Rhodes Ranch Golf Club in Las Vegas is a par-3 paradise -- and more

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

LAS VEGAS - Tucked into the southwest corner of Vegas is one of architect Ted Robinson's most stunning designs: Rhodes Ranch Golf Club.

18 Holes | Public | Par: 72 | 6909 yards
Rhodes Ranch G.C. in Las Vegas - hole 18
There are more than 3,500 palms at Rhodes Ranch that do more than just add to the look. They've been known to swallow golf balls.
Rhodes Ranch G.C. in Las Vegas - hole 18Rhodes Ranch Golf Club in Las Vegas - hole 3Rhodes Ranch golf course - hole 18

Now it's easy to call a layout one of the best, but when the designer himself is as proud of the course as Robinson is, it's got to be something special.

And it's the par 3s on this 6,909-yard, par-72 beauty that make the difference. Robinson called them the best he's ever designed and with more than 150 designs in seven countries and 50 years in the business, that's saying something.

"With three of the four par-3s having water features, it's a great test for players," said Tate Stull, general manager at Rhodes Ranch.

Those par 3s start out with a knee-knocker: the 227-yard third hole. A pond guards the hole short, and four bunkers also add to the dangers. There is some bailout room short and left, but this one's going to test your shot-making skills and courage very early in the round.

Two others, the 191-yard 14th and the 212-yard 16th, are breathtaking to see, but will also take your breath away while you're trying to decide which club to hit to these large, undulating greens. But beware, hitting the green doesn't ensure an easy par as you've still got to navigate undulating, smooth-rolling greens.

Rhodes Ranch's challenging par 4s

We'll take a breather from talking about par 3s and talk about another favorite among golfers - driveable par 4s. In fact, Rhodes Ranch has a pair of them: The eighth (326 from the tips, but right around 300 from the blues) and the 11th (321 from the tips, but 297 from the blues). Sound inviting? Well, check your nerves before you pull out the big stick because there's plenty of risk to go along with the reward if you're going to take aim at the green.

Both holes are guarded by huge ponds and short shots that do clear the ponds still have to avoid bunkers. Unless you're a big hitter, a long iron or hybrid off the tee is probably the shot of choice to put a wedge in your hands to help set up a birdie putt.

Choose your set of tees wisely

Overall, water -- in the form of ponds, streams or waterfalls -- comes into play on seven of the holes. And we're not talking off to the side and out of play. These are smack in the middle of your line of sight. They add beauty to the course, but also tend to add strokes to the scorecard so proceed with caution. What this boils down to is to check your ego at the door and choose your set of tees wisely.

"Depending on the tees, it's a very challenging layout," said Rod Velez, a Vegas resident for three years. "It's got very scenic views and the greens are true. And it's one of the best values in town."

Ah, yes, the value. If you don't give players great value for their dollar (especially in today's economy), they won't be back. Stull knows that golf courses usually get one chance to make a great impression on players and that's the goal at Rhodes Ranch.

"It's all about giving golfers a great product at a great price," Stull said. "Our approach is to make it an affordable round of golf at a great golf course. It's a traditional-looking desert golf course but there's more turf area so it's a very lush, tropical course," Stull added. "We've got more than 3,500 palm trees that add to the look very nicely."

The palms also add to the challenge as errant shots off the tee can bring these huge obstacles well into play. And contrary to the popular myth that trees are 90 percent air, these are not. They will knock down shots quickly and have even been known to swallow golf balls and not give them back.

That sets the stage for the finale at Rhodes Ranch Golf Club: A monstrous 441-yard, par 4. Hitting the fairway here is a must. On the right are a couple of bunkers just waiting to catch errant drives, so stay left. If you do hit the fairway, this green is guarded by a waterfall and a stream on the right which feed down to a pond on the left. Needless to say, short is not an option. Par here is a good score.

Overall, Rhodes Ranch Golf Club, which covers 162 acres, is one of those golf courses you might not expect in Vegas (or many other places for that matter): Great design, great location and great price.

When you arrive

You'll be greeted in the Rhodes Ranch G.C. parking lot by player-services personnel who will whisk your clubs away and make sure any questions you may have are answered before you head in to the pro shop and get ready to tee it up.

On the practice tee

A spacious hitting area with target greens (most of the turf on the range has been removed in a conservation effort) lets players warm up or work on their games.

Before or after the round

The spacious Rhodes Ranch Restaurant can cater to your dining and drinking pleasures. With flat screen TVs everywhere, the big game is always on and it's a great spot to unwind.

Bill BowmanBill Bowman, Contributor

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

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