Las Vegas Paiute Resort's Snow Mountain Course: Peaceful Escape From Glitter
LAS VEGAS, NV - When I was a kid, I heard someone mention 'The City of Lights,' and immediately thought they were talking about Las Vegas. After all, I'd never been to Paris, and what city could possibly have more lights than Las Vegas? The city's always held a sort of magic quality, and a great deal of it has to do with its flamboyant neon signage.
Perhaps because of its sparkly reputation, Las Vegas also has many nicknames'Lost Wages,' 'Sin City,' 'Glitter Gulch,' amongst others--but I think the last one is perhaps the most appropriate. Everything in Las Vegas seems to 'glitter.' Glance around and there's something blinking, shining or beaming. It's a complete bombardment of the visual senses that's hard to escape from.
You can't really elude the feeling on many of the area's golf courses, eitherat least those located within the city limits. Houses, condos, buildings, freeways, billboards, rumbling constructionthey're all part of golf in this growing city. Life on the links in the 21st century, you might say. When I went to Las Vegas this past summer, I was hardly expecting to find peace and natural beautypretty sparkling lights, noisy slot machines, smoky casinos and round the clock delirium, perhaps, but not peaceful serenity.
Don't get me wrongyou go to Las Vegas for stimulation. Gambling's a rush, the shows are spectacular, the buffets are bodacious, the hotels are monuments to creative thinking, and there's non-stop action found few other places this side of New York City. The glittering lights are part of itenticing and hypnotic for the mesmerized visitor.
So I guess you could say I was shocked when I drove out to the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort, located about a half hour from downtown Las Vegasbut millions of miles away from 'Glitter Gulch.' You'll even need to look closely to spot it when getting off the interstateit's so well hidden, it's difficult to see from the road.
LV Paiute is hardly the contrived façade that Las Vegas is famous for. Opening in 1995, the Paiute Resort boasts three championship golf coursesall designed by Pete Dyeand it's literally an oasis of grass and water amongst desert scrub. Immediately you'll notice the dueling mountain ranges towering over the valley where the resort lies. They provide a purplish-gray contrast to the blue desert sky and puffy white thunderheads often seen on a summer day.
Byron Cone, LV Paiute's Head Golf Professional, says it's just that isolated quality that makes his resort unique for the Las Vegas area: "A lot of people say we're in the middle of nowhere, but we look at that as a good thing. We're certainly within easy driving distance of Las Vegas, yet we feel like we're nowhere near itwith the mountain views and the desert right on top of you. In this way, we're offering two different worlds."
And there aren't many other worlds boasting three Pete Dye layouts within cart path distance of each other. I personally played only Paiute Golf Resort's Snow Mountain course, but there's also the brand new Wolf course and the Sun Mountain course, which opened in 1997. For the purposes of this article, I'll comment on the Snow Mountain course.
The yardage book says it's a 'kinder and gentler' Dye, and that's largely true. Dye's known for designing devilishly difficult layouts that challenge (and often defeat) the game's best players. Many an average golfer shies away from Dye's courses, labeling them as too difficult. I wouldn't go that farif you play the correct set of teesand I'd never call them unfair.
But with the Snow Mountain course, it seems Dye's gone out of his way to be kind and gentle. You'll still see some Dye trademarksrailroad ties, pot bunkers and waste areas--but the fairways are extremely wide, the forced carries are few, and the slope of 125 for the 7,146 yard back tees is unheard of when uttering that three-letter last name. There're also relatively few bunkers for a desert-type layout. You'll lose fewer golf balls on this course than at any Dye signature courseat least that I've encountered.
Snow Mountain's not exactly a cakewalk, but I doubt anyone will limp away feeling assaulted like you might from some other Dye tracks. I played three other Dye layouts within the same week (different locations), two with slopes over 140 from my set of tees, and there was hardly a comparison. You'll enjoy the Snow Mountain coursefor its traditional golf challenge, scenic beauty and 'off the beaten path' feeling.
Cone elaborates: "Both the Snow and Sun Mountain courses were built with the resort player in mind. We knew we'd attract a lot of golfers vacationing in Las Vegas, so we wanted to make sure the courses were very playable and enjoyableand Pete made it that way. The landing areas are generous, you can run the ball up to the greens, and it's hardly 'target' oriented at all."
