Looking to putt for dough? Here are the Las Vegas golf courses with the trickiest greens

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

LAS VEGAS - It's an old saying and one that's overused. But, let's face the facts: You do drive for show and putt for dough.

Cascata golf course in Boulder City near Las Vegas - No. 2
Your dough will be won (or lost) on the greens at Cascata.
Cascata golf course in Boulder City near Las Vegas - No. 2Badlands Golf Club - greensCoyote Springs Golf Club - no. 5TPC Las Vegas - second greenDesert Pines golf course - 15th green

While every golf course has one or two greens that will challenge your short game, here are seven Las Vegas golf courses that will test your ability to read greens and roll putts from start to finish.

Noted golf author Jack Sheehan has wound his way around the Vegas Valley many times.

One rule of thumb to use when putting in Las Vegas is the same rule followed by all tourists: find the Strip immediately, he says.

"As many of the top public courses are built on rims of the Las Vegas Valley, looking down towards the majestic five-mile kaleidoscope of towers, pyramids, erupting volcanoes, castles and faux Eiffel Towers, nearly every putt will be drawn towards the Strip faster than a weekend bachelor party."

One final tip from Sheehan: "The Stratosphere Tower is the easiest landmark to spot, being the tallest free-standing structure in the U.S. So on your first glance at a daunting 25-footer, find the tower and factor it into the pace of your putt. Any putt heading straight towards the Strip will be roughly 30 percent faster than a dead flat putt. Any putt feeding away from the Strip and toward the mountains that ring the valley to the west and south, will be roughly 30 percent faster. Slope of the green will, of course, determine just how much."

So if you think you're a great putter, grab your clubs, make a tee time for you and your buddies and take on the challenge of taming greens that have brought even the world's best players to their knees at one time or another.


Simply one of the toughest opening holes to putt anywhere awaits golfers at Cascata, a Rees Jones layout. If the pin is down front on this hole and your ball's on the top shelf, prepare for a three-putt. Or worse yet, there's a chance you may need to grab your wedge as there is a false front on this hole adding to the test.

There are plenty of tales about Cascata in general and this hole in particular, but one that was viewed first-hand was a gentleman with a 35-foot putt from back to front. The caddie gave him a simple instruction as he pointed to a spot six inches in front of the ball: Hit your putt like you're trying to make a six-inch putt. The guy, after looking at the caddie like he was crazy, proceeded to pull the putter back about two feet and rolled the ball toward the hole. The caddie simply shook his head and grabbed for the guy's wedge as the ball rolled some 30 yards off the front of the green. Needless to say, the guy listened very intently to the caddie the rest of the round.

That's the horror story. The truth of the matter is the greens at Cascata are some of the smoothest around but subtle breaks (and sometimes not so subtle) can leave even the best green readers scratching their heads. A 15-foot birdie putt can come up some six feet short or six feet left leaving no gimme for par.

Badlands Golf Club

While this Johnny Miller 27-hole design isn't long (the longest combination being just under 6,900 yards), the smallish greens are tough to hit and undulating. That's the one term you'll hear in just about every conversation about the greens at Badlands Golf Club.

From start to finish you may hit greens in regulation, but it's almost a given you'll three-putt at least once - even if it's from 10 feet.

It's not that the greens at Badlands are unfair. Far from it. These are perfect but reading them requires a keen eye and putting them requires nerves of steel.

Desert Pines Golf Club

Desert Pines Golf Club, a Dye Designs beauty, is located just minutes from the famed Vegas Strip, but worlds away with its Carolina themed layout.

Thousands of mature pine trees line the 6,810-yard course (it may not be long, but it's still a tough test) forcing players to hit it straight. Throw in water features on nine of the 18 holes and you've got a stunning course to look at from every tee box.

But we're talking about tricky putting greens here, and these are some of the best. On in two and putting for birdie? That's the good news. The bad news is your putts won't be gimmies. Desert Pines Golf Club's greens were rebuilt in 2007 and roll quickly, smoothly and - best of all - true. If you can read putts well and roll the rock, you've got a good chance to score well. If not, class is in session and you better be a quick learner.

Coyote Springs Golf Club

Jack Nicklaus' Coyote Springs Golf Club, about an hour north of Vegas, has undulating fairways that give players plenty to think about on approach shots. It that's not enough challenge for you, these greens will roll with the best of them. And out of the sight of Vegas, the old saying that putts break toward the Stratosphere Tower doesn't apply here unless you've got a compass to point you in the right direction.

Bear's Best Golf Club

Another Nicklaus design that will test your prowess on the greens. You want fast greens? At Bear's Best Golf Club, you got 'em. These babies can top out at 13-plus on the stimp meter. But Nicklaus has made them very fair and smooth. But, face the facts. Get to know the golf course and leave yourself an uphill putt whenever possible. If you do find yourself with a downhill putt, rest assured you probably won't leave it short.

Primm Valley Golf Club

Both the Tom Fazio-designed Desert and Lakes courses at Primm Valley Golf Club, feature bowled fairways that gently nudge errant shots back toward the fairway. Too bad the same can't be said for the greens. Straight putts can look like they break a foot while putts that appear to have a lot of break in them can be dead straight. Learning the subtle nuances of the greens can make or break your round - and your wallet.

TPC Las Vegas

The PGA Tour stopped at TPC Las Vegas until 2007. The par-71 layout will definitely test your nerves on the greens which can run from lightning-quick to glass-table top fast. The pros love fast, true greens. Good amateurs love fast, true greens. Hackers? Maybe not. Three- and four-putts can leave players with a sour taste in their mouth as they head to the next tee. And that's just the first hole, a short par 4. Having a birdie putt here is no problem. Converting that birdie putt - or a par putt - can be a big problem. That's why it's a great idea to spend a little extra time on TPC Las Vegas' practice green.

There you have it, guys, six courses to try and get a couple of bucks out of your buddies' wallets. But should you fail, don't worry, there's always tomorrow and the possibility of even tougher pin placements.

Bill BowmanBill Bowman, Contributor

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

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