A Las Vegas golf vacation about the golf? The JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa delivers it in Summerlin

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- Rumor has it, there are people who actually tailor their Las Vegas golf vacations to ... the golf. This is a strange concept when it comes to Sin City to be sure. For when it deals with Vegas, Baby! - the golf clubs are often just an excuse to get here.

JW Marriott Las Vegas resort
At the regal JW Marriott Las Vegas resort, it's easy to imagine you're anywhere but in the gambling, frenzied capital of the world.
JW Marriott Las Vegas resortJW Marriott Las Vegas resort - rooms

Guys lug the clubs along, tell themselves they're going to visit some of the better courses 20 to 30 minutes from The Strip and end up never leaving their hotel casino.

The JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort & Spa offers a counterpoint to this logic. This is a place where golf is king. Heck, this is a place where the golf threatens to overshadow the casino. And they have the nerve to consider themselves Vegas!

That's the point. The JW Marriott is Las Vegas in name only. It's actually located in Summerlin, a 36-square-mile development in which more than 22,000 people live. Summerlin is about a 25-minute drive (at light traffic times) and another universe away from the in-your-face gaudiness of The Strip. More importantly for the serious golfer, there are 10 courses located within a 10- to 15- minute drive from the JW.

The resort offers preferred tee times and free shuttle service to all these courses. From the forced carries challenge of the Tournament Players Club at the Canyons to the varied tests at the sprawling Angel Park Golf Club to Pete Dye's three Paiute tracks, it is a virtual cornucopia of golf choices. Summerlin is to golf what the Strip is to overpriced restaurants and under-talented night club acts.

"This is the part of town you come to for golf," said Chris Burk, a local attorney and semi-serious hacker. "The part of town where people actually live."

And breathe fresh air. That's one of things that will strike you about a Las Vegas stay at the JW. This is a place that encourages you to get outside, to actually break free from the endless succession of pumped-in-oxygen casinos.

A few of the courses are so close, you can see them from your window. Plus, the grounds of the resort itself are spread out and made for walking, with an elaborate garden and pool system.

After days of seeing animated roman statues come to life and a supposed Brooklyn Bridge right next to an ESPN Zone, the real, live trees of the JW resort are almost a revelation. You'd be surprised by how unique trees can loom. There are supposed to be more than 3,000 trees on the resort grounds and getting yourself lost in them is a rare Las Vegas delight.

There's no next casino to rush off to, no special shooting fountains show to catch.

Yet, the JW is still very much in civilization. It seems like every chain shopping store and restaurant in existence reside a few streets from the hotel. This is no secluded resort. Summerlin is a bustling, growing community and the resort grounds abut some of the sprawl.

The JW is for those who want something less hectic than The Strip, yet more busy than an out-of-the-way retreat like Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas. There is plenty here when you when you want something to do, including a 24-hour casino that's packed on Friday and Saturday nights and a dance club that attempts to replicate that thin veneer of Vegas cool. But there are also plenty of ways to just drift away and relax when you want to relax.

The rooms are huge, significantly larger than 500 square feet for even the smallest of them. And if you get one of 2,200-square foot suites, you may find it bigger and much more comfortable than your average ranch house.

This is the phase where JW Marriott truly excels. It's standard rooms are larger and more luxurious than high-end Vegas Strip trendsetters Bellagio and Venetian's standard rooms. When J-Lo stays at Bellagio, she gets a better room than you'll get at the JW, but for the average vacation traveler, it's hard to beat these digs.

This isn't a cheap place to stay, with specials running around $170 per night, but for those interested in the higher-end experience, it delivers more value for the dollar than its Strip contemporaries.

Nearly all of the JW's bathrooms have long whirlpool tubs, perfect for soaking away the memories of that particularly galling triple bogey. Another great feature is the large swinging windows that actually open. This isn't your average cookie-cutter hotel obsessed with limiting liability, sealing all the windows on the off chance some idiot might fall out.

With the cool night air drifting through the open windows into your quiet room, it's easy to imagine you're anywhere but in the gambling, frenzied capital of the world.

This being a golf resort, there is the now-requisite accompanying spa. Only this one offers a service in which your "aura" is photographed before and after treatment to give proof of the wonders that rubdown just did. No word on whether "aura" photos will be admissible in a court of law.

Still for all the mystic healing, trees and extra carpet space, the JW mostly excels because it offers the perfect base for a Las Vegas golf vacation that actually centers around golf. After trying to clear the dramatic drops at TPC Canyons or navigate through Dye's punishing desert, you may wonder why you didn't plan a Vegas trip like this before.

"I haven't thought about the casino once all day," vacationing golfer Felix Collison said, between swings at TPC Canyons, seemingly surprised himself by this development.

The Strip never seemed farther away. You're in Vegas on a golf vacation, actually concentrating on the golf. If you're not careful, you might forget the need to walk through the faux cobblestone streets of a fake Paris all together.

This is a Vegas trip? Who knew?

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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