Panks makes splash on Vegas scene with Aliante
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- While Southern Nevada has become a golf mecca in recent years, Las Vegas and Henderson have been home to virtually all the top tracks, with the city of North Las Vegas an afterthought.
With the exception of the ultra-exclusive Shadow Creek -- casino mogul Steve Wynn's magnificent creation in the otherwise barren links outpost -- the city has been in dire need of an upscale golf course, or anything for that matter, to improve its image.
Enter the Aliante Golf Club, a par-72, 7,022-yard layout, which opened in December and hopes to help change the area's image.
Designed by renowned architect Gary Panks and managed by OB Sports Golf Management, the 18-hole course is the centerpiece of the Sun City Aliante residential development, a new 1,905-acre, master-planned community developed by North Valley Enterprises, an affiliate of American Nevada Company and Del Webb Communities, Inc.
"This area definitely needed this. They needed something to pick up this region and give it a facelift," said Nelson Mascarenas, director of group sales at Aliante Golf Club, which is owned by the city of North Las Vegas. "It reminds me of what Summerlin used to look like when it first started. In due time, this area will expand like Summerlin and Anthem did."
Andy Deiro, the director of golf operations at Aliante who previously worked for Tuscany Golf Club in Henderson and Angel Park Golf Club in Las Vegas, agrees the course was sorely needed in the area and likes to describe its location as between Silverstone Golf Club and Shadow Creek.
"The city of North Las Vegas has got to be thrilled to have this as an addition. This is the new North Las Vegas," he said. "This is the beginning of the area and I think the golf course will help this community grow and be kind of a centerpiece."
The course, easily accessible off I-15 north and I-215 west, caters to players of all abilities.
"Before we laid out the plans for a single hole at Aliante, we had one fundamental goal that we wanted to accomplish. Our goal was to create an enjoyable golf experience for players of all levels," said the award-winning Panks, who is based in Scottsdale, Ariz. "The good golfer wants a challenge, the high handicapper wants playability, and both want a golf course that is beautiful and pleasing to the eye.
"I think we accomplished those goals, and hope golfers are able to enjoy the strongest parts of their game here at Aliante."
The course, which covers 65 acres, features a meandering, rock-lined arroyo which crosses the fairway on 14 holes, giving golfers a slightly elevated feel and leaving them with unique lies and angles.
"It requires you to use more course management. You don't have to hit your driver on every hole," said Charles Hardy, head golf professional at Aliante. "It's a golf course that will challenge the experienced player, and make him use every club in his bag, yet it provides an enjoyable experience for the average golfer."
The course, which has a 72.8 rating and 133 slope, features four sets of tee boxes -- Eagle, Falcon, Hawk and Dove -- ranging from 7,022 to 5,340 yards.
The layout features 54 bunkers, which are very deep and packed with sand, 14 bridges, numerous water features -- including a pair of waterfalls and four separate pond areas near the 11th tee and 17th green -- thousands of plants and a strategic use of trees not commonly found in most desert courses, such as Olive, Plum, Pear and Purple Locust trees, along with the traditional Pine trees and others.
"Aliante is a strong challenge that incorporates all the best design elements found in outstanding golf courses," Panks said. "We created a well-balanced golf course with an appealing landscape and an eye-catching arroyo, all of which have a positive impact on the look and feel of the golf course."
Aliante also features a complete practice facility -- with a 50,000-square foot driving range, which offers a picturesque view of the nearby mountains, a 14,000-square foot putting green, a chipping green and practice sand bunker.
Aliante also features a clubhouse with a golf shop, grill, bar and event pavilion with views of the course and surrounding mountains.
With tee times spread out every 10 minutes, golfers can expect to complete their rounds in a reasonable amount of time.
"When Gary Panks designed this golf course, he designed it to be player-friendly, where they can enjoy a round of golf in four hours and not be really frustrated after they play their round," Mascarenas said. "I don't think you'll ever be backed up on this golf course.
"We don't want to pack them in here just to get revenue; we want to keep it a player-friendly experience."
Due to the winter debut, some harsh weather and new local water restrictions, the course isn't yet in ideal condition, with brown spots dotting some fairways and the greens not yet in pristine shape, but things should improve soon, Hardy said.
"Any time you open a course in the middle of December, there's no real growing season. Everything is kind of at a standstill until March," he said. "This course will be 20 times better in the summer time than it is now, but even though the greens are still a little sandy, they putt true and fast. I think the condition of the course is great."
The small greens are rolling to 10 on the stimpmeter and will continue to soften. The fairways will, too, but some duffers may enjoy them just the way they are. "We have hard fairways, and the ball just goes and goes and goes," Deiro said.
After a round, golfers can settle into "The Nest" to enjoy a cold one at its full-service bar, or take comfort in such classics as an open-faced turkey or roast beef sandwich. The restaurant, open for breakfast and lunch, also features steak burgers and other gourmet burgers, along with salads, wraps and other standard fare.
Aliante is a little out of the way, but it was well worth the trip. It was a bit surreal to be playing in a picturesque setting in that part of town and the fast pace of play made it even more enjoyable. There was absolutely no waiting.
There were some brown spots in the fairways and several greens were a little grainy, but that was mostly due to the winter opening. With warm weather approaching, I'm sure the course will be in pristine shape soon.
Aliante features a first-class practice facility and the staff was extremely friendly and helpful. To cap things off, I played with local Frank Sinatra tribute artist Bobby Barrett.
Swinging with Sinatra in Vegas. It doesn't get much better than that.
Stay and play
If you?re looking for the full Las Vegas experience, check into the Aladdin Casino and Resort. The 35-acre property has more than 2,500 guest rooms and a 100,000-square-foot casino. The resort and casino are attached to Desert Passage, an indoor mall with 140 retail stores and restaurants.
From The Strip and McCarran International Airport, about a 25-minute ride, take I-15 North to 1-215 West, the exit after Craig Road, turn left and follow eight miles to Aliante Parkway, take right and then right at stop sign, with course on left.
February 24, 2004