TPC Canyons or Revere: Which is the right choice?
Playing golf in Las Vegas isn't nearly as risky as toying with the casinos. But anyone who has rolled the dice on The Strip knows how important it is to leave on a good note. And that's where the casinos and golf courses have a similar philosophy: They want you back.
Since you have more control over the timing and certainty of a crescendo golf experience in Las Vegas, let's examine a pair of posh courses that golf packagers typically use in the endgame.
The Revere at Anthem and TPC at The Canyons are both premier courses and must-plays, but their green fees make a fierce dent in the wallet. If you can afford to play both, do so. But for those who can't, choosing the course fits your game the best is key ending on the right foot.
The conditions and service at both courses were even and on par with what you'd expect at a high-end, daily-fee facility. But they differ as much as Michael Jackson and Jackson Brown when it comes to design and legacy.
Playability: Open Book vs. Mind Games
Before choosing between these courses, it would be helpful to see how closely you identify with the words of Robert Hunter, author of the 1926 book, "The Links." Said Hunter: "There may yet come among us effeminate souls who would have all fairways of asphalt, boarded high on both sides so that all shots will be equally good, whether topped, skied, pulled or sliced. ... It is not the love of something easy which has drawn men like a magnet for hundreds of years to this royal and ancient pastime; on the contrary, it is the maddening difficulty of it."
Forgive Hunter for his melodramatic concerns about the future of golf design, but his words reflect a time when architects didn't consider the B and C players, or even women for that matter. Do you believe that the golf swing is tough enough, or do you think that a course should present as many challenging variables as possible?
The fact is that the TPC is a difficult test of mind games while the U-shaped topography at Revere's Lexington Course is easier on the psyche. The fairways of the latter are not made of asphalt and its architects, Greg Nash and Billy Casper, are far from "effeminate souls." But sometimes, the degree of help on a hard slice into the quarter- and half-pipe banks is downright embarrassing. The canyon terrain obviously dictated the routing of the holes, and Nash and Casper should be credited for building bunkers to catch some of these bad shots.
At the TPC, such shots are punished accordingly. But the course has an intimidation factor that comes in the in the form of blind tee shots, forced carries, elevation changes and illusions created by bunkers and mounding. The par-4 13th hole encompasses all of the above. It's is a blind drive over an arroyo to an elevated fairway that runs from left to right on an angle away from the tee box. Only the front and rear edges of the fairway are visible from the tee box and distance is tough to gauge. How much of this arroyo do you want to bite off? It's a roll of the dice, but hey, you are in Las Vegas.
Oddly enough, the course ratings for Revere and the TPC are almost the same. Revere from the gold tees (6,590 yards) is 70.8/131 and TPC Canyons from the blue tees (7,772 yards) is 70.9/128.
The Revere's Lexington Course still challenges the mid- to high-handicapper by forcing him to manage his game off the tee box. Depending on the tee positions, a decent golfer might hit only two or three drivers on the back nine. The B and C player should enjoy this challenge because it's not offered to them frequently.
And the course has teeth. The last three holes are quite difficult when playing into the wind. But no matter what the wind is doing, the thick rough on the 511-yard, par-5 16th is certain death. And any approach that carries this green leaves a delicate downhill chip to a putting surface that slopes hard toward a rocky ditch.
In contrast, the TPC doesn't resist scoring all together. Architects Bobby Weed and Raymond Floyd designed the course to play much easier from the white tees where they eliminated most of the forced carries and decision making. But the course only plays 6,110 yards from up there. Unless your handicap is over 20, playing from the whites should feel like cheating.
No matter where you play it from, the fairways are wide enough. The TPC has a couple of short par-4 holes that make it possible to post a good score. Playing at ones handicap is within reach if a player can keep his ball in the green stuff on the tough holes. Scoring below one's handicap takes an exceptional effort.
The Greens: Tricky vs. Straightforward
The TPC's greens are fast and tough to read. Locals say everything breaks away from the mountain, but how much is tough to judge. The Senior Tour raised such a stink about the difficult greens, its annual event at the TPC was canned. The median four-day total at the PGA's annual Las Vegas Invitational is four strokes higher than the average tour event. Because the pros have to walk the course, many believe that the terrain and the heat have a greater influence on that statistic than the difficulty of the course. But the greens definitely have a role in it, too.
Revere at Anthem also requires local knowledge on reads. A flat putt will break toward The Strip. The influence is not as strong as at TPC Canyons. The greens at Revere are not too slick. While the reads are tough at times, they are more within the grasp of an average golfer.
