Dye in the desert: Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Wolf Course will set you howling

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

LAS VEGAS - They never should have turned Pete Dye loose in the desert.

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort - Wolf Course - no. 8
Pete Dye's Wolf Course at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort is so treacherous, it's almost mystical.
Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort - Wolf Course - no. 8Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort - Wolf Course - 15th hole

Maybe he got into some peyote. Maybe he had a bad hair day. Maybe he wandered around in the desert too long after a beer-and-blackjack binge at Terrible's Casino.

In any event, the animal in Dye's vision quest turned out to be the wolf, and he turned it into one diabolical course here on the Paiute Indian reservation, where the Indian finally gets his revenge on the white man, every day, every round.

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Wolf Course is one of three at the resort, all designed by Dye. But it is the Wolf, the newest, which brings out the darkest side of Dye, probably the most controversial golf course architect of his time.

The golf course is so treacherous, it's almost mystical. Dye, the master illusionist, uses the desert mystique, combined with the ringing mountains that change color throughout the course of a round, to somehow merge a mercurial round of golf with a moving desert experience.

He throws it all at you, showing you all his pitches: curveball, slider, even knuckleball. With the unmoving Spring Mountains always in the background, Dye has used the surroundings to skew the golfer's perspective like a house of mirrors. It's like sighting down the barrel at a leaping, ptwisting jackrabbit.

Built on an alluvial fan, Dye took his dozer and made a little Paiute magic. Swales, fake fairways, alternate landing areas, the signature bunkers - your eye never stops moving. The fairways aren't just sloped and banked, they're rippled like a Muscle Beach pretty boy. You never seem to get a flat lie or an even break. He taunts and entices you, giving you a little something here, taking away something big there.

You find yourself saying: What the hell do I hit here, and where do I hit it?

Designed for tournaments and breaking the back of today's advancing technology, the course weighs in at a whopping 7,604 yards, the longest in the great state of Nevada, where the courses are as big as the imagination of the men who built this strange city in the middle of the southern Nevada desert.

The closing holes, No. 17 and 18, are long and mean. The 17th, at 486 yards, is a risk/reward situation. A long tee shot is required to the right side of the fairway to avoid the arroyo that runs through the middle of the fairway. If you lay up, you'll have a long second shot to get over the second arroyo.

The 496-yard 18th has water on the right. Your second shot is downhill to a green guarded by bunkers short and to the right. You can play it safe by going short and to the left and letting it feed onto the green.

The island hole is similar to the more famous 17th at TPC at Sawgrass, but it has rocks around it instead of railroad ties. It's also longer, at 182 yards, and has a large, three-tiered green.

The length is only the vanguard of this course's challenges. The fairways are wide as all outdoors and the greens, on average, are bigger than the other two courses.

But it's the tricks he throws at you, the way he plays with your head, that makes you feel you've encountered something wild.

You have to wonder if he didn't have something to do with the wind, which howls in off the mountains, nearly blowing the windshield out of your cart. At times, it's like standing in a NASA wind tunnel, a steady force, 25-30 mph with higher gusts.

"I've never been here when it hasn't blown like this," said Dave Gilmore, a greenskeeper at a neighboring course, and Wolf regular. "This is standard."

The golf course is meticulously maintained, and the desert that surrounds it and winds through it is left alone. Lose a ball here and it's lost forever. The fairways seem unnaturally green, partly because they contrast so dramatically with the earth tones of the desert, partly because, being on an Indian reservation, the course isn't so constrained by the tight water rights issues other Western U.S. courses are.

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Wolf course: The verdict

Rarely does a course this challenging combine with the natural elements to produce an experience like this.

To play the Wolf, 30 minutes north of Las Vegas, is to have as pristine a desert day as possible and still be in the domain of man. If it weren't for the visible power lines, you could swear you were in an ancient desert. No cars, no houses, just wind and sky and golf. You rarely even see an airplane.

For some reason, 30 minutes from The Strip is too far for those tourists linked inexorably to the earthy pleasures of Sin City, and so the great bulk of the Wolf's visitors are repeat business, from locals to out-of-towners.

Don't let its reputation scare you away. With five sets of tee boxes, you can get in a few jabs of your own on the Wolf.

In terms of service, at times, it seems the course attendants outnumber the golfers, ready to help with any situation.

There isn't much bad to say about the Wolf. The ball-marked greens could be in a little better shape, especially since the course doesn't have to worry as much about other courses as water.

Dining at Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Bar and Grill has a great view of the mountains and course, and serves sandwiches, salads and chef's specials. There is also a cigar lounge.

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Wind and Vegas Golf

    Bob Pederson wrote on: May 12, 2015

    What golf course in Vegas has the least amount of wind and why?