Mesquite's Wolf Creek equals pure jaw-dropping, soaring golf fun

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

MESQUITE, Nev. - By the time you reach the third tee, you're hooked, ready and eager to hand your golf clubs and the day over to the showmanship. How many golf courses get you to suspend disbelief, to smile like a kid again?

Wolf Creek Golf Club - Golfer
A golfer can feel like a man on the moon in Wolf Creek's unique terrain.
Wolf Creek Golf Club - GolferWolf Creek Golf Club - No.14Wolf Creek Golf Club - Towering teesWolf Creek Golf Club - WaterWolf Creek Golf Club - Layout

Wolf Creek Golf Club in the Las Vegas shadow town of Mesquite has you by the third hole. (Eat your heart out, Jerry Maguire!)

The second hole is impressive, requiring a shot from nine stories high over a rocky canyon to reach fairway green. It's almost jaw dropping really. But it could just be one spectacular hole. A lot of courses have one spectacular hole.

Then, you're on the third tee. It's another high, dramatic set of tee boxes. Standing there, it feels like you're on a plateau scraping the sky. You've never felt so close to being able to reach out and touch the clouds. And that's just from the white tees, the third most difficult tee boxes that most golfers play the course from.

The back, back tees are so high up that the path to it looks like a stairway to heaven. This is when you know it's just not one impressive hole. Two in a row and the show's on. The Wolf Creek round is off and running (or more accurately skying) and it's time to give in to one of the more unique courses you'll ever play.

"They just don't make them like this," Director of Golf Steve Sargent said.

When this is said in the golf shop pre-round, it sounds like typical head pro bravado. Out on the course it rings out as serious understatement.

You're shooting down from up high, watching your ball fly. You're standing on the top of tiny plateaus, staring over the edge at steep drops. You're glancing across at other golfers who look like mere dots in the distance on their own elevated plateau tees.

You've never seen anything like it is a phrase that's thrown around much too often and recklessly with golf courses. Wolf Creek is a real you've never seen anything like it.

Another course might have one can-you-believe-that drop from an elevated tee. An elite few can boast of two or three. Wolf Creek has 16 of them. That's right, 16 of its 18 holes feature elevated tees. And these don't include any dinky little bumps, stuck there just so the course can say it has an elevated tee. They all require getting the golf cart to strain up a steep hill.

"It's beautiful, that's the first thing that comes to mind," Wyoming golfer Dan Shadrick said. "You could stand there snapping pictures all day from the tee boxes and completely forget about the shot you have to hit.

"Those views can really psych you out."

No one said it was easy to hit golf balls with your mouth wide open.

Wolf Creek is so visually different from other courses that it knocks many golfers off their game. This is why the golf shop sells cameras and touts postcards. It's also why you should forget about going for that career round at Wolf Creek.

"A lot of golfers just throw their score out the window after a few holes and just enjoy the course," Sargent said. "It's about a day's experience, not a good score."

A good score is relative at this true desert canyon course. Wolf Creek is rated as the third hardest golf course in America by the USGA, carrying a beyond wicked 154 slope rating from the back tees. You should not play these tees unless you can keep up with a near pro. You should take the long wood staircase walk up to several of them, just to gawk at the towering views and laugh at the forced carries required.

"From the backs, a lot of those forced carries are ridiculous," Sargent said.

Try 200 yards plus just to avoid losing your ball in a mountainside ridiculous.

"Some of those holes, you're just looking at those carries and are like, 'Are you serious?'" said Sargent, who holds the course record with a 65.

Even from the third set of tees, the whites that most recreational golfers will find themselves on, the slope rating's a daunting 134. You can be playing the whites at Wolf Creek and have a much tougher course to navigate than you would from the tips at most tracks.

Don't let the numbers on the scorecard lull you into a false sense of security. This is a monster.

"A lot of golfers just look at the yardage (Wolf Creek's a very modern day reasonable 6,923 yards even from those back tees) and don't relate it to the difficulty of the course," said Wolf Creek sales manager John Paul.

In Wolf Creek's case, difficulty does not mean spirit sapping however. This isn't a course just designed to pummel average golfers into humiliating submission. Sure you'll lose a few balls to the mountains. But you'll probably have more fun waving goodbye to those precious Pro V1s than you've ever had doing it at any other golf course.

It's sort of cool to be gingerly guiding your golf cart down a windy, roller coaster steep cart path and notice your ball perched up high on a canyon side, reachable only to snakes and scorpions.

Besides, Wolf Creek makes up for it by giving even the most heckled hacker a chance to pull off some truly memorable, go-for-the-gusto, retell-it-forever golf shots. On No. 13, you can try and clear a corner of mountainside that butts into the fairway and guards a tucked, tucked away green.

Who's ever going to forget shooting over a mountain?

Or driving a raised green with a steep drop right in front of the ridge? That's what No. 7 (265 yards from the whites) gives you a real shot at.

