The Palms Golf Club near Mesquite, Nevada: A different kind of thrill ride
MESQUITE, Nev. -- There's a reason The Palms Golf Club near Mesquite bills itself as "nine holes of beauty followed by nine holes of sheer terror."
The front side is a pleasant ride around nine holes of fairly flat and open fairways. Water comes into play on eight of the holes, but with a majority of the course's 200 palms trees spread around, it has an island flare to it.
The back nine is a completely different ride with more peaks and valleys than the wildest roller coaster. The tee boxes are aimed at tight landing areas bordered by the native Nevada desert to fast sloped greens.
Put together, the oldest 18-hole course in the Mesquite area (located just 80 miles north of Las Vegas) offers players the ultimate contrast in golfing styles across 7,008 yards from the back markers, 6,284 from the whites, and 5,106 from the reds.
As the round progresses, open fairways give way to tight, tree-lined driving areas and the flat, watering island becomes replaced with tees and greens -- and everything in-between -- lying at different altitudes.
The common element is that the greens are protected by bunkers and all the par 5s are reachable. It's how you get there that changes.
The par-72 golf course begins with a wide open slight dogleg par 5 that makes the short hole even more reachable for all golfers. An adjoining fairway doubles the room for you to unload a drive as your first shot on the 454-yard hole (from the white markers, where the tees are based for this review).
Enjoy the dry hole -- water comes into play on each of the remaining holes on the front side. On the second hole, the no. 1 handicap, water runs along the left side of the fairway, while a pair of bunkers guard the right side and a trio surround the green.
No. 3 is the longest par 3 (from the whites) at 191 yards with a lake protecting the left side of the green and bunkers all around the putting surface. The next par 3, no. 7, is shot completely over a lake, but a couple clubs closer at 171 yards.
No. 8 is a good warm-up for the back nine, with its elevated tee box. The difference here is the corners of the fairway are grassy, not the rocky terrain of the mountainous climb back to the clubhouse. Four bunkers are dropped throughout the right side of the fairway and cutting across it. There's a lake short of the green on the left side, but a good drive can clear the trouble on the par 4, 409-yarder.
For the final hole on the front side, ignore the lake right of the fairway on the severe dogleg left as it's been replaced with a large sand trap. While it's still a hazard, it's playable to the raised green on the longest par 4 on the course at 422 yards.
The Palms Golf Club's back nine
Now take a deep breath and prepare for a completely new course whose rising views will leave you nearly breathless.
The Palms Golf Club's 10th hole combines most of the elements off the rest of the round: An elevated tee box on the par 5 (510 yards) to a raised green surrounded by palm trees and bunkers at the bottom of a hill, while the large fairway and grassy outskirts are replaced with the desert terrain, full of sagebrush and tumbleweeds.
The par-3 11th is dramatically shorter than its 165 yards since the green sits way below the tee box. But the ride heads straight uphill on no. 12 for the seemingly short 308-yard par 4 to a blind green that plays a lot longer than its measurement.
While no. 14 is just 154 yards, make sure you have your 154-yard club since a nasty ravine separates the tee box from the green and doesn't give any balls back.
Yet that's nothing compared to the 114 foot drop on the next hole, a 512-yard par 5 with bunkers lining the right side and thick, irretrievable desert growth on the other side of the traps. A long second shot to the green must avoid the natural hazards that jut out and the ever-present greenside traps.
Nos. 16 and 17 are the only two with water on this nine, and both feature elevated tee shots that can easily get wet. Both holes, at 319 and 331 yards respectively, are short enough to hit a wood or iron off the tee and still leave a short iron to the green.
You'll need to fire away on the final hole, an uphill 364-yarder with a green well protected by bunkers, including a duo on top of each other short of the tiny putting surface.
No. 18 lets you look back at both worlds you've just traveled, the plains of the front nine in front of you, and the peaks and valleys of the back nine behind you. In the end, your round is bound to include plenty of highs and lows, just like the landscape of the course all around you.
February 11, 2002