Live large at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore: Resort has stellar golf, fine dining and nightlife

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- It takes something special to stand out on the Strip, where glamor and luxury are the norm.

Wynn Golf Club - hole 11
At Wynn Las Vegas, Tom Fazio transformed 137 flat acres into rolling hills reminiscent of the Carolina Sandhills.
Wynn Golf Club - hole 11Wynn Las Vegas - hotelWynn Las Vegas - poolWynn Las Vegas resort - guest roomThe Salon at Wynn Las VegasWynn Las Vegas - sports bookWynn Golf Club in Las Vegas - 6th

Wynn Las Vegas and Encore have found many ways to stand above the casino competition. It's in the details: The electronic controls in the five-star tower suites that move the curtains and turn the lights on and off with the push of a button, the incredible service of the staff, the elaborate decor throughout the lobby. Between the 19 restaurants and the 111,000 square feet of casino space, there's plenty to do. There's even a Ferrari-Maserati dealership on site.

But hidden outside from public view is what gets the blood pumping for golfers. The golf course feels like a magical fantasyland where golfers can trade neon lights for secluded, lush fairways sculpted by Tom Fazio from the old Desert Inn Golf Club.

Rick Pettibone and Dean Rider, two experienced northern California golfers, couldn't stop gushing about their rounds when I met them inside the posh Wynn Country Club restaurant overlooking the layout.

"This is among the top 10 courses I've ever played," said Pettibone, who has teed it up in exotic locales such as Scotland, Africa and Dubai.

"What Fazio did is impressive," added Rider, who said he's played 70 of the top 100 courses in the world. "He created berms (mounds) right and left. Whatever hole you are on, that's all you see. The old Desert Inn was flat and boring. Now each hole stands alone as its own experience."

Golf at Wynn Las Vegas

Wynn Golf Club emerged from the old Desert Inn course on April 28, 2005, after Fazio moved 800,000 cubic yards of dirt, transforming 137 flat acres into rolling hills reminiscent of the North Carolina Sandhills.

Although hotels and high rises surround the course, a round on the 7,042-yard, par-70 layout feels like an intimate escape. Every hole plays as its own universe, protected by landscaping and thousands of trees, roughly 1,200 of them left over from the old routing. The greens fee -- ranging up to $500 in prime season -- and the 15-minute tee-time intervals also ensure privacy.

Water plays a big role in its strategy, especially on the par 3s. The biggest water hazard of them all comes at the demanding par-4 finishing hole. Seeing a $2 million cascading waterfall behind the 18th green ends the day with a wow factor. Forecaddies trained as PGA Professionals can coax lower scores even out of the highest of handicaps.

"There are a lot of things to stimulate you," Director of Golf Brian Hawthorne said.

Wynn Las Vegas and Encore: Resort amenities

The stars come out at Wynn Las Vegas and Encore (I'm not talking about celebrities, although you could easily run into some). In 2012, the property won the coveted Forbes Five Star award (formerly Mobil Five Star) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) Five Diamond award for its sixth consecutive year.

It is also the only casino resort in the world to earn Forbes Five Star awards in every category -- Hotel, Restaurant and Spa -- for two consecutive years. In fact, each resort has a five-star spa and salon.

"The hotel is as nice as the golf course," Pettibone said. "The staff makes you feel like you are the only guest they have."

Even non-gamblers (count me in that group) will have a grand time staying here. All 4,748 guest rooms and suites are spacious, modern and inviting, but they're only for sleeping. Don't waste your time in one.

When the sun goes down, the Lake of Dreams dazzles guests and diners alike with surreal multimedia presentations packed with pulsating music, spectacular light displays, puppetry, film and sculpture. Visiting Vegas would not be complete without a mind-boggling show.

Exclusive to Wynn, the aquatic live production "Le RĂªve -- The Dream" offers a surreal show featuring aerial acrobatics, provocative choreography and artistic athleticism in the resort's theater in-the-round. People-watching on the casino floor remains quite the spectacle, too.

Cooking for 19 casual and fine dining restaurants, the resort's chefs can cater to any craving. My favorite meals were the shrimp and grits served at the Wynn Country Club and, of course, the tender meats at SW Steakhouse, although I definitely need to sample more places before I can be considered an expert.

Combined, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore boast four distinct nightlife and day-club experiences, approximately 283,000 square feet of meeting space, and 98,000 square feet of retail space. Partiers go all out at the nightclub Tryst, where the mood is set by a 90-foot waterfall cascading into a lagoon. Shoppers will give their AMEX a workout in the Wynn Esplanade, home to lux stores selling Rolex, Louis Vuitton, Brioni, Cartier, Chanel, Dior and more.

Ultimately, the wonder of Wynn is that everything was created to spoil you.

"We have such a great location," Hawthorne said about his course. "Just ride down the elevator, and you're at the first tee. We average rounds of 4 hours, 15 minutes. When you are done, it's back to the other experiences."

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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