For our third day in Vegas, we started east and headed west with 45 more holes of golf played. It ended up being 126 holes of golf over three days, along with a few extra swings at Topgolf. We ended up with a pretty diverse selection of courses, as well.
On Sunday, we started by checking out a resurrection project…
The Club at Sunrise • Las Vegas, NV • 6/14/16
I came across this course recently when making a master list of all the courses I had left to play in Southern Nevada. It used to be called Desert Rose Golf Course (and I believe Winterwood at some point before). However, it was closed down a few years ago because of a massive flash flood that decimated the course.
Well, they have been working on a major renovation and getting ready to reopen the course under its new name. As I looked on their website, I saw they were preparing for a summer 2016 grand reopening and they were currently offering limited “preview” rounds. Tee times are only available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:00-10:00.
It was an affordable morning option and we were curious to check out the “new and improved” course, so we booked the 8:00 time on Tuesday. We teed off by ourselves and finished quickly. There was another twosome behind us and we noticed another group or two out on the course by the time we finished, but otherwise it was pretty quiet out there.
In talking with the pro shop staff, it seems they are aiming for a July 1 reopening. Everything is coming together and getting pretty close, from the pro shop and snack bar to the course itself.
There were no tee markers out yet, but there were yardage plates in the ground and we just teed it up equal with those. They did have a new fleet of carts and scorecards were printed. No ratings/slopes were listed on the cards, though, and neither were any hole-by-hole handicaps. The course was already rated and I was able to post a score afterward, but nothing is listed on the cards yet.
The flood happened because the entire course runs back and forth along either side of a big wash. Apparently, that drainage area has since been widened to hopefully prevent future floods from damaging the course. This wash really is the story at Sunrise because it makes for one of the most repetitious layouts I’ve ever seen.
Every hole is very similar. There are trees, houses and OB areas to the left and then the wash is to the right. Those with a right-to-left ball flight (or at least a really straight ball) will be able to do well here. Those with a left-to-right shot (myself especially) will have a long day and will get worn out by one uncomfortable tee shot after another. Perhaps my only saving grace was the missing tee markers, because I was able to take advantage and tee it up on the far right side of every black tee box. With tee markers out, I would have been more limited on most holes.
If you catch the edge of the wash, sometimes it will hold up in the rough along the edge. Sometimes it will go all the way to the bottom. Most areas have a flat section and then there’s a cement drainage ditch running through the middle. If your ball goes in that, it will get swept away because there is nothing to stop it and the water is flowing pretty quickly. We noticed some bridges laid out to ultimately allow people to cross over the ditch, but they weren’t actually set up or connected yet.
No matter what type of ball flight you have, the repetition of this layout will probably get tiresome. Every hole requires the same basic strategy and has the same basic look without a lot of other visual definition to help you pick your targets. As long as you are off the tee safely, the greens are pretty forgiving and easy to get at.
Apparently, some layout changes were made in addition to the natural narrowing up of most holes as a result of widening the wash. They replaced all the turf with a paspalum grass that is expected to hold up better than what they had before. They told me that the very short par-4 5th used to be a longer par-3 and was stretched out during the renovation. The 10th and 18th holes were also switched and reversed from their original layouts. It might have been nice to have the wash on the left on those two particular holes before, just for a tiny bit of diversity. That said, the 18th now is easily the best hole on the course. That’s not saying much, but it at least has the approach shot playing across the wash and that’s slightly more interesting than anything else.
Technically, the tee shot on the second hole plays over the wash, but there is a big water hazard on the right, so it still plays similarly to the other holes. The par-3 3rd is the only hole where the wash isn’t in play, but it plays on the other side of that water hazard, so again the trouble is on the right.
With a course just coming out of renovation and not quite ready to reopen, we weren’t sure what to expect in terms of conditions. We were pleasantly surprised as the course was in very nice shape. There are some small bare spots here and there where the turf didn’t come in, but the fairways and rough were generally lush and green with great coverage. There was very little divot damage anywhere on a course that hasn’t seen much play yet. Most of the tee boxes were nice, but a few were still needing some work.
