The 8th at Wolf Creek.

The 8th at Wolf Creek.

Bali Hai Golf Club - Las Vegas, NV

Bali Hai is one of the better courses that I have played in the Las Vegas area.  Located conveniently close to the Vegas strip, Bali Hai boasts some great views of Las Vegas, particularly the Mandalay Bay.  Bryan Curley and Lee Schmidt designed the course to build slowly allowing the golfer to enjoy their surroundings before throwing some challenges their way.  

Measuring 7002 yards from the back tees, the course features a mix of challenging and scenic holes.  The par 4 3rd hole stood out to me as one seriously good golf hole.  Measuring 468 yards with a creek down the entire right side it provides a great challenge, The par 3's were also particularly scenic and fun to play.

Bali Hai also plays host to the final round of the inaugural Golf Digest Invitational.  I happily attended this prestige event and you can find all of the details in the Golf Blog under Golf Digest Invitational.

Cascata Golf Club - Boulder City, NV

Cascata is the Italian word for waterfall and it doesn't take long to realize where the course gets it's name.  On your way to check in at the pro shop you will notice a 418 foot waterfall that runs from the far end of the driving range turning into a river that runs right through the inside of the clubhouse.  From there, you will find your clubs loaded onto a cart passing through a staging area on the lower level of the clubhouse.  A very cool to a start to what would be a great day.

Cascata opened in 2000 and was designed by Rees Jones with a price tag of around $60 million.  The plan was to provide an upscale golfing "experience" for the high rollers and celebrity guests of Caesars' in Las Vegas.  The course is Caesars' answer to Steve Wynn's nearby Shadow Creek.  Cascata has notably hosted Tiger Woods' annual Tiger Jam in the past and the May 2002 cover of Golf Digest shows Tiger Woods standing on water by the 14th green at Cascata.  Fortunately, the course is open to the public so guys like me can feel like a high roller for the day.

After a brief chat with our forecaddie about the greens rolling to a 12, we headed out to the first tee.  The course starts out with several uphill par 4's.  Before plunging downhill onto the 561 yard 3rd hole.  I would go on to make an eagle and break my streak of 53 consecutive missed eagle putts here. YEEEHAAW!  It must also be noted that I made a 75 foot par putt on the par 5 5th hole.

One of the nicer aspects of the course is that only the current hole is visible at any one time.  Almost all of the cart paths are also hidden from view and Jones can also be applauded for the tremendous amount of variety he has created in a desert landscape.  I have typically find this to be lacking in typical desert layouts.  The only drawback was the big gap (10 holes) in between par 5's.  The good news is that one of those is the outstandingly fun, double dogleg, risk reward, finishing hole.

The par 3's particularly stood out for me as they all are tremendously varied and each requires a well struck golf shot.  Each of the par 3's also provides a great opportunity for those that brought their cameras.  I was glad that I brought mine.  If you have the funds or just made out big on blackjack the night before, I would highly recommend Cascata for a once in a lifetime golfing experience.

Conestoga Golf Club - Mesquite, NV

Conestoga Golf Club is a Troon managed championship layout designed by Gary Panks.  The course jumps into high gear right away with the dramatic downhill par 3 2nd hole.  Things continue to stay interesting as the course offers up several thoughtful target based par 4's.  The front nine is definitely the more picturesque of the 2 nines as it winds its way through the mountains.  The back nine is more open and not quite as spectacular, but still a fun test of golf.  Overall, Conestoga is a fun round of golf on a good looking golf course.

Ashlee Bradshaw and I had a total blast taking pictures and playing through the scenic layout.  Things started out hot with a birdie on #1, but the brief ride on the birdie train would stop there for the day.  I racked up a hand full of good iron shots and Ashlee threw in some sass on the back nine that all added up to a great day on the golf course.

