For the best in desert golf, head to Las Vegas.
“You don’t have to be long, but you do have to shoot straight,” music to the ears of a high handicapper with an accurate, if short, tee shot. But when I survey the endless stretch of barranca (rocky ravine) off the first tee of the Johnny Miller designed “Outlaw” track, my heart sinks. TK, assistant pro at La Vegas’s aptly named Badlands Golf Course was only half right. You have to be long and straight to carry the desert gullies interspersed with smatterings of dusty green fairway.
Las Vegas courses present unique challenges. For starters, the under-watered greens are firm and fast sending even the most artful approach shots bouncing off the surface. After watching one to many balls disappear into the rocky rough, I learned it’s best to roll these shots up from the front of the green. As cool, biting winter winds play havoc with high shots, it’s best to golf here in spring.
A good place for a Vegas golf getaway is the JW Marriott Resort and Spa in Summerlin, 20 minutes west of the Strip. The resort offers free shuttle service to three area courses that are surprisingly varied as well as a free shuttle to the Las Vegas Strip – perfect for fans of the 19th hole. For those seeking a true car free experience, airport pick up can be arranged. Back at Badlands, TK offers putting tips for area courses.
“ If you’re facing the Snow Mountains, then you’re putting uphill and if it’s the Strip you see then it’s a downhill putt, but faster than most downhills.”
Nowhere would this point prove truer than on the neighbouring TPC Las Vegas course where greens are not over seeded and water is scarcer.Green fees are steeper too on this Audubon certified course, topping out at $175 a round, the price of playing in the footsteps of the greats who last graced the course in 2007. A well stocked pro shop, attractive clubhouse and attentive service almost make up for the lack of GPS carts.
Across the road from the JW Marriot, the ever popular Angel Park features three Arnold Palmer designed tracks and a real grass putting course. Summer golfers will love the “Cloud Nine” that’s lit up until 11 p.m. to take advantage of temperatures that cool to 90 degrees. The attractive bar and outdoor patio offer some of the best food off the Strip and are excellent spots to enjoy the hazy pink and orange twilights.