Solid, showy golf no long shot in a Vegas weekend
LAS VEGAS - You're heading to Las Vegas for a three-day weekend. It's going to be the mother of all weekends, it's Vegas, baby after all, but it's still only three days. You want to do it right: plenty of time at the tables, blowout meals and shows. But you've always been curious about Sin City's golf scene, too.
You want to play some worthwhile courses, those only-in-Las Vegas golf courses where it's either as over-the-top ridiculous fun as a belly dancer trying to lure Strip strollers into the Aladdin or as stately and refined as the art museum at the Bellagio.
You know you're going to drop a decent chunk of change for these rounds, probably over two bills each easy, but you don't have a problem with that. It's Vegas. But you've heard about the rundown rip-offs that can be found in the desert built by the Bugsy Siegels of the world. The one thing you don't want to do is spend good money for bad greens.
So where do you go?
Three of a kind
Your hours in Vegas are precious and fleeting. There will be no 36 holes a day on this trip - like you could even play 36 holes after some of those Las Vegas nights). Leave the endurance golf for places like Myrtle Beach where it's golf, golf and ... well, more golf. This is Vegas and you've got a standing date at the poker room or the craps table.
First ground rule: 18 holes a day, only about 15 hours out of your allotted 72 of the three day weekend. Of course, that just makes the need for the courses to be memorable even more crucial.
Start with Rio Secco Golf Club where the views are choir-girl nice and the greens are junkyard-dog mean. You can look out at Vegas from some of the raised plateau tees. But it's the touch celebrity architect Rees Jones requires on the greens that's likely to leave you talking. These are the type of challenging greens that build hacker legends.
Hey, it's Vegas. You need some good stories to bring home. And that time you doubled down in blackjack only to see some tourist from Indiana hit on 18 and screw it up for everyone, isn't nearly as interesting as that first 33-footer you somehow drained on Jones' killer-to-read greens.
After a long night, you only need to rise in time to get out to DragonRidge Golf and Country Club in Henderson. It's a mere 20-25 minute drive and another world from The Strip. Despite its amusement-park-ride name, DragonRidge is a solid golf play that doesn't rely on a lot of tricks or sideshows.
There are a few blind shots around bends. Nothing too crazy, but if you're one of those golfers who gets offended by such things, it might be best to look elsewhere.
One of the advantages to including DragonRidge in your three-day weekend is its consistent top-notch conditioning. This is a course that you don't have to fret over what type of shape it's going to be in. No need to cross your fingers before stepping up to the first tee here.
The big finish
Now, that the three-day bender's winding up, your head's splitting, your wallet's lighter and the office is beckoning back home. You need something to wake you up to the possibilities of Las Vegas again, a refresher course in magic.
Say hello to The Falls.
This Tom Weiskopf design in the Lake Las Vegas land of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio lets you shoot down into dramatic canyon drops from towering ledge tees on its climbing back nine.
Dramatic? The Falls is Sean Penn in full ham-it-up, Oscar-seeking, I-Am-Sam form. It's so over the top it practically clonks you over the head with its grand ambitions. And you know what? It works. It delivers on its farfetched, reach-for-the-sky (literally) promise.
I would recommend Reflection Bay over the Falls to complete the three-day weekend itinerary for more traditionalist golfers. The courses are down the street from each other and the choice largely hinges on your perspective. This Midwesterner by birth found the lakes setting of Reflection Bay nothing overly spectacular, but some love it and its Nicklaus Signature designation.
It's your weekend. Your chance to mull over your final bang.
"You can have a really good run of golf in a short time in Vegas," said a Vegas golf vacation packager. "A really good run and still have time to get in all the other stuff you want to do."
The Vegas weekend might not be all about the golf. But that doesn't mean the golf won't become the talk of the weekend.
September 19, 2005