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Las Vegas: A golf scene worth discovering

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer
Bali Hai Golf Club in Las Vegas - hole 2
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Located right on the Las Vegas Strip, Bali Hai Golf Club boasts a tropical theme. (Courtesy of Bali Hai G.C.)

LAS VEGAS -- Mark Simoes has been to Las Vegas "20 times" by his estimation.

But what he experienced this fall during his latest trip changed his view. He brought his golf clubs for the first time, playing rounds at Desert Pines Golf Club and Royal Links Golf Club, two of the three Walters Golf courses.

"From now on, this changes how we do Vegas," Simoes said while relaxing with a beer and his buddy in the castle clubhouse at Royal Links. "We will play more rounds of golf. What a dream. This is a 180-degree change (from our usual Vegas trip)."

Simoes isn't alone. Millions of visitors, including golfers, stream into Las Vegas every year without a single round of golf in their plans. Even officials from the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority admit they haven't done enough to sell the game as one of their premier attractions. Too many tourists get caught up in the glitz and glamour of the other distractions -- the resorts, restaurants, bars, dance clubs, casinos, shows and concerts -- in Las Vegas.

But Las Vegas can be another Scottsdale. There is a great variety of golf courses in Las Vegas and, obviously, the off-the-course pursuits are endless.

The one thing that might have held Las Vegas down in the past -- higher greens fees -- have made some adjustments. Shadow Creek and the Wynn Golf Club still cost $500, but Walters Golf is always running specials, and Cascata in Boulder City has dropped its $500 greens fee to $375.

Simoes did say he wishes he could find more deals but added he didn't mind paying a little extra. Golf saves him from potentially losing that money in the casino anyway, he admits.

And he can't wait for a second shot at more area courses.

"We had a blast," he said.

Next time, when you make the wise decision to play golf in Sin City, here are a sampling of courses to consider:

High-roller Las Vegas golf experiences

The Wynn and Shadow Creek are right on the Las Vegas Strip, hence their price tag. Steve Wynn and Tom Fazio collaborated on both designs. The newer Wynn opened in 2005 in the shadow of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, two premier casino hotels. Fazio transformed the flat land of the old Desert Inn course into a gorgeous palace of rolling fairways and fast greens. The par-70 course finishes with a flourish: A $2 million waterfall frames the scene at the 18th green.

Cascata, another exclusive round of golf, rides the ridges of rocky mountainous terrain 22 miles from The Strip. This Rees Jones design cost $70 million to build. Golfers will argue it's worth every penny to route that 417-foot waterfall through the property and the clubhouse. The only way to solve Cascata's slick greens is to listen to your caddie.

No transportation? No problem

Transportation can also be an issue if your group hasn't rented a car. Thankfully, six area courses -- including Bali Hai Golf Club, Las Vegas National Golf Club, Desert Pines and Royal Links -- are within a 20-mile, round-trip cab ride from The Strip. You won't spend all your gambling winnings getting to these playgrounds by cab. The three Walters Golf courses offer distinct themes: Visit the tropics by playing Bali Hai, the links of Scotland on Royal Links, and the rolling hills of the Carolinas at Desert Pines.

Options galore

Other choices run the gamut from PGA Tour hosts to under-appreciated bargains like the 36-hole Angel Park Golf Club. The TPC Las Vegas golf course has hosted the Senior PGA Tour's Las Vegas Senior Classic and most recently shared the PGA Tour's Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open with nearby TPC Summerlin.

The two courses at Primm Valley Golf Club, Lakes and Desert, both rank among the top 10 in Las Vegas by Golf Digest.

Rio Secco Golf Club, home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf, is run by the Caesars Entertainment golf division (just like Cascata).

Bear's Best Las Vegas, just west of the strip into the foothills, delivers a unique collection of Jack Nicklaus replica holes.

And the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort boasts a threesome of Pete Dye courses in the Wolf, Snow Mountain and Sun Mountain.

More photos

Cascata golf course - hole 17TPC Las Vegas golf course - hole 10Wynn Golf Club - hole 10

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Bears best

    Jesus salazar manuel ricardo lopez wrote on: Dec 20, 2011

    Bears best in henderson ey? Going to check that one out