Vegas in June, Day 2

On day two of our most recent Vegas adventure, my friend and I spent the majority of the day on the west side of town. We played 45 holes and then worked our way back onto The Strip for a different kind of golf experience in the evening. We got started in the morning…

Badlands Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 6/13/16

Note: This course (very sadly) is now closed.

We had booked an 8:10 time through a GolfNow hot deal for just $30 a player. We were keeping our eyes on the deal times here because we noticed the rates went way down the closer you got to the play date. We gambled and waited, but it paid off as we were able to lock in a great rate just a few days beforehand.

It wasn’t too busy out here on a Monday morning, so we were paired with another twosome and teed off a little early. We played the Desperado/Outlaw combination and finished in under 4 hours. By the time we finished 18, we could see it was really slow out there and we inquired about playing the third nine (Diablo). At first, they said it was closed off for the rest of the day, but then they changed their minds and let us go out. It was $20 for the replay, which actually covered another full 18 holes if we wanted. We opted just to play the nine, though.

I was very glad we got to complete the full 27-hole circuit at Badlands, and at a reasonable overall rate. We basically had the last nine to ourselves, so it was a quick round and we were on our way to the next course.

Badlands was designed by Johnny Miller and Chi Chi Rodriguez. Apparently, the Desperado nine was added at some point later and was not as well received by members because it is the most tricked out. Still, for traveling golfers like us, the Desperado/Diablo combo is definitely the desired set. The Diablo nine was our favorite overall. Outlaw was just kind of blah in comparison with the others.

I went into the round at Badlands really wanting to love the course. From the pictures I’ve seen, it looked dramatic playing over and through some rugged desert canyons. I had also heard it was very challenging and a true test of “target” style golf. Especially when speaking of the Desperado and Diablo nines, these descriptions held pretty true. However, I wasn’t as blown away as I wanted to be. It’s a fun, challenging and scenic course, but some of the tricked out holes were maybe too tricked out and some of the others were maybe a bit lacking.

The latter halves of the Desperado and Diablo nines are really where Badlands earns its reputation as a very challenging and dramatic desert course. These are the holes that play over, across and through the canyons and require a great deal of accuracy and confidence. Several of the tee shots are somewhat blind, flat lies are hard to find and forced carries are everywhere you look.

The course was in good overall shape, but probably the weakest of anything we played on this trip. The tee boxes were generally good. The fairways were nice for the most part with some weak sections here and there. The rough was a bit more sketchy as the grass coverage varied in quality. There were a lot of rabbits and rabbit droppings throughout the course. The greens were decent, but not great. A few on the Desperado nine really seemed beat up. Overall, they were rolling at medium speeds and sometimes bumpy. The bunkers were dreadful with not much sand and a lot of pebbles.

Badlands is a fun and challenging course that certainly provides its share of drama. For those traveling to Vegas and looking for something fairly unique, it certainly fits the bill. For the right price, it is worth checking out. I expected it to be even more crazy than it was, so I was let down on some levels. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. At the same time, it’s still a pretty good adventure that will test just about every aspect of your game and the canyon setting is pretty cool.

Some pictures from Badlands Golf Club (6/13/16):

Desperado:

Outlaw:

Diablo:

Next, we headed a little bit southeast and were ready to tee it up without much delay…

Siena Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 6/13/16

One of the reasons we took this trip is because we both had free twosome vouchers we had won at recent Greenskeeper.org “GK Plays” outings. My friend had the Arroyo GC voucher we used on Sunday morning. I had one for its sister course, Siena Golf Club.

We originally had a 1:39 tee time, but had to push it back once we ended up playing the third nine at Badlands. They told us to just come out when we were ready and it would be easy to get out in the afternoon. We ultimately teed off a little after 2:00 and were joined by another single. We had to play through one slow group early and eventually caught another. The single left after nine, but we kept rolling and enjoyed a decent overall pace of under four hours.

We both had lowered expectations coming into the round at Siena. We have always heard that Arroyo was the better of the two courses and condition reviews on GK are always a bit mixed. I like, but don’t love, Arroyo, so naturally I expected Siena to just be an okay course. In the end, it might have been my favorite of this trip.