Despite the 'gentle' nature, Cone pointed out the difficulty for better players: "I think there're opportunities for the better players to gamble a little bit on the Snow Mountain courseDye gives them a chance to go low by offering a couple short par fives and a couple shortish par fours. But if you don't execute the shots, you'll definitely be punished for ityou'll end up in the desert or the water." Fitting, perhaps, that high rollers can gamble on the golf course as well as at the Craps table in the Las Vegas area.
One special note on the 'Paiute Experience' is course conditioning. Cone says it's something they pride themselves on, and I can see why. Summer in the desert isn't necessarily the best environment for lush, living green stuff, but there's no question it exists at this resortI haven't seen better conditions on a desert course anywhere.
Finally, before I describe some of the layout, I'll compliment the Paiute Resort staff. You're literally taken care of from the time you drive up to the time you drive out. The bag staff was friendly and attentive and the starter helpful. What else can you ask for? A true resort golf experience.
The first hole foreshadows the Snow Mountain layout; a 389 yard, dogleg left par four, with an extremely wide driving area. There is a bunker guarding the corner of the dogleg, however. Hitting your drive in the bunker's usually a mistake, but on this hole, it's plain bad luckbecause there's so much room to 'miss it.'
The first green was mildly undulatingand set to resort player-friendly speeds. Even the lone greenside bunker on the right was placed to enter play only for a back right pin position. Very fairjust as it was throughout the course.
Three's one of those risk-reward par fives Cone talked about. 557 yards from the tipsit's a perfectly straight-on driving hole, with bunkers guarding short right and long leftgreat for catching a weak slice or a juiced draw off the tee. Chances are you'll have at least a three-wood over water to go at it in twoso most will lay-up. That's no picnic either, as you'll still have to carry some water and avoid going long into the rough.
Four's the first of a terrific set of par threes (the Dye specialty)180 yards with a full water carry. Continuing the theme of the coursethere's a ton of bailout room to the left, if you'd rather go for a safe up and down try for par.
You won't see water again until the ninth holea 421 yard dogleg right, water down the right side from the landing area to the green. There's a plethora of room to the left, but the safer you go on your tee ball, the more difficult the second shot to a deep but narrow green.
Number ten shares a lake with the eighteenth holeand features a directly opposite challenge to the previous hole. This time, the water's all down the left side with a dogleg in the same direction. There's a large bunker waiting to catch your tee ball if you take too much off the legbut also might save you from going in the water, too. Like hole nine, there's a bunker on the waterside pin highso Dye won't punish shots pulled slightly left here. A very player-friendly attribute.
Thirteen's one of the short par fours Cone alluded to earlier. 342 yards if you follow the fairway, you can slice off a considerable distance by cutting the 90-degree dogleg left. If you've got a high draw in your bag and the wind's favorable, try and fly the 260 yards you'll need to reach the short landing area. Risk-reward all the way. Safe players can go with an iron or fairway wood off the tee and still leave themselves a short iron into a bunker-less green.
Sixteen is like number four, but reversed. Slightly longer at 198 yards, this time the green's perched to the left with plenty of landing area short and right. Hole four calls for a fade, sixteen, a draw. Dye tests it all. Beautiful, scenic holeand bring your ball retriever!
Eighteen's a great finishing hole. You had to figureeven on a 'gentle' Dye course, the finishing hole would be a bear, and it is. 445 yards and a slight dogleg left, there's plenty of landing area in between a waste bunker by the lake (left) and two bunkers lurking for anything missed right. The green's perched on the lake this time, with no bunker to save you if you miss left. There is a wide lay-up area if you don't want to try the longish second shotand it seems to me Dye strongly suggests using it for the average golfer.
When the round's done, you might decide to head back to the glitter, or you might just see about a replay or availability of a tee time on one of the other courses. LV Paiute Golf Resort's the type of place where you'll escape to a golf oasis when you've had your fill of the chaos found closer to civilization. It amply shows that all that glitters won't necessarily bring contentment.
Head Golf Professional: Byron Cone Course Architect: Pete Dye
Tournament 7146 125
Championship 6645 120
Regular 6035 112
Forward 5341 117
Practice Facilities: A-
Club House: A-
Pro Shop: A-
Pace of Play: B-
Overall Rating: A-
January 3, 2002