Las Vegas Paiute Resort: A Model of Consistency

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- While the Vegas strip is the epicenter of modern Las Vegas, there is another history of this arid desert landscape that goes back thousands of years. This land was the hunting grounds for Native American Indians who lived a simpler life on the land until white man redefined existence. As the West was settled, the plight of Native Americans has defined by treaties, broken promises, and relocations that are certainly not a part of this countries' proudest moments. Yet, in the last decade, some tribes have taken charge of their situations to find new ways to thrive within our culture.

Through the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs back around the end of the 19th century, many tribes were given parcels of land and the distinction of being sovereign nations. Today, many tribes have found new ways to be more autonomous of the government. Two popular pastimes for American culture have fueled this modern expansion on tribal lands: gambling and golf. From Connecticut to California, Native American Tribes have opened casinos and built golf courses as they are unencumbered by local control because of their sovergn nation status.

The Paiute Indians have been in the forefront of this new development trend. Out on their 4,000-acre reservation north of Las Vegas, they began an ambitious development back in 1993 that has grown into three great Pete Dye designed golf courses, a 50,000 square foot clubhouse, and plans for a complete resort village with hotel, casino, luxury casitas, and spa. Now servicing 100,000 golfers annually, the Las Vegas Paiute Resort has become a model for other tribes to emulate.

One thing that the tribes who have moved into the golf course development business have done is realize the importance of doing the project right. By having the advantage of land ownership and more free reign from the local approval process, many tribal ventures have secured top flight golf architects, first rate construction firms, and first class maintenance and management groups to operate their facilities. Designers like Dye, Crenshaw, Doak, and Baird have been brought into these projects with great results.

Here in Nevada, the Paiute Indians Tribe made Pete Dye, 1994 Golf World Golf Architect of the Year, their choice to transform the high plateau landscape into a golf mecca. His first design, the Snow Mountain Course, opened in 1995 and the Sun Mountain Course was unveiled in 1996. These two golf courses have been popular attractions for Vegas golfers, and the newest track, The Wolf Course, continues the trend of quality venues. Last year, Golf Digest named the Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain Courses as among the top public courses in the nation. The Wolf Course will certainly join these ranks.

Paiute Golf Resort's Wolf golf course is significant as you start to read the scorecard on the first tee. This golf course is LONG! In fact, from the back tees, this course plays to 7,604 yards, making it the longest course in the state of Nevada. Dye had the same advantage building here that he had with the other two layouts - a huge landscape to work with. There are no housing lots to consider here. Dye could swing and sway holes where he wanted and did so in order to let the wind affect your game differently on nearly every hole.

The huge course fits well into the broad landscape that you play on. The views go for miles on this wide plateau that is bordered by the Sun Mountain to the East and Snow Mountain (Mt.Charleston) to the west. Your first task will be choosing the proper tees to play this great course. In making your decision, keep in mind that the afternoon winds can really rip through this wide valley. Most players will find enough course from the yellow tees at 6,483 yards, as the next tees back, the black tees, push the course out to 7,004 yards.

Big, big, big is going to be on your mind all day. Par fours run the gambit with holes playing 431 yards, 438 yards, and 428 yards. You get the break at the par 5's from the yellow tees with the longest playing 524 yards. From the back tees, these par 5's can stretch out to 580 yards long. Be sure you get a lot of swings in with your driver at the range before you take on The Wolf.

The course comes at you right away as you open with two par 4s of 382 yards and 333 yards, which set you up for the first par 5 of 524 yards. A saving grace here on The Wolf is that architect Dye provides lots of room in the landing areas and the fairway bunkers are there for direction rather than punishment. The par five is straightaway and slightly uphill which again asks for your best long shots.

As you move through the first few holes, you will also catch several great Dye touches. Each hole is framed by carefully shaped mounds and rolls created from the natural soil. These contours set up the course so that you can only see the hole you are playing and they are done in a manner that they seem like the natural terrain. It is only when you drive along the fence line that you realize how flat the land really is out here. These rolls are covered with desert vegetation and wild poppies, which give a brilliantly colorful contrast to the silver-gray soil and green fairways.

Several holes stand out at the Wolf Course. The par 5 6th hole is a sinewy hole that sweeps left and is split by a long waste area that runs up the left side and comes across the front of the green. This hole is a stunning sight from the tee and a confusing sight as you try to play your second shot.

The 148-yard par 3 8th hole almost looks like a dogleg with a huge mound almost blocking the hole on the left and a deep waste bunker calling to you on the right. This hole shows what creative earth moving can do.

The par 5 10th hole is one par five that you have to look at from the back tees. At 568 yards and glimpses of gaping bunkers and colorful flowers, it is a treat to view. Have fun playing it though when the wind is fresh.

Finally, the 15th hole is a Pete Dye signature hole, an island green, but it is a bit out of place here in the desert. This hole just looks too contrived in comparison to the rest of the shaping that was done on the Wolf Course.

But the complete mix of holes all add up to a great golf experience and the Wolf Course is just another reason to head out to the Paiute Golf Resort. This golf course and the entire experience out on the reservation is one that doesn't disappoint.

DIRECTIONS- From Las Vegas take Route 95 North towards Reno 25 miles. Exit at Snow Mountain Exit and golf course clubhouse is to the right.

Doug Saunders, Contributor

Doug Saunders has covered more than 20 major championships and his unique perspectives on the game have appeared in numerous publications including Golf World, GolfWeek, Golf Course Management, Golf Course News, Golfdom, and the USGA Golf Journal. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, California Golf Writers, and the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Las Vegas Paiute Resort

    Dr. Thomas Climo wrote on: Sep 22, 2004

    I read with interest your praise of the Las Vegas Paiute golf courses. It is a bit of an exaggeration to say that the Tribe selected Pete Dye or even developed a golf course. I was their economic developer from 1990-1996 and planned the Snow Mountain Reservation Development. I guess revisionism bestows all value on ownership. For all my hard working hours and labor, those golf courses are as much mine as the Paiutes and I would appeciate that recognition.