August in Vegas, Day 3

Friday was my final day in Las Vegas, and I had at least two more rounds to play. The first two days we didn’t start until 9:00, which is late for me. Friday felt more like normal as I was looking to play as early as possible…

Palm Valley Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 8/19/16

I wasn’t able to find many decent deals for Friday morning as a non-resident. A $45 rate at Palm Valley was about as good as I could do on a course I hadn’t played yet, so I went ahead and booked a 6:10 tee time. I figured that time wasn’t first off in the morning, so I wanted to show up a little early and see what I could do to get out ahead of the crowd.

It was still quite dark when I arrived at the course around 5:30. However, that was still not early enough. The place was already swarming with old dudes, chatting it up and getting their carts in line to tee off as soon as the course gave them the go-ahead.

I should mention that Palm Valley is one of three golf courses located in the Del Webb Sun City community at Summerlin. It is geared to the 55+ crowd, but open to the public. I’m sure every day in the summer there are many regulars getting ready to play as early as possible in order to beat the heat. I expected that to be the case, but wasn’t prepared for it to be as crowded as is was.

Nonetheless, I was still able to get out ahead of my tee time. I was paired with a fun threesome and we went off third or fourth in line around 5:50. After a few holes, we never saw the players ahead even though we moved around pretty well as a foursome and finished in under 3.5 hours.

The layout is pretty standard fare for a mid-level residential desert course. What you see is what you get on most holes. Palm Valley reminded me of other Vegas courses in the vein of Aliante, Angel Park and the now defunct Silverstone. It’s relatively flat and open. It has wide fairways and big greens.

As a senior-friendly course, it’s not overly challenging. However, I was surprised that it seemed to play as long as it did. It was rather wet out on Friday morning, and I felt the course seemed to play longer than the 6,329 yards as listed from the white tees (6,824 from the blues). A couple of the par-3s are fairly long, with the 7th being 185 yards from the whites and the 16th being 201 yards.

The 18th hole is probably the one that stood out most to me as a nice par-5 with water running up the entire right side. It is a big dogleg right and you can see the green through the trees next to the tee boxes. Apparently, they added those trees after the course had opened. Otherwise, most people would take the major shortcut down the 10th fairway. Now that option is blocked out and you are forced to play the hole as intended.

The course was in decent shape overall. Again, I’d say it was playing better than it looked. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were very dappled in color because there are many different grasses growing in various patches. I looked like old school camouflage with different amoeba-like shades of green and brown throughout. However, it was cut consistently and mostly good to play from. It was very soft on a wet/muggy morning with a few thin muddy patches throughout. The rough was decent and more consistent with primarily semi-dry bermuda grass, but cut down and not much of a factor. The greens were very soft and rather slow with the morning moisture. They were bumpy in places, but mostly fine.

The bunkers were a huge mess as they were in the beginning stages of a complete bunker renovation. About half the bunkers on the course were torn up and they were putting down new liners. Those played as GUR. Then, the bunkers that still had sand in them tell you why they are doing this renovation. They were not too good and it will be a big improvement to have them all redone. I do not know how long the renovation is expected to take, but take note before booking a round here any time in the near future.

Palm Valley is a solid mid-level option on the west side of town. It’s another pretty decent local’s option as it’s not the most distinctive design. It can be played at a reasonable value, as well. Just know that there will likely be a big crowd of residents/members a lot of the time. I would guess they have a lot of club play events and most mornings are probably very active with early birds.

Some pictures from Palm Valley Golf Club (8/19/16):

My afternoon tee time at Rhodes Ranch wasn’t until 1:48, so I had plenty of time after Palm Valley to squeeze in another quick round. I figured one of the nearby executive courses would be the perfect filler…

Eagle Crest Golf Course • Las Vegas, NV • 8/19/16

Eagle Crest is located within the same Sun City Summerlin community (Highland Falls is the other full-size course, but they had just aerated that week and it wasn’t on my radar to play this trip). Each have separate clubhouses, but are not too far away from one another.

I showed up to Eagle Crest around 9:30 and I could tell it was very empty out. I saw some morning women’s groups finishing up, but the rest of the course appeared to be wide open. The guy in the pro shop was nice enough to just charge me the after-10:00 rate of $15 (cart included), so I paid and was teeing up a few moments later by myself.

I played through one single on the front and then didn’t hit anyone else until the 15th hole. Those last few holes seemed to take forever as several groups were backed up, but I still finished in under two hours.

