Get ready to be tested at Bob Cupp's Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas
Editor's Note: Silverstone Golf Club closed down in September 2015.
LAS VEGAS -- Golf course designer Bob Cupp has been around for a long time. He got his start with Jack Nicklaus and opened his own firm in 1984, and he knows a thing or two about how the game has changed over the years. So when Cupp went about the business of designing the 27 holes at Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas, he knew he had to include design features to test the better players in the game, and that meant plenty of bunkers, doglegs and water.
It also meant plenty of length, though not on every hole, and at Silverstone much of that length is in the par 5s, which represent a nice mix of risk and reward. But there's one hole, in particular, that probably only a few players in the world can reach in two - the 653-yard fourth hole on the Mountain nine.
It's the longest par 5 in Nevada, and if it were just a straight shot with few obstacles in the way, it probably wouldn't be that big of a deal because most players can hit that distance in four shots (it still plays 615 yards from the next set of tees). But as Robin Williams might say, in golf, they put all kinds of stuff in your way. In this case, the big obstacle is a large lake that you get to navigate around from right to left.
So the first trick is figuring how much to bite off to position the tee shot for a good lay-up so you can hit a reasonable approach shot. Not one of these shots is easy, including the approach, which is into a narrow peninsula-like green guarded by water on three sides and bunkers to the right. Those who have a long iron or a fairway wood coming into this green might want to consider laying up again. All-in-all, bogey's not a bad score here.
The third hole on the Mountain Course is actually just one of four 600-plus yard par 5s here. The fifth hole on the Desert Course, for example, is 627 yards with an intimidating 230-yard carry off the tee. But to characterize the course by its par 5s would be unfair.
With 27 holes, there are, of course, three combinations of 18 holes you can play. The Mountain, at 3,599 yards, is the longest; if you play it with the Desert nine, at 3,560 yards, it is just under 7,200 yards, not overly long by today's standards and certainly not in the desert where the combination of warmer temperatures and little bit of elevation make the ball fly farther than at sea level.
What Cupp did here was provide a nice blend of long and short, medium and longish par 3s and par 4s throughout to go with the great par 5s. The first hole on the Mountain Course, for example, is just 343 yards from the tips. A fairway wood or hybrid would be advisable on this little dogleg right, but big hitters may want to try to drive the green if they have the wind behind them. The Mountain nine ends with another 600-yard par 5 with a lake that runs along the entire left side and by the green. Believe it or not, if the wind is right, good players can hit this straight hole in two because the drive can run for days. The trick is making sure that you don't miss the narrow green to the left.
One of the best holes on the course might be one of the shortest. At 162 yards, it's just a short iron, but there's a pond short and left with no real bailout right to this two-tiered undulating green. Mix in a little wind, which there is no shortage of in southern Nevada, and you've got one scary little par 3.
One of the biggest bonuses of playing Silverstone, however, is the conditioning. The maintenance crew here maintains bentgrass greens and ryegrass fairways throughout the year, so there is never an overseeding period. In the winter, spring and fall, you're unlikely to find a better conditioned course. And with the course now in its fifth season, it's just starting to hit maturity and reach its potential.
Silverstone Golf Club, just 20 minutes from the Strip off U.S. 95 in the northern part of the city, also offers a lot of services and amenities, not all of which you find at many clubs. The carts here are equipped with GPS systems that not only provide all the information you need about the hole you are playing, but come with a CBS Sports ticker to keep you up to date on the day's sports action (a nice feature if you placed a few wagers at the sports book the night before). This is especially great for corporate outings, as the staff will put your company logo on the screens.
"We've done that as a nice surprise for a couple of groups," said Matt Utter, director of sales at Silverstone.
There is also an extra 28th hole that groups can use as a tiebreaker and a terrific practice facility with a large teeing ground and putting green as well as chipping and pitching green.
The 34,000-square foot Mediterranean-style clubhouse is one of the best in the Vegas area. Inside, you'll find a wrap-around marble bar serving drinks and food. To the left is a large and well-stocked golf shop. There are meeting rooms with Internet access and a locker-room for the club's 200 members and daily fee guests.
If your game needs a little help, check out the Silverstone Golf Academy. The golf school has climate controlled hitting bays and offers K-vest and video swing analysis. The academy also has a fully-equipped Pilates studio for golf-specific workouts designed to add length off the tee, something you might need on a couple of the par 5s at Silverstone.
May 5, 2008