Vegas Strikes Again, Day 3: Local Flavor

After two days of fun with the Greenskeeper.org group, I stayed over on Sunday night in Vegas in order to squeeze in a couple more rounds on Monday. Really, my list for public courses in this area is getting kind of short, but I was able to check off two more…

Las Vegas Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 11/14/16

This was easily the best rate I could find for Monday morning at a course I hadn’t played yet. On their website and on GolfNow, they had higher prices for non-residents. Fortunately, on TeeOff.com, that did not seem to be a factor, so I booked a 6:45 tee time for $45. Cart was included in that rate, though this would be a great walking course because it’s so flat.

I was paired with a twosome and another single. We went off third and enjoyed a nice, quick pace of three hours, 20 minutes. It was ideal.

Easily the most intriguing thing about Las Vegas Golf Club is its history. In fact, this is the oldest course in the area. It was designed by William P. Bell and was opened in 1938. Right across the street from the 11th hole sits Siegfried and Roy’s house/compound. One of the guys I played with told me about the time one of the white tigers got loose and was roaming around the golf course. That must have been a sight to see (from a safe distance, of course)!

Beyond that, there isn’t much interesting about Las Vegas Golf Club. It is a prototypical “muni” kind of course that is pretty flat and tree-lined. There are many parallel holes, so you have plenty of room for error on drives. Any doglegs are pretty gentle, though most holes play pretty straight from tee to green. Basically, what you see is what you get.

There are no desert features on the course, and if not for the occasional mountain view in the background, you really wouldn’t even know you are in Vegas. You could pick this course up and drop it into the middle of Anytown, USA and it wouldn’t make any difference.

The best hole here is the par-3 3rd hole, which features the only water hazard on the property. It is very short, topping out at just 98 yards. Beyond the green, there sits the 4th tee boxes and a street, so you don’t have a ton of room for error on this delicate little shot over the water. Overall, the course is rather short by today’s standards. From the back gold tees, it measures just 6,339 yards.

Conditions were good overall. The course looks nice and green throughout all the areas that matter after its overseed. The conditions and lies might vary a little when you are up close and personal with the fairways and rough. The turf was very wet and soft, so you really had to focus on clean ball contact to avoid fat shots. The greens were very soft, but rolling fairly smooth at medium speeds. They actually ran faster than they looked and continued to speed up as things dried out. I was in one bunker. It was very wet, compacted sand, so all I could attempt was a clean pick.

Las Vegas Golf Club is not a destination course. It’s a fine local’s course that will give you a friendly, familiar feel if you are used to playing fairly basic courses wherever you come from. Players visiting from out-of-town will probably prefer something with more dramatic design elements and more of a distinctive desert feel. There are plenty of those courses around Vegas. It’s just not what you get here. 

Some pictures from Las Vegas Golf Club (11/14/16):

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After a quick breakfast, I worked my way up and over to my last course for the trip…

Painted Desert Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 11/14/16

I had booked an 11:53 GN hot deal for $43. I arrived closer to 11:00 and was hoping to get out a little early. I had no idea it would be so crowded here on a Monday, but it was.

When I arrived, I saw a big group of 20 guys lined up and ready to head out in some sort of small outing/tournament. That didn’t fill me with glee. There were other groups getting ready, as well. The starter said the tee sheet was full, but everything was running on time and he’d come get me when it was my turn. 

The starter seemed on top of things, but after awhile he just completely disappeared. Many players were ready to go and nobody knew what was up. The poor cart barn kid tried to step in and help organize the groups, but he was clearly out of his element. Eventually, he put me with two other singles and sent us up to the first tee right around my tee time. 

The group ahead was still teeing off. Soon after, another couple came up to the tee. They also had the 11:53 tee time, so needless to say we were all confused. It turns out one of the singles I had been paired with was just a walk-on and probably shouldn’t have been put with us. Not long after, two more foursomes rolled up to the tee behind us!

Eventually, we just decided to play as a fivesome because it was obvious nobody from the course was going to come out and help. It ended up working out fine as we kept pace all day. It seemed like it was going to be a really slow round because of how things started. However, things ultimately moved along pretty well and we were finished in four hours, 20 minutes.

I had somewhat low expectations coming into the round here, and the frustrating start didn’t help. Painted Desert never seems to get glowing reviews, so I was expecting another middle-of-the-road kind of course that would blend in with several others in Vegas. I ended up really liking this course.

One thing I was excited for was “Kitten’s Korner,” which is the name of the 2nd hole. One of my friends told me about it. It is named for a friendly cat who supposedly hangs around by the tee box. Players leave out food and water. Unfortunately, the cat wasn’t out there for me to play with on Monday, so that was another early disappointment.

As the round went on, I found myself liking the golf course more and more. I was led to believe the layout was kind of bland, but there were several very memorable holes. One thing I did like is how there are no parallel holes here and each one is framed nicely by desert landscaping. There are houses lining almost every hole and you cross a few streets as you work your way around the community, but none of the residential aspects really infringed on the playability or presentation of the course too much.

I liked both of the par-3s on the front nine (holes 4 and 8), which both play over water hazards and have nice aesthetic qualities. The 8th even has a rare biarritz green with a big dip in the middle of the complex. 

My favorite hole was the 14th, which is a short par-4 with water along the entire right side. It is nicknamed “Deadman’s Willow” because of the big weeping willow tree in the fairway. Any lay-ups need to be left of that tree, and then you are left with a short, uphill shot into a tricky diagonal green. Long hitters may be tempted to go for the green, but there is very little room for error and it will be almost all carry over the water and up to the elevated green. However you play it, it’s a fun and treacherous little hole.

Painted Desert was in good, but not what I’d consider “great” overall shape by Vegas standards. It was the weakest of anything I played on this trip. That said, if I saw conditions this green in Southern California right now, I’d probably be writing a glowing review. It’s all relative to the post-overseed conditions found on other Vegas courses this time of year.

The tee boxes were great. The fairways were mostly good. There were some soft/mushy spots here and there and some thinner areas where the overseed wasn’t as lush. Generally, there was nothing to complain about, though. The rough was a mixed bag with different grasses (some semi-dormant bermuda, some spot rye patches) and different cuts/coverages. You never quite knew what you’d get in the rough. It was sometimes brutal, and sometimes no punishment at all. The greens were soft and receptive, rolling at medium speeds. They did get a bit bumpy late in the day. Two of the three bunkers I was in had good sand. The other one was very thin and firm.

When all is said and done, Painted Desert will rank somewhere in the middle of the pack for me in my Las Vegas region. That is to say it’s definitely not in the upper echelon of courses, but it also doesn’t belong in the bottom group where all the other courses tend to blend together. It has more than enough character to stand on its own as a pretty good mid-level option. Like most courses around Vegas, though, non-resident rack rates are too much and it is still worth looking for a deal before playing here. 

Some pictures from Painted Desert Golf Club (11/14/16):

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