Pete Dye's Snow Mountain at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort: Still a pretty golf temptress
LAS VEGAS - The desert brush creeps onto the fairways of the golf course, seemingly getting bolder and bolder. The water sneaks up on you. And then does it again. And again.
By the time you see the first set of Pete Dye railroad ties cut into the grass on hole No. 6, you don't have time to get all postcard-weepy-eyed. You're fighting for your scorecard life.
Say hello to the Snow Mountain course at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, the old man who's going to kick your butt. Like most things, old takes on a whole other meaning when golfing Las Vegas, the land of built today, outdated tomorrow. Snow Mountain is the original course at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort - 54 holes of Pete Dye golf out in the real desert on an American Indian reservation.
When Snow Mountain opened in 1995, it built buzz like Britney Spears walking into a barbershop. Now Paiute's Wolf course - Dye's newer, longer 7,604 yard course - collects most of the magazine headlines and golfer howls.
Only Snow Mountain still might be the baddest course at Paiute - which would make it one of the toughest golf courses in the Southwest.
"In general, Snow Mountain is the most difficult of the three," Paiute Head Professional Greg Wickensimer said.
Which means, in general, you'd better put some Tums and that rescue club in your bag.
At least it's a beating with beauty. There are no houses at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, no green-side condos, no buildings at all to mar the views straight to the mountains. Jackrabbits scurry around the fairways like they still cannot believe that someone put a golf course into this out-there desert.
Playing golf at Paiute is like skiing on fresh snow - it's about as pure as it gets.
"You find yourself just looking sometimes," said vacationer Ron Cook, who's played Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort three straight years. "Just looking around, you think you should be concentrating on your next shot.
"But you'll catch yourself just starting at the mountain, the light coming off the lake or maybe an F-16 going overhead. Just looking."
Snow Mountain gives you more to gawk at than a college cheerleading competition. This isn't just a desert course with water. It's a course in the middle of a deserted desert stretch with the striking blue water of a megamillionaire's swimming pool.
The water first shows up on No. 3, protecting the green right at the dogleg of a 557-yard par-5. You shoot straight across it on the par-3 fourth and you will not forget it's out there, lurking, ever again.
"A lot of people are surprised by how much water we have out here," Wickensimer said.
If the water comes out of nowhere, the desert bush is always around. Dye keeps bringing it, seemingly farther and farther into the edges of the fairways. He dares, double-dares, triple-dares and then quadruple-dares you to try and cut shots over it.
Come on, you chicken! Just go for it. Take the risk.
That's a big part of the fun at Paiute Snow Mountain: trying to answer Dye's challenge.
Be forewarned. He has nature on his side too. Specifically the Vegas winds. A lot of first-time Sin City golfers leave shocked by how windy it can get on the courses out here. At Paiute, where there are no buildings to block it, this wind torment takes on new meaning.
Snow doesn't get quite as bad as Wolf, where the winds have been known to shake the golf cart windshields right off. But it's no easy breezy day either.
Particularly if the breeze kicks up when you're trying to clear water or those omnipresent desert bushes on dogleg turns.
"The wind almost seems to rile up when your ball's in the air," Illinois golfer Mark Thomas said.
It turns out all that talk about there being a new wind, a newer course, that rules out at Paiute is ... well, overblown.
Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Snow Mountain course: The verdict
If you tell the average golf tourist you're playing Paiute Wolf, you'll get impressed nods. The diehard golf aficionados are often more Snow Mountain men though.
"You'd be surprised by the number of guys who still think Snow Mountain is the course here," Wickensimer said.
You will not be surprised if you play it though. Uou still get the rippling Dye fairways and a finishing stretch that's water, water, water. It starts with a par-3 to a peninsula green (No. 16), goes to a trying uphill par-5 (No. 17) and concludes with a par-4 that seems to wrap itself around a lake as much as dog leg left it (No. 18).
Of course, the lake's another blue beauty glistening in the sun and the mountain's are still looming.
Go ahead and stare. Snow Mountain will still be waiting to rough you up.
June 12, 2007