SURE, LAS VEGAS SITS IN THE MIDDLE OF A PARCHED, SUN-SOAKED DESERT, BUT THAT HASN'T PREVENTED THE DEVELOPMENT OF lush green golf courses in the area. Though golf is not a well-known part of the typical Sin City vacation, there are several refuges where golf addicts can get their fix. One is even in the middle of the Strip itself, at Wynn Las Vegas.
The thing about golf in Las Vegas is that it's not on many people's radar. It's not like places such as Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach, destinations that were practically built on the love of golf. The truth is many golfers simply don't know they should take their clubs along with Lady Luck when they go to Vegas.
Virtually all the leading resorts can ensure their guests get access to certain golf courses, most of which are about a 30-minute drive outside town. But before you worry that your clients won't want to ride out to the greens, let's put it into perspective: Thirty minutes is essentially nothing in Las Vegas travel time. It can take almost as much time to go from one major Strip resort to another when you count waiting for a cab.
It is an odd juxtaposition—lush greens and fairways contrasted with the harsh desert landscape. It makes for an unusual experience, one that's sure to be a highlight of any loyal golfer's Las Vegas vacation.
Here's all you need to know about the top courses in Las Vegas that are affiliated with major casino resorts. Wynn Las Vegas
It's the only course actually located on the Las Vegas Strip, and to play it you must be a guest at Wynn Las Vegas (www.wynnlasvegas.com). Even then, it costs $500 a round, though that comes with a host of amenities, including the golf cart and free drinks.
The course itself was a design collaboration between casino mogul Steve Wynn and acclaimed player/designer Tom Fazio. It sits on the site of the former Desert Inn golf course, but has essentially been totally rebuilt and transformed into an incredibly gorgeous par-70, 7,042-yard course. A stunning 37-foot waterfall is the focal point of the 18th hole and is also the best view from the course's Country Club Grill.
Wynn's course features Pennlinks Bentgrass greens, built to United States Golf Association specifications, and the fairways and tees have Tifway II Hybrid Bermuda grass. There are more than 1,200 trees—some as tall as 60 feet—and more than 100,000 shrubs on the property, as well as streams and marshlands that create water accents for most holes. The facility also includes full-service locker rooms and a pro shop.
Guests staying at resorts owned by MGM Mirage (www.mgmmirage.com)—Bellagio,) Mandalay Bay, Mirage, New York New York, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand, Circus Circus, Luxor, Excalibur and Treasure Island—can play at two locations: Primm Valley Golf Club or Shadow Creek.
Primm Valley comprises two courses—the Lakes Course and the Desert Course. The Lakes Course opened in 1997 and was joined by the Desert Course in 1998. Both were designed by Tom Fazio and sit along the California border. The Lakes Course features rolling fairways, an extensive lake and river system, acres of pine trees and native vegetation. The par-71, 18-hole championship course plays out over 6,945 yards.
The par-72 Desert Course's landscape is accented with cacti, palm trees and native grasses and plays approximately 7,130 yards. Primm Valley also has a driving range and clubhouse with a restaurant and pro shop. Rates at the Primm Valley courses start at $100. For reservations, call 800-386-7867.
High-end players will want to play Shadow Creek, which perennially ranks in Golf Magazine's top 10 courses in the country. According to MGM Mirage, the Tom Fazio-designed course is renowned for its natural beauty, rolling terrain, glistening brooks and ponds, lush gardens and mature trees. The visual elements, spectacular waterfalls and course design contribute to surprising views.
There is a driving range/practice area with target greens, bunkers and trees. A wall of vegetation on each side of the practice tee area creates a feeling of intimacy while golfers warm up. Guests will never know they're playing in the middle of the desert.
A limited number of tee times at Shadow Creek are available, Monday through Thursday, at a cost of $500 for MGM Mirage guests. Limousine transportation to and from the course, a golf cart and caddie are included in the fee. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance by calling 702-791-7161.
Cascasta, the golf course of Caesars Palace (www.caesarspalace.com), is in the foothills of the River Mountains on a portion of an 800-acre site in nearby Boulder City. The par-72 course offers views of natural wonders, including the 3,600-foot peak at Red Mountain and the desert valley, which spreads out below the course. Palm, poplar and Joshua trees, yucca and a vast array of shrubs and wildflowers decorate the course. Be on the lookout for multiple waterfalls and resident bighorn sheep.
The course opened in December 2000 and provides amenities such as an engraved, personalized brass nameplate for the player's locker and custom-made meals that are delivered to the course. There is also choice of beverages, including alcoholic drinks, and a staff that includes Class-A PGA professionals to attend to equipment and instruction. Players can be joined by a tour-class caddie.
The clubhouse contains a dining room and bar, a cigar room, banquet facilities, a golf shop and locker rooms. A practice facility has a jaw-dropping 417-foot waterfall. For more information and reservations, call 877-464-6534. Caesars guests can also make reservations through the resort's concierge and VIP Services desks.
Since 1997, guests staying at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino (www.riolasvegas.com) have had access to the Rio Secco Golf Course. Designed by Rees Jones, who has won Golf World magazine's "Architect of the Year," Rio Secco is a par-72 course that stretches 7,250 yards, across 240 acres. The course is 12 miles from the hotel, in the foothills of the Black Mountains.
Rio Secco was created to become more challenging as play progresses. Golfers will love how perfectly managed greens and fairways intersect with canyons, plateaus, arroyos and ravines.
The clubhouse at Rio Secco features a gourmet restaurant with two patios, a golf shop, a full-service bar, a lounge and views of the course, as well as a two-acre lake. There is a special VIP room with a private lounge and catering service.
Also here is the Butch Harmon School of Golf, which has seen such luminaries as Tiger Woods, Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd pass through its doors. Private lessons are available, as well as one- and three-day golf schools.
Rates to play Rio Secco vary throughout the year but range between $150 and $395 on average. Summer rates are typically less expensive. Greens fees include a shared golf cart, practice balls and a divot tool.
Visit www.riosecco.net to reserve tee times, or call 888-867-3226, ext. 4. Ask about the T-mate program, which costs $200 and gives the player a pro to provide advice throughout the round.