A modern classic: Painted Desert Golf Club is polished, Vegas old school

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

LAS VEGAS - Only in a place like Las Vegas can a golf course opened in the 1980s be considered a "classic."

Painted Desert Golf Club
Painted Desert Golf Club has become a Las Vegas-area classic course.
Painted Desert Golf ClubPainted Desert Golf Club - No. 8Painted Desert Golf Club - No. 7

But thanks to the scores of courses to emerge in the desert in the last two decades, Painted Desert Golf Club has become the polished, old-school favorite on the block.

In fact, Painted Desert is considered a trailblazer among the many target-style golf courses to emerge in the desert Southwest in the last two decades.

Architect Jay Moorish built Painted Desert in 1987 and went on to build scores of the Southwest's top courses, teaming up with Tom Weiskopf on many of them, including the renowned Monument at Troon North Golf Club in Scottsdale, Ariz.

While some of the bolder, newer golf courses to come to Las Vegas in the last decade have stolen the spotlight a bit from a classic like Painted Desert, it's only added to its old-school appeal.

The clubhouse doesn't have waterfalls and fancy carpet. It just has a comfortable bar and restaurant with good, affordable eats - not to mention friendly waitstaff and clubhouse attendants whom you get the feeling have been working there since the course opened.

Being one of the older golf courses in Las Vegas means a few benefits to golfers:

For starters, it's a great area value, and it's also located much closer to the heart of Vegas than many of the other newer golf courses that can take a half hour's drive or longer to get to.

It also doesn't market itself as heavy as some other area heavyweights, and so it is often last-minute and walk-on friendly, not to mention a good bargain.

The layout features pre-Tiger Woods yardage from the championship tees, playing just over 6,800 yards from those tees and 6,323 yards from the middle, though any Las Vegas golf veteran knows that when the desert winds pick up, that yardage gets a lot longer quickly.

And as the name implies, there are scenic desert and mountain vistas, and it features loads of beautification, including more presence of large water hazards than you might expect on a Vegas-area course not named Shadow Creek Golf Course. Two par 3s in particular on the front nine, No. 4 and No. 8, take full advantage of these hazards. The fourth, while just 180 yards, features a green tough enough to hit to make it the No. 3 handicap hole.

The most exciting aspect of Painted Desert are its two short par 4s, one on each side. They're both drivable to longer hitters and protected by large hazards, but they hardly look similar. No. 7 is straightaway, with water lingering left of the green, which can swallow up aggressive drives that head just a touch left off line.

Then on the 313-yard 14th, water sits both in front of the tee box and all down the right side. Trees block a direct path to the green, and out-of-bounds line the left, making it the kind of hole where a birdie - or big number - is all too possible. But long hitters with a bread-and-butter fade will be salivating at taking a crack at this green.

Painted Desert: Don't overlook Vegas old school

Painted Desert might remind you of that elder Northern strip casino hotel that, while it isn't commanding the attention and prices of a snazzier, newer properties, still knows how to do Vegas right.

And it's much more player-friendly in distance and forgiveness compared to some of the more severe area courses. If you're going to be playing a few courses on this trip to Vegas and haven't touched the clubs in awhile, Painted Desert is a suitable jumping pad.

It's not on a quest to be one of the toughest golf courses in Las Vegas, but it fits its niche nicely. Its beautification and large water hazards that come into play on five holes are a nice touch as well, something you wouldn't expect for the kind of small dough you fork over to play here.

And having been built within a matured residential community, where the houses have been here for years, also means you won't hear any construction going on like some of Vegas' newer courses that are still selling empty lots. And you'll be back to the strip in less than 20 minutes from here, too.

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment

    eugene wieczorek wrote on: Nov 17, 2009



  • course

    Jim Hamm wrote on: Dec 16, 2008

    I've played the Painted Desert Course a number of times over the last 4 years. The course was in great shape and a joy to play. Our foursome handicaps were from 5.9 mine ro 21. We played at the 6300 yard tees. Everyone had a great time. I have also played in August. again, everyone should play This course. jim