And so it goes at Wolf Creek. Some of the most dramatic, showy setting holes provide a decent go at birdie or at least a memorable par. No. 8, a par 3 where the green's surrounded by a small creek on three sides and rock wall right behind that, is not a hard target shooting down from the tees. As long as you don't get visually spooked.

Even No. 18 - a par 4 with not one, but two foaming waterfalls and a fairway littered with little hills - is a very reachable in driver/wedge 275 yards from the whites.

"The views are unbelievable," said Dave Shadrick, Dan's father and golf partner this day. "But it's actually a very playable course."

You're liable to recognize this by the third tee as well. Wolf Creek is a course where it's okay to have fun.

The Verdict

Wolf Creek is the kind of course you travel for, make a special side trip to play. It's that uniquely memorable. And plain cool. There is just something about teeing off from a sky high plateau and watching your ball soar through the air down to the fairway. Everyone loves to see their ball fly.

You'll likely never see it fly quite like it does at Wolf Creek. It's enough to make the most jaded golfer giggle. At least inside.

This is pure golf theater and everyone plays their part. The starter tells you about the 23 varieties of poisonous scorpions and the three varieties of poisonous snakes that can be found on Wolf Creek's grounds. And sometimes snuggling up to your lost shots.

Even the hourly-wage workers on staff seem to take a real pride in this unique course. A member of the grounds crew chased after me for three holes on his tractor to return the cell phone I'd dropped. And just try and carry your own bag to and from the car. It's not happening. The bag attendants have pulled up to your car before you can even step out. Bypass the bag drop and they bring the bag drop to you. Then, there's a marshal who's so omnipresent, you could be excused for thinking he's stalking you. He doesn't utter a word when you duff three straight shots, however.

You're still going to end up talking about the views.

Dining Out

Mesquite is a rapidly growing town, but it's still Mesquite. There aren't a lot of fine dining options, even fewer showy Vegas type restaurants. One of the best choices can actually be found right in Wolf Creek's clubhouse.

Terrace Restaurant (702-345-6701) offers a full menu with wraparound balcony seating that provides some great views of all those great views out on the course. It also puts on its own show. Every Friday and Saturday night, the waiters are tuxedo clad, adding a sense of dining theater to an area that's still most often associated with relaxed Western ways.

Make sure to try the prime rib. That's no sign-off comedian line here. Terrace's prime rib is advertised as the best prime rib in all of Nevada.

Stay & Play

There are number of casino hotels in town to chose from, many decked out in the requisite neon. Eureka Casino Hotel is a convenient option for Wolf Creek. The rooms are not full of Vegas glitz or glamour, but they are clean and pretty comfortable. All it takes to reach the casino is a quick walk across parking lot (the hotel and casino are in separate buildings).

There is no Internet access in the rooms, but there are a few computers in a lounge off the lobby that guests can use to surf the web for free.

Fast Fact

Wolf Creek goes without any architect being credited for it in all its course literature because of an ongoing lawsuit over who designed it.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin 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
  • wolf creek golf course

    Andy wrote on: May 18, 2009

    One of the most beautiful courses in the world. I am an experienced golfer, and have seen the most beautiful courses, like Pebble Beach. This course may be the best course in the world. Great Temperature, beautiful land.

    Reply

  • Wolf Creek Golf Course

    Bob McKinney wrote on: May 16, 2009

    This is the most beautiful public golf course I have ever played. We try to play at least once a year. Better price than any course in Vegas. NOT MISS THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY THIS COURSE.

    Reply

  • Wolf Creek Golf Club

    Larry Samples wrote on: Sep 9, 2008

    We made the 1,100+ mile drive, from Seattle to Mesquite, where we played Wolf Creek. W C made the whole trip worth while. It's not hype, just fact.

    Reply

  • wolf creek elevation

    jim wrote on: Sep 17, 2007

    I have taken a numer of people to play wolf creek and some have complained about the height of the tee boxes.....If you have a fear of heights pass on this wonderful golf course !!

