Back to Vegas, Part 2: Rounding Out the Trip

I featured both courses at The Revere Golf Club in the first part of my Vegas trip review. My friend and I played plenty of golf in between those two rounds, though, as well as one more before heading home Friday evening.

On Thursday morning, we made our way up to North Las Vegas for the first round of a golf-packed day…

Aliante Golf Club • North Las Vegas, NV • 1/14/16

This was another Greenskeeper.org prize voucher we came to cash in for a free twosome. We had booked a 10:40 tee time, but arrived earlier than expected. The pro shop guy and starter could tell we were ready to go, so they were great in getting us out ahead of schedule. Rather than putting us out as a twosome amongst several other groups, the starter had us play the back nine first. We followed a threesome that was obviously the lead group of the day on the course. They moved quickly and we rarely had to wait on them.

We went right around to the first tee, where a single was getting ready to tee off. We joined up with him to finish up what was our back nine. We caught the groups ahead pretty quickly and it was slower after that, but we still finished in a great overall pace thanks to the quick thinking of the starter.

Aliante has donated many free play vouchers to GK in the past few years, but I had never won one or made my way out to the course otherwise. It’s great that courses will donate to the prize pool, so that helps add some appreciation for Aliante. At the same time, I had always heard it was a fairly uninteresting course. Past players have consistently remarked that it’s a solid desert course in the mid-range of prices for the area, but just nothing that distinctive or memorable.

With lowered expectations coming in, I was hoping that I might encounter a pleasant surprise like I did on The Revere’s less-appreciated Concord course. Unfortunately, Aliante was pretty much what I was led to expect. It’s a fine course, but rather plain in design.

Normally, I might try to highlight a few of the standout holes on a course, but nothing really sticks out that much at Aliante. Quite a few of the holes blend together and I never felt like I was teeing off on a “signature” hole. In fact, if not for some tricky pin placements (often tucked right behind a bunker), I would also say it’s one of the easier courses I’ve ever played. The terrain is flat and fairways are wide. Even if you miss one, there is usually a lot of room for error. I did have trouble reading the greens, but I would blame that more on the inconsistent speeds and surfaces than any tricky slopes or undulations.

I would give Aliante good service marks and the conditioning was nice for the most part. It is a Troon-managed course, so that gives you some higher expectations. The course was in solid winter shape. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were overseeded and playing a little firmer and tighter than The Revere, so we benefited from some extra roll-out while still having good lies to hit from. The rough was dormant and the lines are clean, so the fairways are framed very nicely. The rough was sometimes super tight, but some patches were a little thicker and fluffier, so lies varied from super easy to rather tricky. As I mentioned, the greens were inconsistent. The front nine greens were slower and bumpier, looking as if multiple grasses were growing in. The back nine greens were much quicker and smoother, so we had to keep adjusting to the varying speeds.

I feel like I am panning Aliante a bit and that’s partly true. It’s not a bad course by any means. It’s a solid layout and the management seems to do a nice job here. That said, the layout is rather plain and won’t provide any “wow” factor like some of the other more dramatic Las Vegas area courses.

Some pictures from Aliante Golf Club (1/14/16):

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After finishing Aliante, we started working our way back toward town. We had plans to play a round in the evening under the lights, but we finished so quickly at Aliante that I at least wanted to drive by and take a peek at this next little course…

North Las Vegas Municipal Par 3 Golf Course • North Las Vegas, NV • 1/14/16

This is a random short course I stumbled upon recently and never had a clue it existed. It is just the city’s municipal course and it’s a 9-hole par-3 layout. From the satellite images, it looked pretty basic and not much more than a “pitch and putt.” There really wasn’t much more information to find, so I had to stop in and satisfy my curiosity even though I didn’t think my friend (who is not quite a “play everything no matter what” course collector like I am) would ever play it with me.

The roads were all blocked up getting to the course, but we eventually found the small parking lot and were kind of taken in by the really basic charm of this old course and tiny pro shop building. There was hardly anyone out there and it was only $9 for nine holes, so it was worth playing while we were there and had plenty of time to kill. They guy in the pro shop was nice and friendly, as well, so we got a good feeling about the place.

This course turned out to be more than a pitch and putt layout with holes ranging form 74 yards up to 170. Most play in the 115-120 range, though. The terrain is hillier than I would have expected, but nothing too significant. The first hole is kind of a tricky one, and then after that things are pretty simple. The greens are small and don’t feature much sloping. This course also has lights for nighttime play, and on the scorecard it claims to be Nevada’s first night-lit golf course.

The conditions were playable enough considering it’s winter and this course doesn’t get much play. The tee boxes are just mats that are pretty worn out. From tee to green, there was decent grass coverage, though most of it was dormant and brown. The greens were kind of ugly and had lots of debris on them, but actually the surfaces rolled better than they looked.

Now, is it worth going out of your way to include this little course in your Vegas golf trip? No, it’s not. Most out-of-towners will never know of its existence and that’s just fine. It’s the local course for beginners, kids, seniors and those who might want a cheap, convenient and quick practice round or two.