The brand new greens were still quite firm, but rolling pretty nicely at medium speeds. I can say that Sunrise had (by far) the best bunker sand of any course we played on this trip. It was ideal, again made nicer by the fact hardly anyone has played the course yet. Speaking of the bunkers, this is one of those silly places where each cart is equipped with its own rake (rather than having them out on the course by the bunkers). I’ve only encountered this a couple times elsewhere and am not a fan. It’s so easy to forget bringing the rake with you or bringing it back to your cart after. I just don’t get this tactic.
The Club at Sunrise is not a destination course like a lot of others in Las Vegas. It is more of a locals’ track that looks like it will be offering pretty affordable rates and a convenient location on the east side of town. I’m happy to see any course come back to life and the conditions being very good, but it is most certainly a one and done visit for me because the layout is so repetitive and not set up at all for my game.
Some pictures from The Club at Sunrise (6/14/16):
We had one more round lined up before we headed back home. We made our way back across the valley with the hopes of playing another 27 holes…
Spanish Trail Country Club • Las Vegas, NV • 6/14/16
We had set up a 1:00 tee time. This is considered a semi-private club, but public times are available on GolfNow and through direct booking for certain days and times. It wasn’t very busy at all here on a warm Tuesday afternoon, so we teed off a few minutes early.
They had us playing the Canyon/Lakes combo and we never had to wait on anyone during our first 18. Then, we were able to play the Sunrise nine last. We had to jump in front of another twosome on the first tee, but otherwise had that nine to ourselves, as well.
Ultimately, the main combo we played would be the one I would recommend. Sunrise is nice and has a few cool holes like the 9th, which is one of the tougher holes on the property, but overall kind of felt like a little “lighter” version of the other nines. It strikes me as the one older members might play for a more relaxed round. The other nines (especially Lakes) are longer and more challenging/dramatic.
Spanish Trail was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. With this pedigree, you can generally expect something interesting. The signature hole on the Canyon nine is probably the par-3 2nd. It’s a nice one with a waterfall right of the green.
On the Lakes nine, it’s hard to pick out which would be considered the signature hole. The par-3 3rd is definitely the most dressed up with an elaborate stepped waterfall on either side of the green and all sorts of colorful landscaping. It’s an intimidating and beautiful hole that is a bit garish (in true Vegas style). The 9th is also a great par-5 finisher with two water hazards and a creek bisecting the fairway that you can’t see from the tee.
However, the par-5 2nd hole is the one that really stood out to us. We opted to play the white tees here, which are still pretty lengthy. This hole would be a monster from the blues at 601 yards, but from the whites it is ideally set up for all players at 514 yards. The hole is a big sweeping dogleg right with a big water hazard in play. My friend is a long hitter, so he took a more aggressive line off the tee and was left with a great risk/reward decision that would still have required a 200-yard carry over water to get to the green. I opted to take the long way around, but still had an intimidating short iron shot into the well-protected green.
As the name would imply, there are a lot of water hazards on the Lakes nine and most are bordered by really steep drop-offs from the fairways above. If you get anywhere near these edges, your ball is gone. So that really tightens up some of the holes and can get in your head. This nine is more tricked out and target-oriented than the others, but I still enjoyed it the most.
The course was in good overall condition. It was starting to get a little browner and dryer out there around some edges at this point in the season, but the playability was excellent. The tee boxes and fairways were very well kept. The rough seemed a little inconsistent in length, but I still generally had good lies wherever I was. The greens were super firm and easily the fastest of the trip. It was hard to get any approach shot to stop and downhill putts were frightening. It seems the Canyon greens were aerated last, so you can still see the dots but nothing affected putts. They were the fastest greens of the three nines and then the others seemed a little less slick. The bunkers were just okay. Not the best of the trip (Sunrise), but not the worst (Badlands) either.
Spanish Trail can be a bit expensive because of its semi-private nature, but it’s worth checking out if you get a chance. The clubhouse is big and the facilities are nice. At first, I didn’t think the layout was going to be anything that exciting, but a few holes on the Canyon nine and most holes on the Lakes nine really threw that thought right back in my face. This is a difficult course that will never leave you bored.
Some pictures from Spanish Trail Country Club (6/14/16):