Coyote Springs Golf Club - Coyote Springs, NV

Coyote Springs Golf Club opened to the public in 2008 and was designed by Jack Nicklaus.  The course was supposed to be the centerpiece of a planned community but environmental concerns, political favoritism, and economic recession have prevented the homes from being built.  As for the golfer, this is great news.  At Coyote Springs, its all golf and beautiful backdrops.

Having played a number of Jack Nicklaus courses, I had an idea of what expect, however this course would exceed my expectations.  The course provides the chance to hit a number of different shots into a varied assortment of well designed holes.  In order to score well, the course requires a combination of strategy and execution.  Precision is required on many shots otherwise, you will face a tough challenge to save par.  For those that love variety, strategy, and embrace the challenge of a good par save, Nicklaus' Coyote Springs will be one of your favorites.

Dragonridge Country Club - Henderson, NV

Edgewood Tahoe - Stateline, NV

Edgewood golf course was the site of the Koenig Bachelor Party in 2013.  The event was such a rousing success, that one year later, my friend Xan would host his bachelor party and the coinciding 2014 Xanvitational at Edgewood Tahoe as well.  They also play a celebrity golf tournament here every year.  With casinos and South Lake nearby, this is an ideal location for a golf bros trip.

The course was designed by George Fazio and opened in 1968.  in 1985, Edgewood would host the US Senior Open which was won by Miller Barber.  This was the 1st time the US Senior Open was televised.  At the time, it was a tiny unknown network called ESPN that hosted the broadcast.  

Edgewood remains my favorite place to play in the Tahoe area.  Finishing up right on Lake Tahoe, the 18th green is one of the most picturesque golf holes you will ever find. 

Las Vegas Country Club - Las Vegas, NV

Paiute Golf Resort - Snow Mountain - Las Vegas, NV

Paiute Golf Resort - Sun Mountain - Las Vegas, NV

Paiute Golf Resort - Wolf - Las Vegas, NV

Through 15 holes on the Wolf Course at Paiute, I had made 15 consecutive pars.  However, my dream of making 18 pars was dashed on the very next hole after missing a short 5 footer for par on 16 to convert another sand save.

The Wolf Course is regarded as one of Las Vegas' toughest desert golf tests.  At 7,604 yards from the tips, this Pete Dye course gives the golfer all they can handle.  Our foursome opted for the 7009 yard version on this fine sunny day in Vegas.

Reflection Bay - Henderson, NV

Shadow Creek Golf Club - Las Vegas, NV

Designed in 1989 to accommodate the highest of high rollers in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn gave Tom Fazio $41 million (additional $17 million 2008 renovation) to forge Shadow Creek out of a flat piece of Las Vegas desert.  After digging up 3 million cubic yards, construction crews brought in approximately 21,000 trees in 200 different species to make Shadow Creek look nothing like Las Vegas.  They succeeded.  Consistently ranked among the top 10 public courses in America, Shadow Creek is a true golf gem.

Normally, I would just jump into details about the course but this write up starts the moment you step out of the MGM in Las Vegas.  A limousine will pick you up from your hotel and escort you the 30 minutes to the course property.  Behind a discreet gate, your limo will disappear down a long road that will remind you more of North Carolina than Nevada.  Once you arrive at the clubhouse, a welcoming party will great you like you are Michael Jordan.  Next up will be the only bad part of your day, paying the $500 greens fee.  

Caddies are also required on the course and Matt was to be my caddy for this experience.  I quickly learned that he was a true student and expert of the game.  In addition to some sound advice, Matt actually picked up all of my divots and placed them in a bag to ensure that no other golfer would have to endure the sight of a discarded divot.  Shadow Creek places a premium on maintenance and spends approximately $15 million a year to make sure the course is in perfect shape year round.  

Mr Fazio has designed the course to crescendo with a naturally occurring climax every couple of holes and then end with a strong finish.  In my opinion, just about every hole at Shadow Creek is a climax.  Some of my favorites are as follows.  

  • The fourth hole is probably the best par 5 on the course and is easily the most photogenic. #4 is a good 3 shot hole that requires concentration on each shot.

