Las Vegas holds the cards in battle against Myrtle Beach golf scene

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- Myrtle Beach may not be golf's version of Wal Mart, but it's not exactly Saks Fifth Avenue, either. That is the assessment provided by local Las Vegas golf officials seeking to bolster "Sin City's" reputation as a world-class golf destination.

Bali Hai Golf Club - 18th
Vegas has three-figure green fees, Wolfgang Puck eateries in clubhouses, and a vast multitude of spas.
Bali Hai Golf Club - 18th

No two areas in the U.S., outside of Phoenix, have witnessed more new golf course construction over the past ten years than the Grand Strand and southern Nevada. Upscale facilities like Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas, Las Vegas Paiute Resort, and Primm Valley have put Vegas on the golfing map, while courses such as those at Barefoot Resort and Grande Dunes have turned Myrtle Beach's reputation as an outpost for bargain basement golf on its face.

The similarities, however, end there.

"No one can match our amenities," says Bill Walters, local developer, gambling legend, and owner of Walters Golf. "Our courses are some of the best, the shopping is world renowned, and our restaurants are some of the best and that includes places like New York, London and Paris."

So there you have it folks.

Vegas has $500 greens fees, Wolfgang Puck eateries in clubhouses, and such a vast multitude of spas that everyone in town walks around in a perpetually relaxed state despite extended periods of financial grief. Myrtle Beach, on the other hand, has $20 replays, foot long hotdogs, $5 table dances and almost as many buffets as Vegas.

Still, Myrtle Beach has just as many nationally ranked courses as its wealthy neighbor to the west. So what really sets these two popular golf meccas apart? As alternative rock band Bush once wailed, "it's the little things that kill."

"The service levels, the clubhouses, the pampering and even the golf club cuisine are incredible," says Dan Romstead, Golf Sales Coordinator at Lake Las Vegas Resort.

Lake Las Vegas is a $4 billion golf themed community located about 30 minutes southeast of the Strip. The mega development is home to three golf courses, a Hyatt Regency, a soon-to-be-open Ritz-Carlton, a 300-plus acre lake, and hillsides speckled with posh desert dwellings, including the home of one Celine Dion. For good measure, the 18,000-square foot clubhouse at the recently opened Falls Golf Club is modeled after a Tuscan winery, should you want to get you golf on and your drink on in style.

"Golfing in Las Vegas is not cheap, and part of the reason is that developers have spent a lot of money to make the clubhouses, landscape and other surroundings first class," Romstead says.

That is not to say that the Grand Strand is not without its chic golf addresses. Grande Dunes and its bevy of upscale neighborhoods is one of the most ambitious golf/real estate projects to hit the East Coast in years. Homes along the Intracoastal Waterway command well over $1 million and another 18-hole layout will eventually be added to the existing, award-winning Roger Rulewich designed Grande Dunes Country Club.

Just up the road in North Myrtle Beach, Barefoot Resort is also churning out its fair share of swank housing and impressive amenities to go along with its Davis Love III, Greg Norman, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio designed resort courses.

But this is Vegas, baby, and rest assured that "Glitter Gulch" is going to to do it bigger and better than anyone else. Grande Dunes, despite its regional muscle, is Lake Las Vegas on Slim Fast. About 30 minutes north of The Strip, another eye-popping golf Eden, Las Vegas Paiute Resort, recently added its third Pete Dye designed golf course and another Dye track is on the way.

Crisp green fairways juxtaposed again craggy, gray and brown mountains is just part of the story, at Paiute, however. In the next four to five years, the resort will develop a $500 million campus that includes shopping, a resort hotel, an equestrian center, tennis courts and a spa. The 40,000-square foot clubhouse that caps the Wolf, Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain courses has become the stuff of local legend with its cozy interior and jaw-dropping views of the surrounding mountains.

"There are some things you can be sure of in this world, and one of them is that you will not out-Vegas, Las Vegas," says Joe Passov, former editor of Links Magazine and senior associate with Communication Links, Inc. "Places like Lake Las Vegas, Las Vegas Paiute Resort and people like Bill Walters don't look to match the stakes. They look to raise them."

Such fearless bravado from a town that used to look a lot like Myrtle Beach 30 years ago must be taken with a grain of salt. Before guys like Walters and Shadow Creek developer Steve Wynn became financially vested in the game, Vegas golf was an eclectic collection of shoddy casino courses and mediocre munis.

"When I first got here golf was barely an afterthought," says Walters. "Now there is no place in the U.S. with the kind of quality golf available to the public like Las Vegas."

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of from 1997 to 2003.

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