Eagle Crest is a decent little 18-hole executive design, playing to a par of 60 and maxing out at 4,067 yards from the blue tees. It features a good mix of hole lengths, with legit par-3 and par-4 holes in the layout. The par-3s range from 112 yards up to a beefy 224. The par-4s range from 327 up to 403. So, it’s no pushover.

Eagle Crest felt like a smaller version of Palm Valley. It had a similar look and similar scenery with the mountains to the north and west. It is more hilly than Palm Valley, though. There are no major changes in elevation, but enough to keep it somewhat interesting.

Each green had two flags. One was the regular hole and then the second was one of those large holes (16 or 18 inches, I believe). I thought that concept had died out soon after it started, but they are still using it here. It looks goofy to have two holes on each green and I just don’t know how many people actually play to those large holes.

The course was in late summer shape. Some parts were decent and others were not very good. The tee boxes were a little chewed up, but I never had a problem finding a good spot to tee it up. The fairways on the par-4s were actually pretty decent, with some scattered thin spots throughout. The rough was somewhat inconsistent with some good areas and some bad. The bunkers were fine for a course of this caliber.

The greens were the lowlight. They were a mess. I had heard from a friend that they almost lost the greens completely this summer, so it seems like they are trying to bring them back for fall. Most greens had big dead/sandy patches, and the back nine greens were especially rough. They also aerated not too long ago, so the putting surfaces are very slow, dry and bumpy. The 17th hole was playing to a temporary green. They will need a lot of work to get these greens back to decent.

Other than the terrible greens, I enjoyed myself during my quick round at Eagle Crest. It serves its purpose as a shorter course for this 55+ community, so I am sure it gets plenty of play from residents.

Some pictures from Eagle Crest Golf Course (8/19/16):

Last but not least, I had one more round in me before heading home Friday evening…

Rhodes Ranch Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 8/19/16

I had booked a 1:48 time through GolfNow as a “hot deal” earlier in the week. I was hoping to get there a little early and get out ahead of my time. The plan worked, as I was teeing off around 1:00. However, the course was much more crowded than I anticipated. There was a lot of cloud cover on Friday, so it wasn’t excruciatingly hot in the afternoon. It attracted a lot of locals to come out and play.

I was paired with a twosome and we enjoyed a good overall pace. We were behind groups, but things moved along nicely on the front nine. It only took about 1.5 hours to play the front. Then, things really backed up on the back nine and it took about 2 hours, 15 minutes to finish that side. Still, a 3:45 total pace was pretty nice considering how busy it seemed out there.

Rhodes Ranch is on the southwest side of town and not too far from the Red Rock courses of Siena and Arroyo. It fits right in with that crowd. The setting is similar, the layout felt similar and the conditioning was above average for this time of year. It’s a good complement to those nearby courses, though I’ll probably rank it just behind both of them.

The course was designed by Ted Robinson, Sr. and plays through the nice master-planned (and gated) community of Rhodes Ranch. The layout is fairly forgiving off the tee and the houses never feel like they are too much in play. With a Robinson course, you can expect some nice water hazards and there are no shortage of good water holes at Rhodes Ranch.

Three of the par-3s stood out to me as signature holes, including the 3rd, 14th and 16th. These are all nice par-3s with water very much in play. The 8th, 11th and 18th were also memorable par-4s. And yes, all of them have very prominent water hazards.

It’s interesting because I thought the layout was just fine as I was playing it. I wasn’t too blown away by anything while there, but as I look back at my pictures and think about some of the individual holes I realize there are some really good design elements here. I might have been too tired to fully appreciate anything that late in my trip.

The course was in very good overall condition, other than the greens. I saw that they are getting ready to overseed early next month, but the fairway turf in summer is a pretty nice and lush green rye (or maybe poa?). It seems they would keep that all year, but what do I know? The tee boxes were generally good. The fairways were a bit fluffy, so they did not provide hardly any roll-out. However, they were great to hit from with the ball perched up nicely. The rough was pretty good throughout, as well, just a little lumpy in places so the ball could settle in and make for some tricky recoveries. The bunkers were pretty good.

Unfortunately, the greens were not that great. They were very soft, very slow and very bumpy. One of the cart attendants told me afterward that they never seemed to come back quite right after the summer aeration, so hopefully the upcoming fall maintenance will get them back to normal.

Rhodes Ranch is a good mid-level option where you can easily find value. It’s one to consider right along with Arroyo/Siena if you want a pretty well-conditioned course, nice desert scenery and a fairly enjoyable layout without having to break the bank.

Some pictures from Rhodes Ranch Golf Club (8/19/16):

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