  • The front nine finishes strong with a medium length par 4. The actual Shadow Creek runs down the left hand side of #9 and makes for a great approach.

  • The thirteenth hole is an outstanding par 3 that measures 257 yards from the back tees. There is an impressive rock wall that holds up the green with a pond below. A great long iron is required for success here.

  • Hole #15 is an epic 482 yard par 4 with a creek running down the left hand side that crosses in front of the green. There is some bailout room to the right on the drive, but a great second shot is required.

  • On a course full of signature holes, hole #17 somehow manages to stand out, this is your standard island like green with a waterfall behind it.

  • In typical Vegas fashion, #18 ends with a gamble. The reach-able par 5 is guarded with water in front and presents the golfer with one last chance at birdie. In typical Vegas fashion, I gambled and lost.

In summation, Shadow Creek is a fantastic blend of golf will, imagination, and extreme sums of $$.  Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn have truly created one of the most impressive golf experiences in North America.  

Southern Highlands - Las Vegas, NV

Southern Highlands was co designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr and Robert Trent Jones Jr.  In fact, the 12th hole was the last hole ever to be designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.  The course measures over 7,500 yards from the back tees and is an excellent place for some championship golf.

On the par 3 12th hole, the son of Baseball Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux, played through us.  As we were in the middle of a $5 closest to the pin challenge, we offered the youngster a chance to join in.  He accepted and proceeded to hit his ball in the bunker.  We informed him "just leave your $5 in the hole up there."  Joey The Cat then nearly holed out for an ace.  He would tap in for a birdie 2.

On the next hole, I hooked a drive into Floyd "Money" Mayweather's backyard and he didn't come out and beat me senseless with his lightning quick fists...  Good day.

Tuscany Golf Club - Henderson, NV

Tuscany Golf Club is a great addition to any Vegas golf outing.  Boasting views of the nearby Spring Mountains and Red Rock Canyon, the course is only 20 minutes from the strip.  Also moderately priced, the course is one of the better values in the area.

For quite some time our group has been playing the push up game.  The rules of the game are as follows:  Any player makes a birdie on a hole, all players not making birdie on that hole do 5 push ups.  Game continues on each hole but for each cumulative birdie made by the group, push up count increases by 5.

On this particular outing, our group decided to make a ton of birdies.  The birdie count rose to 10 on #17 and I had to settle for par.  After doing some quick math, I would be required to do 50 pushups on the 18th tee box before hitting my drive.  50 pushups!  Somehow I managed to pull them off, and then with my arms feeling like jello, whacked my drive down the middle.  Still not sure how I managed to even hit the ball.

Non pushup doer and golf wardrobe enthusiast, Joe Garvey, fired up a hot 71 while wearing hot pink shorts on our trip here.

Wolf Creek Golf Club - Mesquite, NV

Wolf Creek definitely receives outstandingly high marks in the "fun factor" category.  With dramatic elevation changes and striking views on just about every hole, Wolf Creek is an absolute visual assault on the senses.  Criticized by some as too dramatic and ridiculous, the course can be very polarizing.  I found myself on the positive side of that pole.  

I was originally motivated by the Tiger Woods video game and I made the course a must play on a 2014 Las Vegas trip.  Wolf Creek is only about an hour drive from the Las Vegas strip and it wasn't too hard to convince my buddies.  They would thank me afterwards.

With so many great views and contrasting colors, the course is an absolute treat to photograph.  Every single hole was full of character and a ton of fun to play.  In addition to getting some great shots, I also roped in 4 birdies on my way to a very satisfying 75.  If you are ever in Vegas and looking to play golf, I would absolutely recommend playing Wolf Creek at least once.

Update:  In February of 2016 I would return to Wolf Creek for more birdies and more photographs.  Instagram sensation, Ashmaebjoined me on this trip and we had a total blast.  In total, I would take 250 photographs and wrestle in another 4 birdies.