one of the smallest greens on the course is a challenge.

After the round, players can enjoy a country club feel in the Arroyo Grill, which features a full bar, appetizers, salads and entrees. The grill is also open for breakfast, and there are both men's and women's locker rooms to use before and after the round to give the daily-fee player the country club-for-a-day feel.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock

    Randy L. wrote on: Aug 12, 2008

    Arroyo is actually very solid. Maybe its because it is off the strip and they have a lot more room to work with. I'm not exactly sure what it is but its one of my favorite courses in vegas. Usually i stay at caesars palace las vegas, but having the arroyo at the red rock hotel really makes me want to reconsider.