On the second day of my recent trip to Vegas, I had the chance to squeeze in two rounds. I had purchased a Deal Caddy voucher for Wildhorse, but it was only good after 9:30. So that left me some time in the morning to try and squeeze in a short course…
Desert Willow Golf Course • Henderson, NV • 10/29/30
Without too much time to work with in the early morning, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to check this executive course off my list. Unfortunately, they had no early tee times available online.
I called earlier in the week to see if there were any options and the guy in the pro shop was really nice. He let me know there’s a regular men’s club group that goes out first thing every Saturday morning. However, if I got there early enough, he said he could get me out ahead of them.
He held true to his promise and there were no problems. The price was $35 with cart. They sent me to the first tee by myself and I was off at first light (just after 6:30). It was still rather dark out, but it was ideal to get off ahead of the regulars. I did run into some back nine players after making my turn, but they were nice enough to let me through and I was finished with all 18 in about 1.5 hours.
Desert Willow is an executive layout that caters to its primarily senior crowd. It plays to a par of 60 with six relatively short par-4s in the mix. The par-3s provide a nice variety of distances, ranging from 116 yards up to 209 from the blue tees.
Overall, the course is pretty wide open. Both nines go out and back in separate wide greenbelt stretches between the homes, surrounded by nice valley views in different directions. The holes run along the edges, while rolling open areas of grass in between are impeccably maintained with a consistent cut of rough from one side to the other. It offers a very nice visual presentation. Coming from drought-stricken Southern California, it was a treat to see so much lush, green grass. It was also pretty sweet to play it under a gorgeous desert sunrise. I just wish I had a new iPhone with a better low-light camera. Even with some Photoshop tinkering, it was hard to get photos from the front nine to show how cool it looked.
The layout itself is pretty basic at Desert Willow. There are some slight elevation changes and the holes are fairly straightforward. The greens are relatively big, the fairways are wide and the whole course is quite forgiving. Still, it’s a fun enough short course for a good warm-up or cool-down round if playing elsewhere nearby.
The layout was easily outshined by the exceptional conditions. I mentioned the lush, green grass that was beautifully maintained. That extended from the tee boxes to the fairways to the rough. There were very few blemishes to be found anywhere. I wasn’t in any bunkers, but they looked to have nice sand. The greens were a tad pock-marked from old repaired ball marks, but the surfaces were receptive and the putts ran true and at medium-quick speeds.
Desert Willow was BY FAR the best-conditioned course of the three I played on this trip. Not too shabby for an executive track that caters mostly to local players!
As surprisingly nice as the conditions were at Desert Willow, it is still nothing more than a friendly local’s course. It has its place in the community and serves its purpose very well, but most tourist Vegas golfers won’t get too much value out of it other than maybe just a filler round in between bigger Henderson courses. For me, it’s one of those courses that makes me feel good about having a “play everything” kind of approach. I’m really glad I had the chance to play here and have such a quality experience.
Some pictures from Desert Willow Golf Course (10/29/16):
I actually finished much quicker than I needed to at Desert Willow, but it gave me a chance to survey a couple nearby disc golf courses. The more popular one (Sunset Park) was way too crowded with a Saturday morning tournament going on, but I did have time to play a few holes over at the less-desirable Arroyo Grande. It was a good time-killer, but little did I know disc golf would be part of the story at my next regular golf course…
Wildhorse Golf Club • Henderson, NV • 10/29/16
As I mentioned, I had bought a GolfNow Deal Caddy voucher. The deal was hard to beat at $26 for a round any day after 9:30. I had booked a 10:04 tee time, but it really wasn’t that busy out. I ended up being paired with a couple and another single. The pace ahead of us was a little slower than it should have been considering it was mostly twosomes and we saw some open holes, but we still finished in about 4.5 hours.
Wildhorse is one of the older Vegas area courses. Their website doesn’t share any history (sadly), but luckily I played with a local who told me some good stuff. I guess it was once called Showboat Country Club and the layout has been altered over the years. Some parts were lengthened. Some holes were shortened and removed. The first two holes now were added in later, and it does feel like they were crammed in. The routing has been switched around.
I can only go based on what I experienced and I ended up enjoying the layout more than I expected to. I thought it was going to be a more basic course (something like Stallion Mountain the day before), but it was more interesting than that. Most of the course is pretty straightforward and there are no significant changes of elevation in play.
However, there are a number of very interesting holes here that give it some character. The two that stood out to me most were the 4th and the 9th.
The 4th hole is an intimidating par-3 playing directly over a big water hazard. It features one of the best vistas on the course with the mountains in the background reflecting in the water.
The 9th hole is an unusual one. The tee shot is straight ahead, but then the approach is one of the more unusual presentations you will see. There are two water hazards and a thin strip of fairway/rough zig zags around to a peninsula green. It was hard to capture in photos, but an aerial view would really show how uncomfortable any approach shot will be here. You can’t miss in any direction. Water is long, left and short. Then, not too far to the right is OB because that’s where the practice area is.
A lot of the other holes aren’t that memorable, especially early on, but I found myself enjoying the course more as the round went on.
As for conditions, the course was in fine overall shape, playing better than it looked. They only overseeded the tee boxes and greens (and maybe some spot overseeding here and there in fairways). The tee boxes were generally good, though maybe too shaggy in places. The fairways are primarily bermuda that is just starting to go dormant. It was a good pad of turf and provided great lies to hit from, so we’ll see how well it holds up through a Vegas winter. The rough was also bermuda that was kind of matted down. Most times the ball sat up nicely. Sometimes it dug in and made the recovery a bit tougher. The greens were very soft, slow and bumpy, but they should improve in the coming weeks. I wasn’t in any greenside bunkers. They appeared pretty thin and crunchy from what I could see. I was in one fairway/waste bunker on the 18th hole and it was very heavy coarse sand that was difficult to play from.
For $26, I was very satisfied with Wildhorse. The course does feel kind of old and run-down, and that’s partly due to the minimal overseeding that was done this year. I’m sure if I played here with “prettier” grass conditions, I would have been even more charmed than I was. Otherwise, it’s a value pick if you can find the right deal.
Speaking of disc golf, they did recently add disc golf here (36 holes, I think, with baskets scattered throughout all 18 holes of the regular course). Though I do like playing disc golf a lot, I’m not a fan of intermingling it on a real golf course (same goes for foot golf). The baskets kind of detract from the aesthetics, especially since many of them are positioned right behind the greens. It seems they only allow disc golf at certain times in order to minimize the dangers of both versions being played at the same time. This is the first time I’ve seen it on a full regulation course with full-time baskets out, so it’s an interesting experiment. From a disc golfer’s perspective, it looks like a pretty interesting layout and a bit scary at times with baskets positioned uncomfortably close to several water hazards!
Some pictures from Wildhorse Golf Club (10/29/16):