Siena was designed by Schmidt-Curley, so you can typically expect a pleasant overall course that is aesthetically nice and forgiving off the tee, but tougher around the greens with deep bunkers and plenty of undulations. I really thought Siena had a prettier overall presentation than Arroyo and the layout was much more interesting than expected. It’s not too tricked out, but it is just a good desert course with a nice mix of holes, a few minor changes in elevation and just enough challenging aspects to keep you on your toes.

I particularly liked the 9th hole as a tough finisher for that side with water running up the entire left side of the hole. The 17th is a really pretty par-3 that plays slightly downhill and is framed beautifully by the desert and landscaping.

Siena was in the best shape of all six courses we played on this trip. It was gorgeous out here from tee to green. The grass is a deep green with lush coverage throughout. The tee boxes, fairways and rough all looked and played great. The bunkers were again not great as is often the case in Vegas, but they not as bad as some of the other courses we played. The greens were firm, yet receptive and rolling smooth at medium speeds.

One major thing to note is the amount of rabbits on this course. Our playing partner at Arroyo on Sunday made mention of the rabbit overpopulation. We saw a lot of rabbits over at Badlands and plenty at Arroyo, as well, but they have absolutely taken over Siena. We saw hundreds over the course of our round. For the most part, they were hanging around the edges of the course and didn’t seem to be doing much damage to the fairways or greens. Didn’t notice as many droppings here as on Badlands, but the bunny population is definitely an issue. They’re cute, but I can see this being a big problem if it’s not gotten under control.

Siena isn’t top-shelf, must-play Vegas resort golf, but as a mid-level option it offers a lot to like. Good deals aren’t too hard to find and it provides a really nice overall golf experience for locals or travelers looking for something that won’t break the bank. We were definitely impressed with the conditioning this time of year, as well.

Some pictures from Siena Golf Club (6/13/16):

Last but not least, we checked out a different kind of golf experience that looks like it will be one of the next big things in Las Vegas…

Topgolf Las Vegas • Las Vegas, NV • 6/13/16

We had reserved a bay at 8:00 on Monday night. We were curious to check out Topgolf. There are locations throughout the country, but the Vegas facility just opened up last month.

The best way to describe Topgolf is that it’s part nightclub, part driving range. It is probably more designed for very casual golfers and people who may have never played before. It’s kind of set up more like the new school bowling alleys where it’s meant to be a very social atmosphere. The waitresses are smoking hot and scantily clad, as well, so the “scenery” was enjoyable.

The facility is big with four levels of hitting decks. The higher up you go, the fancier it gets. It also gets more expensive to rent. We were on the second floor, where each bay has little couches and private televisions. There is a big bar area and even a small swimming pool on this floor. There are some giant screen TVs on the wall behind where the hitting bays are. Then, there are big screens out at the end of the range, too. It was kind of fun being there as the NBA Finals Game 5 was being played. Also, the range is set up just behind MGM grand and facing north, so you get some nice views of The Strip (especially at dusk and nighttime).

The hitting bays are equipped with nice Callaway clubs, new mats and automated ball dispensers. In other words, you really don’t need to bring anything except for maybe a glove if you want. They serve food and drinks right to your bay, so you can make the most of your time there.

Then, there are games you can play. There are a number of big, colorful targets out on the range. You are trying to hit into them and get points based on where you land in the targets. There are a few different games to choose from. The simplest just has you hitting 20 balls and getting points for whatever targets you want to hit. This one wasn’t that interesting because it seemed to reward further hits and there was no real structure to it.

The other games revolved around taking turns aiming at different targets on the range. These also got a little repetitive because you hit five shots in a row at each target and it’s easy to stay dialed in. I would have liked to see a “random” setting where each shot required a different target. That would have been more interesting to me.

It is cool how the balls (which I guess are equipped with microchips) can track which targets you land in and the points are automatically fed into the computer at your bay. They didn’t always register correctly, but it’s still a pretty neat system.

Ultimately, the games didn’t seem that interesting to us. We had fun with what we did play, but it isn’t something I’m dying to go back and do again. It’s clear we’re not really the demographic for Topgolf Las Vegas. It’s really meant for bigger groups of friends or corporate outings who want to hang out, party and hit a few golf balls at colorful targets. It is rather expensive, so it is better for groups to split the bill. However, the more people you have, the fewer games you get to play. That said, the competition is only as serious as you want to make it.

Some pictures from Topgolf Las Vegas (6/13/16):

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