Vegas in June, Day 1

Over the past three days, a friend I were out in Las Vegas for another little golf trip. This trip was all about value as we’re entering the offseason out there with the temperatures rising in the summer. Fortunately, we happened to catch three fairly pleasant days after a crazy heat wave just the week before.

We played two rounds each day, starting on Sunday morning…

Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock • Las Vegas, NV • 6/12/16

This was actually our second time playing the course, with the first visit being back in 2013. You can read that review here, so I’ll keep this one fairly brief and offer up some new photos from this trip.

My friend had won a free twosome voucher at a recent Greenskeeper.org “GK Plays” outing, so it was great having a comped round for Sunday morning to start our trip. Thanks to the club and to GK for a great prize!

We had booked a 7:35 tee time. Apparently, there were some double booking issues in the morning because GolfNow and their own computer booking system weren’t totally synched up, so there was a slight delay. We were paired with a single and teed off closer to 7:50, but all the workers were very cool and apologetic about the confusion and delays. Once on the course, we had to wait on most shots, but the pace moved pretty decently and we finished in about 4.5 hours.

The course conditions were very good throughout the course. We weren’t sure what to expect in the early part of summer, but everything was quite lush and green. The tee boxes were excellent. The fairways were really great with minimal weak spots. The rough was fantastic and well kept, with the ball generally sitting up nicely. The greens were firm and not nearly as fast as advertised. I’d say medium speed and rolling smooth. The practice greens were rather slow and then the starter remarked how much slicker the actual greens were (so much so members seemed to be complaining about it). However, we didn’t notice much difference in speed. It was my head, though, so I left a lot of putts short. The bunkers were not great, which always seems to be one common issue with Vegas courses. They were fairly thin and often had lots of pebbles in with the sand.

Though this will never be my favorite course in Vegas, it’s an enjoyable overall layout. I definitely enjoyed it more this time and it has become more of a value option in an area where prices are over-inflated most of the time. The conditions were great and the course is in a very scenic setting with nice landscaping.

Last time, I remarked at how uncomfortable I was hitting from many of the tees. It’s hard to see the landing areas on most of the holes, so that makes for some uncertain swings. However, it is much more forgiving that it looks. Coming in with that prior knowledge helped me to take more confident swings with my driver this time around. Still, it is a course that can mess with your mind a little visually. It’s just not as tough as it sometimes looks.

Definitely a course I would recommend with the right price.

Some pictures from Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock (6/12/16):

For our afternoon round, we headed all the way across the valley. Or, was it all the way across the pond?

Royal Links Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 6/12/16

With a late start at Arroyo and a bit of a drive to the east side of town, we didn’t have time to stop and eat in between rounds. We had just enough time to grab a quick to go meal from the pub inside the Royal Links clubhouse. The service was a bit slow and the food was expensive. Admittedly, our choice of hot dogs was definitely not fitting in the British theme, but they were really delicious!

Anyway, we had a 1:30 tee time that I had booked through GolfNow as a hot deal for $42. In the past, I’ve rarely seen any tee times here under $100, so that made it intriguing to see at a much more reasonable rate. We were glad we locked in this tee time early. Unlike most other hot deals that go down in price with time, the ones here actually went up the closer we got to our trip.

From the moment you pull into the gate at Royal Links, you know you are in for a different experience. You see the clubhouse that looks like a tiny castle. You see the big Claret Jug statue in the middle of the valet roundabout. You see the Old Tom Morris statue and Swilcan Bridge replica over by the first tee.

In case you didn’t know, Royal Links is a tribute course that pays homage to the courses that have been used in The Open Championship rotation throughout the years. In other words, it’s a British links style course transported into the Vegas desert. The whole idea seems rather odd, but Vegas is all about its themes, so the concept of Royal Links kind of fits right in with the madness.

Inside the clubhouse, you are treated with old school British decor inspired by what you might find in the classic clubs overseas. They really went all the way with the theme.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of Royal Links over the years and I was skeptical myself. Now, I should note that I have yet to play in the U.K. and thus have not experienced any of these courses firsthand. I only know what I know from watching The Open Championship. Without that personal experience, it’s hard to fully appreciate a tribute course such as this.

I was afraid the idea would be too gimmicky and the course itself would fall a bit flat. I am happy to admit that I really liked it and think its a layout that stands on its own. If nobody told me the concept or that any of the holes were based on others from Scotland and England, I would still find it to be a fun, challenging and enjoyable links style course in a desert setting.

They do give you a nice yardage book that describes the inspiration for each hole and the tee markers also provide nice little stories. Each hole at Royal Links is inspired by on one from many different courses from The Open Championship rotation over the past century, including Royal Lytham, Royal Troon, Prestwick, Royal Liverpool, St. Andrews, Royal Birkdale, Royal St. Georges, Muirfield, Royal Cinque Ports, Turnberry and Carnoustie.

One of the most famous holes mimicked here is the “Postage Stamp” par-3 hole from Royal Troon. Here it is the 8th hole and by far my favorite on the course. This is just a neat little hole with a plays-smaller-than-it-looks green (hence that nickname) and some truly evil bunkers and steep mounds around it.

Then, there is the 10th hole at Royal Links, which pays tribute to the famed “Road Hole” 17th at St. Andrews. There is no hotel to hit over on the corner, but it is still a blind shot over a rock wall and hillside with an iconic yellow scoreboard sign to add a nice little touch. The “road” next to the green is really just the cart path in this instance, but the hole is complete with the Hell Bunker replica.

Based on what I’ve seen on TV, I don’t think the dimensions are exactly matching to the real holes. Everything in the yardage book, says “inspired by,” so they are meant to be very similar but perhaps not matching each detail precisely.

What made our round a little more authentic was how windy it was this afternoon. The wind was howling with strong gusts that were often a two or three club difference. Royal Links is made up of some really long holes, and almost every one of those played directly into the stiff wind to make them play even longer. Then, there are a handful of rather short risk/reward holes that are really fun. Almost all of those played directly downwind. It made the round a real adventure.

Royal Links was designed by Dye International and it definitely has a Pete Dye flair. I was reminded at times of nearby Desert Pines. Again, if I didn’t know this was a tribute course, I would have just felt it was a great Dye layout that was overly tricked out with links elements.

The course was in good overall condition and appropriately “imperfect” for the theme of it. It wasn’t as lush and green as most courses we played, but some brownishness was fitting for the British links style. That said, playability was great throughout. The tee boxes were nice. The fairways were good to hit from, maybe a tad inconsistent. Generally on the firm/tight side but a few fluffy spots, as well. Overall, I might say the fairways and especially the collars around the greens played softer than they should for a links style course. We couldn’t really play run-up shots and long putts from off the green were usually not effective.

The primary rough was decent and mostly a non-factor. Also maybe a bit inconsistent with lies. Then, there were the outer native areas that you wanted to avoid because it would likely be a lost ball or a tough recovery. I wasn’t in any bunkers (thankfully), but they looked a little inconsistent from what I could see. Seemed like some had different types of sand and varying degrees of softness/firmness. The greens were good. They were on the firm side, but fairly receptive (again maybe softer than typical British links courses should play) and rolling at medium speeds.

For those who have played the real courses, I don’t really know how Royal Links will measure up. There are some nice touches with the themed clubhouse and the true links style design. However, you are in the middle of the desert where it’s hot and sunny most of the year, so you’ll never feel completely transported to the British Isles. It’s a fun concept and a unique course. Like I said, I think the layout stands on its own and I would certainly recommend it for the right price.

Some pictures from Royal Links Golf Club (6/12/16):

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