Top 10 scenic holes in Las Vegas

By Leigh Hallenberg, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- Vegas does golf about the same way it does gambling. Bring your checkbook, and prepared to be dazzled by the scenery. Here are 10 holes that represent the most beautiful and scenic fairway-green combinations that Sin City has to offer.

No. 12 at The Falls Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas -- As with all three courses at Lake Las Vegas, The Falls owes a lot to its amazing site. A combination of steep topography and a glimmering lake makes for some of the most astounding golf sites in the Las Vegas area. As you would expect from its name, The Falls created some of its most scenic holes by focusing on the meandering rivulets and waterfalls that trickle off the craggy terrain. On Hole No. 12, the changing environment creates one of the most picturesque holes on the course.

"There's a lot of elevation changes throughout the property and on The Falls Golf Club especially," head golf professional John Spots said.

A steep uphill tee shot begins this 552-yard par-5. As golfers near the green, the hole reveals itself as the monster it is. The green sits to the side of a steep cliff that will take any hooked approach shot. If you do end up searching near the cliff, you will be treated to a marvelous view of downtown Vegas and the peaks that surround it. The two-tiered green adds even more character to this great hole.

No. 11 at Bali Hai Golf Club -- Most courses in Vegas tweak their desert surroundings to create a twist on the typical desert course. In this sense, Bali Hai Golf Club is more Los Angeles than Las Vegas. The Bill Walters-owned course gives a Hollywood-style facelift to its Vegas setting. Walters, who has made millions as co-owner of a betting syndicate, created a tropical wonderland possible mainly because of an unlimited budget. For golfers who prefer palm trees and Augusta white sand-lined fairways to arroyos and canyons, Bali Hai is the place.

On No. 11, named "Lagoon," a sapphire pool shimmers to the right of the 190-yard par-3's large green. The fairway on this and every hole at Bali Hai is bordered by crushed white marble instead of rough. On No. 11 the white marble also fills the beach bunkers that protect the green. It's Augusta National in the middle of the South Pacific in the middle of Las Vegas.

No. 8 at Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas -- Another Lake Las Vegas course, Reflection Bay Golf Club is more than just another Jack Nicklaus-designed masterpiece. Built along the edges of the lake, it manages to bring the feel of Florida golf to the stark desert southeast of the Strip.

"The piece of land he had to work with out here is unique, to say the least, there's nothing else like it in the country," head professional John Spots said.

Nowhere on the course is this more evident than on the trademark eighth hole. This par-3 measures 193 yards from the black tees. The lake on the left borders No. 8 all the way to the green. The green isn't small, but it bends into the water so as not to give too much up to the golfer. Bunkers behind the greens work to do the same. Strategically placed palm trees are the only thing blocking an amazing view of the lake and smoky desert hills. Like many holes at all three of Lake Las Vegas' courses, this is one that will be remembered long after you drive on to the next hole.

No. 17 at Shadow Creek -- Few people have seen this hole and even fewer have played it. Shadow Creek is the most ultra-exclusive, ultra-lavish golf course in Vegas. The course's Web site modestly states that it may be "the most spectacular golf course this side of heaven."

The only way to play this mysterious course is to stay at the MGM Mirage, or one of its other casinos, and pay a $500 green fee. This is one of the main reasons why the course, and its most scenic hole, have remained shrouded in mystery since the course opened in 1989. No cameras are allowed at Shadow Creek so be sure to etch every view into your memory. Since it opened, this Tom Fazio-designed layout has found favor with Michael Jordan, James Woods, Matt Damon and George Clooney.

Its signature and most scenic hole is the par-3 17th. Select one of five tee boxes atop a ridge to hit toward a green surrounded by water and rocks. Try to avoid staring at the enormous waterfall behind the green of this 164-yard hole. The falls cascade into a pool that empties into a greenside lake.

No. 9 at Siena Golf Club -- You can simply call it "No. 9" if you want, but at Siena Golf Club it is called "Della Pantera." Either way it is one of the most visually pleasing holes in the city. A Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley-designed course, Siena opened two years ago with the goal of creating an "Italian Renaissance" in Las Vegas. From the tee box for Della Pantera, you can practically see Italy.

Elevated at the tee, this 420 yard par-4 looks straightforward enough.

"You just really have to hit the fairway. If you cut it or push it, you're in some very deep bunkers or the water jumps up pretty quick," general manager Clay Meininger said.

