Oasis Golf Club, Mesquite
MESQUITE, NV - If an amusement park had a golf course, the Oasis Golf Club would be it.
This Arnold Palmer and his design team went to Mesquite - about 85 miles from Las Vegas near the Utah border - and created a course of roller coaster proportions. Palmer wisely embraced the terrain and sent the course climbing over hills and swooping through canyons to create a dazzling desert masterpiece.
Never has a course with holes so straight been so much fun. Glancing at the two-dimensional diagram on the score sheet before we played produced only yawns. On the course, our mouths were agape not in yawns, but in wonder that anyone had the audacity to plan a golf course over this terrain.
The fun begins at No. 5, a par five whose slender strip of fairway lies 100 feet below the tee box. As you gaze into the distance, a nearby sign warns of hitting into groups ahead because tee shots carry farther than expected. But then No. 5 pales in comparison to No. 8.
Another par 5, the tee box is perched an estimated 180 feet above the boulder-strewn canyon floor. The shot is framed by steep walls of rock that, unfortunately, don't produce quite the ricochets we were hoping for. Twinkling in the distance at the end of the hole is a lake, one of the few times water comes into play on the course. Palmer wisely understood that too many water hazards simply wouldn't fit the natural landscape and the way the Oasis blends into its surroundings is its greatest design triumph.
As breathtaking as 5 and 8 are, Palmer's favorite is said to be No. 6. A short par 4, the hole begins with quirky alternate tee boxes, designed to ease traffic. The hole takes a slight jag to the left and then dead-ends into canyon walls. The lush green surrounded by the rich tan of the desert canyon makes for a beautiful backdrop.
The par 3s are spectacular, especially No. 7 with its long carry, and No. 16 with another elevated tee box. Seventeen and 18 are superb finishing holes, played alongside narrow lakes.
The scenic splendor can make it difficult to concentrate on your game and that can be dangerous because the Oasis is tough. The tight fairways create most of the difficulty. There just isn't room for error. Even slightly wayward shots often wind up out of bounds or unplayable, which makes the course far from traditional.
The course's slope rating of 141 from the back tees despite the moderate length of 6,737 yards corroborates the origin of trouble. But don't worry about your score. Instead of strokes, keep count of the number of times somebody says "wow."
For travelers to Las Vegas, there are many amazing golf courses closer than the Oasis, but few could hope to boast the jaw-dropping design of the Oasis. Yard for yard, the Oasis will be one of the most thrilling you can find.
January 1, 2002