    Reply

  • WONDERFUL GOLF

    Scott Trimble wrote on: Feb 25, 2006

    I just came back from Vegas, in which I drove the little over an hour drive to get to mesquite and stayed the first two nights of my vegas trip to play what I have read was one of the best courses you can play... WOLF CREEK.
    Well lets start off from the beginning, we stayed at the Oasis hotel, which was nice. The website made it out to be a little "more" but it was fine. Its on the other side of town but its only about 10 minutes from Wolf creek. If you want to stay closer I suggest Little River, or Eureka Hotel which is just a mile or two from Wolf Creek.
    Now this town is "up & coming" so you will not find a lot of restaurants, we was there on a Friday and Saturday and the hotel buffets was a major line in the evening, over an hour and a half wait. So we went driving to find a regular place to eat. Their isnt anything like that yet. No Applebees, Outback, Ponderosa, Olive Garden, etc. So we ended up at Burger King one night and Jack in the Box the other. Hey it was food.
    We played golf the first day at the Oasis golf club and played the Palmer course. The course was ok, but not as great as their website makes it out to be. I played with a couple of locals their and they explained that they just got their greens back the end of last year due to some kind of disease that got on the greens. The greens had a lot of dirt spots on them and you could tell they was trying to get them back in. But this problem should be fine later on in the 2006 year. Other then that the course was pretty nice. They told me that Falcon Ridge was what I should have played. But when I told them about playing Wolf Creek the next day, they just smiled and said it would be something I would never forget. I would rate the Palmer about a 6 or 7, the staff was nice, the layout was good, just the conditions could be better and I was told they was working on getting back to where it once was. Even on some of the fairways I was looking to find nice grass spots to hit from. So next time I will try the Falcon Ridge couse. But now we get to WOLF CREEK.
    You start off by driving to the top of Mesquite. Don't worry about seeing golf holes that don't look that great as your getting close to the course, thats the Canyon course at the Oasis. Wolf Creek you cant see till you get to the clubhouse. The staff is right there when you pull in. We went straight and parked instead of to the bag drop area and they came straight out and loaded up my bag and said it would be waiting for me at the clubhouse. The clubhouse is amazing, and you can walk out on the balcony and see the course. Thats when you smile and go... O YEAH, this is going to be fun.
    I paid my green fees (they charge $25 to have a rider if you bring your wife)and putted around a bit till they called my name. When you get to the first tee the starter goes over everything with you. Also you cant go into the desert part of the course because its a protected environment. You will see TONS of balls scattered in the mountains but you cant walk into that area of the course. They paired me up with a couple of great guys from Michigan and off we went. We decided to play the white tees and it worked out perfect. I am a 9 handicap and am glad I didnt try to play the back two sets of tees. When you get on the first tee, your mouth drops as you look out over the first hole. Its in PERFECT shape, the fairways are mowed to get that diamond design, and the ponds and waterfalls you can see makes you stand and stare till the starter tells you that the guys in front of you are out of distance and you can hit. The first hole is pretty open so you grip it and rip it and hope for fairway.
    The fairways are perfect, you dont have to wiggle your ball around like at the Palmer to get some nice grass, your already sitting on perfect carpet. As you play each hole it just gets better and better. The views are breath taking and you have to walk up to the back tees on some holes just to see what it would be like. Some like hole 2 you have to take another path up a hill just to get to it. Another 50 yards or so and even higher tee box. Let me tell you, dont be afraid to be that guy on the course with a video camera, because everywhere we looked people had cameras out taking pictures (they even sell cameras in the clubhouse) you want to make sure you get these pictures to brag and show off when you get home.
    This course is simply unbelievable! I shot pretty good, my driver was on that day (which is something that has to be going good on this course)and I shot and 83. I would have done much better but I had quite a few three putts!! To practice putting for this course before your trip, you need to practice putting on hardwood floors, not carpet floors because these suckers are FAST. Took me 5 or 6 holes to get myself not to hit it by the hole with even a longer putt then I had. Then when you relize to not hit it so hard, then the slightest breaks make them move to just out of the hole. If your putting and driving is on then you will do decent. There are some holes you can go for the green in one, but look around at the desert hill sides and see all the balls embedded in the dirt and it makes you think twice. I tried it one time and one time only because it cost me a snowman on that hole and I was having an even better round till that hole.
    Overall this is the most fun course I have ever played. I have played course in Pinehurst, Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Florida and will NEVER top this course. Yes they are just as plush as Wolf Creek, but the lay out and the experience can never be better. Its a golf experience that any avid golfer has to take if they get to Nevada. If your going to Vegas for a golf trip, you have to drive the hour to get here, just so you can say you played it. Trust me you will be talking about this course the rest of your life.
    Scott Trimble
    Ashland KY
    Feb. 2006

    Reply

  • Wolfcreek

    D.P. wrote on: Feb 9, 2006

    If you do'nt play it you'll never understand what it's about!!!

    Reply

  • Best New Courses

    Chuck Collet wrote on: Jan 14, 2006

    One more trip under the golfing belt, (one hanging a little lower as time eats away at youth and it's follies). The west side of Colorado, from Vail to Grand Junction holds so many new adventures on "fields of green". One of the newer children of "Jim Engh", The Ranch at "Lakota Canyon", beckons all of us who have fallen under the magic spell of his designs. From start to finish a wonderful experience up and down the front wall of the Rockies. Laying on the outskirts of the small town of Newcastle Colorado, this course demands attention. With more than fair greenfees and a round of golf not soon forgotten we applaud another masterpiece.. We WILL be back.. Chuck Collet, Pitt Meadows, British Columbia..Canada

    Reply

  • Wolf Creek

    Bob Moreau wrote on: Jan 11, 2006

    My son and I and 2 friends played Wolf Creek last year. NOTHING has ever come close to the visual beauty of this course to me, and I've been playing for over 40 years all over the world. Get something - a hat, towel shirt - anything to remember this course by. It's that great.

    Reply

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