He is talking about the water hazard that lines the left side of the hole and follows it all the way to the green. Incredibly deep sand traps line the fairway's right side, and errant tee shots are sure to find the bushes beyond. Along the horizon, trees look like soldiers lined up as to keep any disgruntled golfer from running off into the desert. With holes like Della Pantera, the trees should have nothing to worry about.

No. 9 at Rio Secco Golf Club -- This Rees Jones-designed course sits high above the Las Vegas valley among the foothills of the Black Mountains. Nearly every hole provides a majestic view of the desert and mountain landscape that makes Las Vegas courses so aesthetically pleasing. Rio Secco is also home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf. And nothing says more about the facilities than the endorsement of the world's best player. Harmon is Tiger Woods' personal trainer and Woods has been known to frequent Rio Secco when he visits Vegas.

Rio Secco's No. 9 is both a challenging par-5 and one of the most breathtaking views of the Las Vegas skyline the valley can offer. Every inch of the Strip is framed by the Black Mountains from this tee box. Tiger might not struggle with it, but No. 9 should provide plenty of challenge with its five sand bunkers. The two guarding the green are the most troublesome, but the panoramic scene beyond will attract the attention of most golfers.

No. 18 at Revere Golf Club, Concord Course -- As the finishing hole at Revere's newest course, this 551-yard, par-5 had quite a bit to live up to when the Concord course opened last year. The Independence, as this hole is known, has since taken many golfers' minds off a bad round with its picturesque and traditional desert layout. But like the rest of the Billy Casper and Greg Nash-designed course, some of the most beautiful features are the most treacherous. Around the green, there are rough transitions into a row of desert bushes. Seven bunkers behind the green and a 25-foot rock-walled gorge in front of it make the hole look amazing, but make it play like a Venus flytrap.

"It definitely brings up some options for your second shot," tournament director Ryan Ott said.

Unlike many courses in Las Vegas, the Concord at Revere doesn't try to hide its desert setting. This gives The Independence a stunning and unobstructed view of the valley that would be right at home on the front of a postcard.

No. 12 at DragonRidge Country Club - Another course that gets Tiger's recommendation is DragonRidge. Woods often chooses DragonRidge to host his Tiger Jam events. It isn't hard to get excited about its striking vistas. Designed by Jay Morrish and David Druzisky, the course is built into the base of the McCullough Mountains. DragonRidge provides as many stunning views as any course in the area.

On No. 12 there is plenty of time to witness the scope of the Vegas valley as you walk 562 yards uphill. This hole is nearly impossible to reach in two. A wash running through the middle of the fairway swallows many first shots, and strategic bunkers protect the large green from most second shots. Black lava rock lines the hole lending even more imagery to the already starkly beautiful hole.

No. 8 at the Wolf Course at Paiute Resort -- As the longest course in the state, the Wolf Course at Paiute confronts golfers with its length. Luckily it also provides a beautiful background and one of the most attractive holes in Vegas. The course, a Pete Dye-design, features one of his famous island greens on No. 15, but it's the view from the No. 8 that grabs the most attention.

The path to the green is highlighted by desert flowers lining the outside of the rough. Despite the flowers, this par-3 lies 206 yards from the back tees and commands respect.

"It has a huge shelf down off the left side of the green," marketing director Greg Frye said.

Drives can be tough due to this 40-foot deep waste bunker. On top of it all, the green leans toward the harsh sand trap.

No. 8 at Badlands Golf Club, Desperado Nine -- This collection of three 9-hole courses at Badlands Golf Course is regularly rated among the toughest courses in Nevada, but many holes also provide an austere beauty hard to find even among the large number of area desert courses. Perhaps the truest desert course in Vegas, Badlands was designed by Johnny Miller and Chi-Chi Rodriguez and opened in 1995.

No. 8 is a par-3 that stretches to 169 yards from the blue tees. While the length won't test many golfers, the hazards that almost surround the hole will. Balls hit to the left of the hole should find plenty of green. However, a shot directly at the pin could find a large rock wall in front of the hole and consequently, the bottom of a wash that runs in front of the hole.

So there you have it: A more enjoyable way to lose a couple hundred dollars in Vegas than by hanging around a casino can be playing a round at any of the area's beautiful and lavish courses.

Leigh Hallenberg, Contributor

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