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|Hit long to avoid the rocks on 17 at Conestoga Golf Club. (Wes Gilbertson/TravelGolf)|
MESQUITE, Nev. -- It never hurts to have a local tour guide for your first lap of a golf course, and this guy was good.
A smooth swing. A knack for reading the grain in the greens. A GPS watch and a handheld range-finder as a backup.
And, as became apparent when we arrived at the tee-box of the sixth hole at Conestoga Golf Club, a willingness to let newbies in on the inside joke at his home course.
"They call this hole the three-ditch ..." he said with a grin.
Huh? The three-ditch what?
Here's a hint, it rhymes. The most common five-letter word around the clubhouse at Conestoga is probably bogey, but if you overhear another golfer say something that sounds like "pitch," there's no guarantee they're referring to a delicate shot around the greens.
They could be talking about the signature sixth hole, a 536-yard test with three forced carries over desert wash and no alternate route on any of them. There's also a ridge running through the middle of the green, but, hey, at least it's not a hazard.
"What I would say is it's a perfect masterpiece," said Austin Szatlocky, an aspiring pro and sales manager at Conestoga, one of seven public-access tracks in this growing community about 85 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
"It's a risk-reward hole, for sure. If you want to play it safe, you lay up to that second fairway. If you want to be aggressive and be a big dog, you can go for that last fairway. And for players that do try to go for that green in two, good luck, because it's surrounded by bunkers. I think it's a fair, honest hole, and it's a lot of fun."
Fun or frustrating, that could depend on how many times you trudge into Abbott Wash to retrieve -- or hit -- your ball.
Thanks to the location of the Conestoga clubhouse and the canvas that course designer Gary Panks was provided, some of the most memorable assignments at this 7,232-yard layout are among the early ones.
Measuring 188 yards from the elevated back tees and with a view of red-rock formations for as far as the eye can see, the second test could be the postcard hole at many other courses.
The fun on the 394-yard fourth begins after a safe shot from the tees, with golfers smacking their approach attempts from the edge of a cliff to the putting surface below.
And then there's the sixth hole, one of those challenges that is tough to fully describe until you have a chance to see it for yourself.
The back nine, with several holes that wind through a new housing development, isn't quite as exhilarating, but it's certainly not bad, either.
"You never see the next hole until you get to the tee-box, and I think that's pretty special, because it's always like, 'What's next? This was a great hole, I can't wait for the next one.' And then you see it and you say 'Wow,'" Szatlocky said. "It's well spread out, up through the hills, and through the houses and along that mesa. Every hole is its own hole. It's not back-and-forth golf."
Conestoga is managed by Troon Golf, so you can expect top-notch service. Golfers have access to a full practice facility, and instruction is available.
You probably picked Mesquite to avoid the crowds and chaos of Las Vegas, and the front nine at Conestoga Golf Club certainly has that middle-of-nowhere feel.
In fact, it's so isolated in spots that you might worry you'll stumble into Area 51.
It's sort of a shame to see houses on the back side, although it's easy to understand why people want to wake up in these surroundings every day.
Simply put, you won't find a course like this anywhere near home.
With a couple of strong candidates to be the signature hole from the entire area, you'd be silly to skip it.
You need a good sleep on a golf getaway, right? The guest rooms at Eureka Casino Resort are clean and cozy.
You're hungry after your round? There are three on-site dining options, including a superb steakhouse and an all-you-can-eat buffet.
You want to test your luck at the tables? This is the biggest casino in Mesquite, so it's never hard to find a game.
Eureka Casino Resort, located just off the freeway about five miles from Conestoga, completed a three-year remodel in 2011. Other amenities include a full-service spa and outdoor pool area.
Stay-and-play golf packages are available.
April 8, 2013
Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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