Mesquite: Desert golf the way it should be

By William K. Wolfrum, Contributor

MESQUITE, Nev. - The explosive popularity of Las Vegas long ago spilled into outlying areas of Nevada. The town of Mesquite, just 80 miles north of Sin City, has been eagerly lapping up the Vegas runoff, along the way becoming a resort town of its own.

Wolf Creek1
Water and crushed-granite-filled bunkers are part of a golfer's challenge at Wolf Creek.
Wolf Creek1PalmsWolf creek2

Mesquite is the epitome of a persistent Western town. The first settlers' mid-19th-century attempts at irrigation failed disastrously, as flash floods wiped away most of the town. It took a couple more efforts to rebuild, but by the early 1900s Mesquite was an established community thriving on raisin farming.

As with much of the West, though, real prosperity came with a road - in this case, Interstate 15. I-15 made Mesquite a destination for travelers, and in the 1980s and '90s developers and casinos came to town.

With the resorts came golf. While not a town packed tee-to-green with courses, Mesquite has put itself on the map for tourists who like to bring their clubs along.

Mesquite golf courses

Working with desert for a canvas could have limited course architects' palettes. But in Mesquite, splicing the harsh landscape with a golfer's haven is par for the course - nowhere more so than at Wolf Creek Golf Club.

"I didn't need to have the plans on paper," designer Dennis Rider said. "I'd lay awake at night and design the course in my head."

It turned out to be quite a mental picture. Amid postcard settings of the untamed Mesquite landscape, Wolf Creek, which opened in 1999, gives golfers a roller-coaster ride. From dramatic elevation changes to breathtaking vistas to imposing par 5s, this is a course to experience, not just to play.

Of course, the 98 bunkers you'll have to try and sneak by will force you to bring your game, though Rider showed a soft side by filling them with crushed granite. Don't give the architect too much credit for sentimentality, though: Wolf Creek is ranked by the USGA as the third-hardest course in the country. Green fees will be in the $75-$100 range depending on the season; you can find deals at the course's Web site.

At the Oasis Golf Club, the Palmer Course (formerly known as the Oasis) has been a hit since opening its fairways in the 1990s, earning a nod from Golf Digest as one of the "top 10 courses you can play." Of course, it very well could play you, with its narrow fairways and 141-slope rating.

The Palmer may not look like much from an aerial view, but the rugged course gives golfers unacquainted with desert golf a crash course. The elevated tee box on the par-5 eighth hole offers not just a good driving opportunity but a panoramic view of the course and the surrounding area.

Readying itself to become the first resort in Mesquite to offer 36 holes, Oasis is preparing to open the Canyons (formerly Vista) Course full time in October. Currently playing as a nine-holer, the course is another Palmer-Seay design. While built into the same canyon-esque setting, Canyon looks to be a place to find some of the pars and birdies you misplaced over at the tougher Palmer. Rates for the two courses run about $50 to $75.

The CasaBlanca Golf Club features a Cal Olson-designed 7,011-yard course that will show golfers that, yes, water can come into play in the desert. Surrounded by the Virgin River Mountains, CasaBlanca tours through natural desert wetlands for an eye-catching experience.

The par-3 No. 16 should give players some quality which-club-should-I-use time - you'll be forced to carry a huge pond and stream to attack a green fully protected by a large bunker to the front and desert wasteland to the back.

The course checks in with a maximum slope rating of 131. Green fees top out at $120 during peak seasons, though the course is normally available from the $85-$100 range, with guests at the CasaBlanca resort getting a discount. The course is also home to the Duff Challenge, where amateur golfers can pony up cash to play with and against the likes of pros like John Daly.

The Palms Golf Course bills itself as "nine holes of beauty followed by nine holes of sheer terror." If that doesn't get a golfer's adrenaline going, maybe you need a new hobby. The best thing is, it's not just hype.

After a pleasant opening nine that will placate you with its open fairways and flat lies, the back nine will give you more elevation changes than a trampoline and fairways that require precision instruments to hit consistently.

The oldest course in Mesquite, the Palms is generous in its tee settings, at least - 7,008 yards from the back markers, 6,284 from the whites, and 5,106 from the reds.

Falcon Ridge Golf Course is the newest addition to Mesquite's golfing landscape. The course opened in 2004 and the Kelby Hughes design has been getting raves since. Playing at just 6,546 yards from the tips, it's more of a shot maker's course, with water, bunkers and dramatic elevation changes to occupy a player.

Green fees will run from $45 to $100 depending on when you play, and Falcon Ridge does nothing to take away from the general desert theme of Mesquite courses.

Where to stay

Mesquite is no Las Vegas when it comes to dining and lodging options (but then, people generally go to Mesquite because they don't want to go to Vegas). Still, there are still plenty of places to keep you well-sheltered and well-fed in this gambling town.

CasaBlanca Hotel/Casino/Golf/Spa

950 W. Mesquite Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-7529

Eureka Casino Hotel

275 Mesa Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-4600

Oasis Resort Hotel & Casino

897 W Mesquite Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-5232

Virgin River Hotel & Casino

100 Pioneer Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-7777

Local restaurants

Katherine's

CasaBlanca Hotel

950 W. Mesquite Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Chuck Wagon Restaurant

Virgin River Hotel & Casino

100 Pioneer Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-7777

Tumbleweed Café

Eureka Casino Hotel

275 Mesa Blvd.

Mesquite, NV 89027

Phone: (702) 346-4600

Fast fact

Since the I-15 opened up Mesquite to travelers, the population has exploded from less than 2,000 to nearly 20,000 full-time residents, making it the fastest-growing city in Nevada.

William K. WolfrumWilliam K. Wolfrum, Contributor

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.


 
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