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TPC Canyons golf course in Las Vegas good enough to overshadow Frys.com Open

Chris BaldwinBy Chris Baldwin,
TPC Canyons Golf Course - Desert Bush
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Even near a green, desert bush looms at Las Vegas' TPC Canyons. (Chris Baldwin/WorldGolf.com)

Host to the PGA Tour's Frys.com Open, TPC Canyons in Las Vegas is one of those rare golf courses that can overshadow a professional event. If you're looking for a good golf experience, play TPC Canyons on your next Las Vegas golf vacation.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - A golf course that hosts a top tier pro tournament almost always sees its own prestige increase. Get saddled with a tournament that's regarded as small time, though, and the host course sometimes gets thought of like the guy who's hanging out with Pauly Shore.

People dismiss it or discount it because of the company it's keeping.

In some ways that's the fate of TPC Canyons.

This is one of the best golf courses in Las Vegas, and it's one of the better Tournament Players Club courses (clubs affiliated with the PGA Tour) in the country. Yet casual golf fans might catch a few glimpses of it on TV in October during the Frys.com Open, note the lackluster field (this year no one ranked better than 13th played) and click on.

TPC Canyons gets passed over long before it ever has a chance to build any TPC Sawgrass lore.

"You don't really hear about it that much," said Las Vegas resident Chris Burk. "I know I didn't know anything about it till I moved here. Guess it's not fair."

It's actually plenty fair to the Vegas visitor who does a little research. Your friends back home in Iowa won't go light headed with envy when you tell them you played TPC Canyons, but you can just smile knowingly at their ignorance.

If you're looking for a good golf experience rather than a souvenir notch on some golf belt, TPC Canyons is the place.

There is no island green. Well, at least not one with water. Designer Bobby Weed does give you the desert version of one, and it will mess with your mind more than a mile of aqua could. It's the second hole and how quickly it comes in the round only adds to the theater.

You're just minding your own business, maybe working off the morning-after headache of a hard Vegas night, and then ... bam! You're suddenly staring across a chasm at a green that seems to be floating in air. It's a 196-yard par 3, but the suddenness of the rocky hole in the ground makes many golfers dramatically over swing.

Which sends their golf balls dramatically sailing into the abyss.

Of course, it's a safer bet than LSU over Middle Tennessee at the Bellagio that most of the golfers who take a picture at the second tee don't tell their friends at home where their ball actually ended up.

It seems like at least half of TPC Canyons' visitors take a snapshot at No. 2 as well.

TPC Canyons Marketing Director Joe Massanova jokes, "We should really put a camera stand right here."

Whether the PGA Tour players who practice at TPC Canyons would appreciate that is another matter. Fred Couples comes by to get in his swings when he's in Vegas. Journeyman Dean Wilson is a regular. There is a private back practice range set aside for the pros, but you'll frequently find them out on the course, playing behind a group of often unsuspecting insurance salesmen from Peoria.

"All the pros who come out here are very easy going, it's just a relaxed feel," Massanova said. "That's the biggest difference between here and the TPCs in Arizona. The rules are stricter out there and PGA players are kept away from the regular golfers for the most part.

"Here the guy playing in the group in front of you could be a PGA player like Dean Wilson and you probably wouldn't even know it."

That's the thing. TPC Canyons isn't just one of the better TPC courses, it's probably the most chilled. Nobody's sweating much here. The staff seems to understand that golfers just want to have a good time.

The marshal will be there in a moment if you need something, but he's not going to give you a lecture on appreciating your fellow golfer.

TPC Canyons in Las Vegas: The verdict

TPC Canyons is one of the top 10 experiences in Las Vegas golf. It's almost jammed into the bustling satellite community of Summerlin, yet the course somehow maintains a very stark desert look.

Forced carries come at you quickly. Desert brush seems to pop up and snare your shot just when you least expect it. Ravines capture still more wayward shots.

There is no gray area at TPC Canyons. You're either in the very green fairways or you're in serious trouble. There is no such thing as a little miss here.

"It can be a little intimidating," Burk said.

It sure scared the Senior Tour players. They complained long and hard when a tournament was held here years ago. They no longer come back.

If you care about that type of thing, this is not the course for you.

Here's one last hint on just how good TPC Canyons is, though. When Wynn Las Vegas sends their guests looking for another course somewhere, it's often to TPC Canyons.

If you know Las Vegas, you know that you want to play TPC Canyons.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This course is now called TPC Las Vegas.

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TPC Canyons Golf CourseTPC Canyons Golf Course -  No. 18

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.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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