Aesthetics: Surroundings vs. On-Course
Both courses have home developments around them, which mildly interrupts certain sightlines. But at Revere at Anthem's Lexington Course, the homes are around the rim so that they don't intrude on the golf experience. On a clear day, golfers can see The Strip looking back from the seventh green on Revere's Lexington Course. And views of Mount Charleston are prevalent throughout the front nine.
At TPC Canyons, mountain scenery is present, but the real eye candy is on the golf course in the form of arroyos and box canyons. Almost every other hole has a forced carry over the random rigid lines of the rocky desert. The beige desert contrasts heavily with the lush green fairways. The colors work together to frame and define each hole. The 184-yard second hole is one of the most beautiful and treacherous par-3s in the Southwest. The hole starts from an elevated tee and hopefully ends on an island green that is surrounded by rocky desert. This intimidating hole grabs your attention early in the round.
The Legacy: Tiger Woods vs. Tony Curtis
If you enjoy walking the same footsteps as PGA Tour professionals, then the TPC Canyons is your spot. In the clubhouse lobby is the Las Vegas Invitational trophy with pictures of past champions hoisting it over their heads. One of those champions is Tiger Woods, who won his first professional tournament at the TPC.
The Revere at Anthem's legacy? Tony Curtis lives in the corner house off of the Lexington Course's 18th green and near the clubhouse. If you're lucky, you might catch him sun-bathing or cooling off in his pool. That's a story to bring back home, one that a digital camera would certainly enhance.
It's amazing that a course like the TPC thrives in this day and age where so many high-end, daily-fee courses try to keep recreational golfers feeling good about their game. Revere at Anthem subscribes to that way of thinking. On average, a 15 handicap could shoot anywhere in the 80s on their first trip to Revere. At the TPC, they'll shoot in the low- to mid-90s. When service and conditions are even, Average Joe likes to shoot low. The golf packagers like to send Joe home with a low round, too. And there's nothing wrong with that.
But there's something about the TPC that stirs the soul. Anyone who's been to Vegas can relate to that feeling: That call to make a comeback. If you blow your last $5 chip at the Blackjack table on a 20 and the dealer draws 21, there's a little voice inside that whispers the location of the closest ATM. A rough day at the TPC is similar to that experience. It's infuriating and exciting at the same time. Some people get enough of that at the card tables. Others live for that feeling, and they yearn to one day conquer their fleeting mistress, be it gambling or golf ... or both.
If my father and I were playing, I'd choose the TPC at The Canyons. If we were playing with my mother, I'd choose Revere at Anthem. But really, you can't go wrong with either club. The staffs are friendly. The course conditions are superb. It's a matter of being able to handle visually intimidating golf at the TPC or more of a cozy setting at Revere. They're both located 20 minutes from the strip, with Revere in Henderson and the TPC in Summerlin.
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.
The rooms are five-star quality accommodations with Spanish tile floors in the bathroom, a two-person soaking tub, a separate shower and large double sinks. The window is the perfect place to take in the sunset as it crawls behind the mountains.
With resorts these days there's always a spa. Aladdin's spa, Elemis, features massage rituals and treatments, but it also has a fitness room. And if you're looking for nightlife, Aladdin has one of the hottest clubs on The Strip called, "Curve."
The only problem with Aladdin is the valet. While they are hard working individuals who are always cordial and friendly, getting your car in the morning could take up to a half hour, especially if a big convention is checking out. Keep this in mind if you have a morning tee time. The best way around it is to park your car in the self-parking area. It might mean a bit of a stroll, but it will save you time and aggravation.
After a round at Revere at Anthem's, have a meal and drinks at Buckman's Tavern. Everyone in our group enjoyed the food and the atmosphere. The views of The Strip, the course and the mountains are stunning. In Summerlin, try a steakhouse called Roy's. The locals swear by this restaurant and it's only minutes from the TPC at The Canyons.
If you're staying on The Strip, try McCormick and Schmicks, a solid surf and turf chain which is only a few blocks from Las Vegas Boulevard. If you want some pasta to prepare for another round of golf, try Tremezzo at the Aladdin Casino and Resort. Chef Mario Capone's Northern Italian cuisine was honored by Zagat's Survey as a "Top 10 restaurant in Vegas."
Directions: From The Strip, take I-15 north to Rte. 95 north towards Reno. Take the Summerlin exit to Town Center Drive and turn left. Turn left on Canyon Run and the course is on the right. Revere at Lexington 2600 Hamtpon Road Henderson, NV 89052 866-457-0062 Directions: From The Strip, take I-15 south to I-215 east. Take the Eastern exit and turn right. Take Eastern to a fork and go to the left side on Anthem Parkway. Follow the signs to the golf course.
March 16, 2004