Some pictures from North Las Vegas Municipal Par 3 Golf Course (1/14/16):

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Eventually, we worked our way just south of The Strip along Las Vegas Boulevard for one of the area’s more well-known short courses…

TaylorMade Golf Experience • Las Vegas, NV • 1/14/16

Though it’s still not that cheap for a 9-hole par-3 course, they have a special evening rate of $25. It includes a cart and a draft beer (or whatever non-alcoholic drink you want) in the attached Flight Deck bar.

The golf course is part of a larger practice complex that was initially built and managed by Callaway, but TaylorMade took over the property at some point. There is a massive two-tiered range and various short game practice areas, along with a big pro shop filled with every piece of TaylorMade/Adidas equipment and apparel you can imagine. They do professional fittings, lessons and everything else you might need to get your game in tip-top shape.

We were just there to check out the golf course. We got started in late twilight and then played under the lights for the majority of the round. There were some groups out there, so we had to wait at times. Otherwise, the whole round took about an hour.

The layout is pretty much what I expected and felt similar to what I experienced at Angel Park’s Cloud Nine course last year. In that, it’s a better-than-average par-3 course playing through the desert landscape. I think Cloud Nine is more challenging and interesting overall, but TaylorMade is a decent short track. The holes range from 124 yards up to 185 and there are blue, white and red tees to play what you are comfortable with. However, many of the blue tees were moved up, which I presume is something they do during nighttime play for added safety.

Probably the most entertaining aspect of the round for us, especially at night, was the very close proximity to McCarren International Airport. The planes were coming in from the south to land that night and were flying right over our heads toward the runway. It was quite a rush when they went past and it definitely added some excitement to an otherwise lackluster round. I was hoping the course would be more tricked-out and present some better views of south end of The Strip. You get a couple nice scenes with Mandalay Bay in the background, but nothing overly inspiring.

The conditions were fine, though it was hard to tell exactly under the lights. The tee boxes were fine and the greens were decent. I was glad to be playing off of natural grass after the crummy mats at North Las Vegas. They held shots nicely and rolled smoothly enough at medium speeds.

Now that I’ve played all three of Vegas’ night-lit par-3 courses, I would put Angel Park first, TaylorMade second and then North Las Vegas third. All are are decent for what they are, but probably not worth the cost and effort. Playing golf in Vegas at night seems like it might be a blast and it’s cheaper than a lot of activities around town, but there are reasons most people choose to golf during the day and spend their nights in the glitzy casinos, hotels, restaurants, clubs, shows, etc.

Some pictures from TaylorMade Golf Experience (1/14/16):

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On Friday morning, we played The Revere’s Concord course as I previously reviewed, but we had one more round in us before heading home on Friday night…

Boulder City Golf Course • Boulder City, NV • 1/15/16

This turned out to be the best value option in the mid afternoon. We called ahead and the guy made it sound like it wasn’t too busy out. It would be only $8 to walk and $21 to ride. At this point in the trip, shelling out for the cart was worth it, though.

When we arrived, the place looked busier than we hoped. The pro shop guy promised we’d get in nine holes, but made it seem doubtful we’d finish. We gave it some thought and decided to play what we could while were already out there. We teed off a little before 2:00 and lowered our expectations about how many holes we’d be able to finish before dark.

I could see plenty of groups ahead on the front nine and then a twosome of seniors jumped around the course and right in front of us on the 2nd hole. They kept jumping around, though, and quickly got out of our way. Unfortunately, we soon caught up to a fivesome of very slow-walking seniors for the latter half of the front nine. Luckily, they left after the 9th hole and apparently others ahead had done the same.

We cruised around most of the back nine before catching some groups on the last couple holes. Either way, we knew we’d finish and we did so with just a little bit of daylight to spare as the sun disappeared beautifully beyond the mountains.

I didn’t expect too much from Boulder City coming in. I played the nicer Boulder Creek course across the road a couple years back and had caught some glimpses of the Boulder City municipal course. I knew it was a more traditional parkland kind of course with tree-lined fairways and a mostly back and forth layout.

That was pretty much the case on the front nine, though holes 7-9 are all decent. In fact, I really liked the 8th, which is a very short par-4 with two ponds on the right side to make you think just a little before you get too aggressive off the tee.

The back nine struck me as something that was added later in time. It offers a little more interesting design with some more severe doglegs, desert areas and water hazards brought into play. It’s still nothing that challenging or interesting, but it does stand out compared to the front nine. The late afternoon lighting was also quite nice on the back nine, so that added some visual appeal for us.

The conditions of the course were okay at best. Ultimately, things played nicer than they looked. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were dappled in color with a partial overseed. Most of it were dormant and brown, though. Still, I generally had pretty good lies to play from. The bunkers had good sand, but plenty of little rocks mixed in. The greens were pretty good, rolling fairly smooth at medium speeds. As I said, it didn’t look necessarily pretty, but as an inexpensive muni course, we weren’t expecting high-end conditioning or presentation during the winter.

Boulder City is by no means a “destination” course like many in the Las Vegas area. It’s a local’s track with a simple presentation, cheap rates and a friendly atmosphere, We had fun there by setting our expectations accordingly, but it’s not one I would recommend to golfers visiting from out of town.

Some pictures from Boulder City Golf Course (1/15/16):

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