Schmidt and Curley make the grade at Siena Golf Club in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS - They say the devil's greatest trick was convincing the world he didn't exist. In golf, the equivalent might be a golf course community where visiting golfers don't recall there were homes all around the course.
Such is the case at the Summerlin area's Siena Golf Club, where players experience a layout that has more of a resort feel than a master-planned golf community. This is done with strong design of individual holes and great vistas of the valley and the Las Vegas strip below. A Tuscany-themed, 14,000-square clubhouse and Italian restaurant and bar with views of the 18th hole and Lake Siena don't hurt the resort feel either.
Somehow, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based architects Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley managed to please not only its landlord Sunrise Colony, but the golfing public as well. The course, which was built on a 10-perecent grade, also serves as a conduit for floodwaters.
"As a tool to create a golf community I think the golf course did a good job," said Curley, whose team also created the golf courses at Bali Hai Golf Club and Paiute Resort in Las Vegas. "It accomplishes all those things, but I think it has a good playability in its wideness and a nice setup of golf design despite all those factors."
"Playability" is a term that's often thrown about loosely, but Siena's layout really fits the bill. Opened in 2000, Siena offers five sets of tees playing from as little just under 5,000 yards to 6,843. There are no difficult forced carries, the greens are plenty large, and water only comes into play occasionally. You also shouldn't lose a lot of golf balls here.
"Tee to green it's not too tough, but where we get you is on and around the greens," said Tony Lenzie, director of golf and general manager at Siena. "They are pushed up, and having a good short game is key to having a good round."
Siena also features 97 white sand bunkers, most of which are deep, whether they're around the greens or in the fairways. Hit an errant shot and you are likely to find them, and combined with challenging greens, it makes players earn their scores.
One of the reasons the greens can be a little tricky is the aforementioned 10-percent grade. What may appear to be a slightly downhill or uphill putt, may, in fact, be just the opposite. The rule of thumb here is to remember that putts always break toward the money. And by "money," the locals mean the strip, or away from the Spring Mountains.
Many of Siena's bentgrass greens also feature a good bit of undulation. Get some Sunday pin placements, like back-left on the long par-4 fourth, and you could be attempting the same putt twice if you don't hit the first one hard enough.
The course also underwent some improvements recently. According to Lenzie, it was the first to participate in the Southern Nevada Water Authority's turf reduction plan. With the area mired in a prolonged drought, the SNWA has provided financial incentives to golf course to strip away out-of-play turf areas and replace them with desert landscapes. In the case of Siena, this move has reduced amount of irrigated turf from just over 140 acres to around 90 with no sacrifice in quality of play. If anything, the addition of crushed rock, which better players don't mind hitting from, and native desert plants have served to add definition and contrast to the course.
"I think it did wonders for the visuals of the golf course, but it didn't detract from the playability of the golf course," Curley said. "I think it gives you that 'desert golfy' kind of feel without feeling like target golf."
The new native areas also add some strategy.
For example, the 350-yard par-4 11th is a risk reward hole that some players can drive. Before, there was little risk because it was wall-to-wall turf. Now, with native plants and rocks narrowing the fairway and in front of the green, even big hitters will think twice before pulling driver.
There are other interesting holes as well, starting with the first, a moderately difficult par-4 with cascading water down the entire left side. The round ends with a challenging approach shot to the 18th green guarded by Lake Siena to the right.
The signature hole is the par-3 fifth hole, which stretches to just 159 yards to a semi-island green. The view back from the green across the water - especially if you're putting for birdie - is especially good.
February 4, 2008