Birthday in Vegas, Part 1: Summer in Summerlin

I was already planning to be in the Las Vegas area on Wednesday for a Greenskeeper.org GK Review Guru outing at one of my favorite courses, Cascata. It just happened to coincide with my birthday on Monday, so it was a great excuse to spend a few days in Sin City.

I ended up playing three rounds on Monday, all on the western side of town (aka Summerlin). As you might expect, I got started early…

Highland Falls Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 8/7/17

Prior to this trip, I was down to just a handful of public courses in the greater Las Vegas area. My goal was to knock out the final few (well, the ones not named Shadow Creek anyway) while there. Therefore, I needed to play Highland Falls on Monday because they were set to begin their second summer aeration on Tuesday.

I booked a 6:02 tee time directly with the course for $45. I was paired with another single and we went off behind a few really early bird member groups. One group did let us play through on the front nine and then we caught a couple slower groups toward the end of the round, but it was still a nice pace of under three hours.

Highland Falls is part of the Sun City Summerlin 55+ community, but all the courses (including Palm Valley and Eagle Crest) are open to the public. Now that I’ve played them all, I would easily say Highland Falls is the best of the bunch. It has a similar overall feel as Palm Valley, but it offers a more interesting design, some decent elevation changes and some better scenery being situated a little closer to the Red Rock mountains to the west.

Now, Highland Falls isn’t anything that dramatic. In fact, I found it to be a very forgiving layout that allowed for plenty of good scoring opportunities. The greens are large and feature some undulation, and most fairways have ample landing room. Houses line most holes, but really won’t come into play much unless you really spray one.

I found the 5th hole to be the most interesting. It is a short-ish par-4 with a water hazard guarding the green. Longer hitters may want to lay-up to avoid rolling into the lake, and then it’s a short shot in to a well-protected green.

The course was in pretty good overall condition for mid-summer. It seemed pretty similar to what I experienced last year at Palm Valley. The tee boxes were fine. The fairways were mostly pretty good with some inconsistencies (multiple grasses in play, some thin spots, some shaggy spots). The rough was pretty similar to fairways with some really thick clumpy bermuda patches where the ball dug in deep and other places where the ball perched up nicely on top. Rough lies were either brutal or very favorable. It’s clear they had some flooding throughout the course when the recent rains hit because there was some debris/trash gathered up in some of the low-lying areas. Sure that will get cleaned up soon enough. I wasn’t in a bunker here.

The greens were soft and rolling pretty well at medium speeds, starting to show some summer wear with browning around the edges. Also, they were barely just healed from the July aeration (still dotted in appearance) before getting ready to aerate again the next day.

The Sun City Summerlin courses are solid options to consider when looking for something that’s somewhat reasonably priced in an area where most golf isn’t that cheap. They offer friendly local atmospheres and good enough courses to satisfy the golf itch..

Some pictures from Highland Falls Golf Club (8/7/17):

My next two rounds were convenient, as they are located at the same facility and were only a short drive away from Sun City Summerlin…

Angel Park Golf Club • Las Vegas, NV • 8/7/17

I was very happy to finally cross Angel Park off my list on this trip. This is a great golf facility with two full regulation courses (Palm and Mountain), a fun 12-hole par-3 “tribute” course (Cloud Nine), a large practice facility/range, and even a really diabolical 18-hole putting course.

Previously, I played the front nine of the Mountain Course with a friend. It was late in the day and that’s all we had time for. I had played the putting course on that first visit and the Cloud Nine course on a separate visit to Angel Park. That left 27 holes I needed to play, including the back nine of Mountain and all of Palm. My plan for Monday was to play both of the main courses in their entirety.

I had booked a TeeOff.com deal time at 11:57 for $30 on the Palm Course. However, I finished quicker than expected at Highland Falls and wasn’t sure what to do with the extra time in between. I headed over to Angel Park and the guy in the pro shop was super nice. Because it was a pre-paid time that was so much later than my arrival, I wouldn’t be able to play my Palm round early. However, he said I could play Mountain first and then they’d get me out on Palm whenever I finished the first round. We both figured it would end up being later than my original tee time.

Ultimately, it worked out well. He charged me a mid-morning rate of $45 for Mountain and I was teeing off around 9:30 by myself. I ended up playing through a few groups, but the course was pretty wide open and I finished in about two hours, 20 minutes. In fact, I was checking back in the pro shop just a few minutes before my original 11:57 tee time on Palm!

Mountain Course

When I played Mountain last time, it was very late in the day. The first half of the front nine faces due west, so it was staring directly into the setting sun. We couldn’t see much and it was hard to enjoy. By the time we turned around and started heading back east, it was starting to get dark.

This time, I actually got to see what the course really looked like and I liked what I saw. Mountain reminded me of a somewhat tamer version of Badlands (R.I.P.) or TPC Las Vegas. It makes sense because they are both very close by. It has similar rugged terrain with a small canyon running through parts of the course.

The Mountain Course (both courses at Angel Park in fact) were designed, at least in part, by Arnold Palmer. I typically enjoy his course layouts and aesthetic presentations. I think Mountain is the prettier of the two. There are lots of pine trees. You have mountains providing a nice backdrop on one side and then some okay views of Las Vegas on the other side. The Suncoast Casino is right next door, as well, so the first few holes play right alongside it.

There are a number of memorable holes here, including the short par-4 3rd and the demanding par-4 9th. On the back nine, the 11th is a cool little par-3 over a canyon. Lastly, the two finishing holes are quite challenging. The par-5 17th is very tricky with a large canyon bisecting the fairway about halfway through the hole. The 18th features a large water hazard that runs along the entire right side of the hole.

Conditions were pretty good for mid-summer. I guess Mountain is different from Palm because they keep the rye grass (or is it actually all poa?) through the summer rather than transitioning to bermuda. That gives Mountain a deeper green overall look, but perhaps somewhat spottier coverage this time of year. The tee boxes were nice. The fairways were good for the most part, with some thin/brown areas scattered throughout. The rough was pretty similar in terms of coverage. The greens were very soft and rolling at medium speeds. Speaking of greens, they were doing some maintenance on the par-3 11th green, so about half of the green is roped off as GUR to make it an extra-small target hole for the time being.

Good deals can be found at Angel Park, especially if you are an OB Sports card holder, to make it a reasonably affordable mid-range option. Now that I’ve played them both, I would personally rank the Mountain Course higher than Palm. However, I know a lot of people feel the opposite way.

Some pictures from Angel Park Golf Club (Mountain) (8/7/17):

Palm Course

Though I checked in just in time for the original Palm tee time, I wasn’t in any rush. It was clearly not busy out there and I had time to grab a quick bite at the snack bar. I scarfed down a pretty tasty hot dog and headed over to the first tee of Palm.

I ran into a couple groups out here, but they both let me through and I was finished in under two hours. That meant I played three full rounds on three different courses and was finished by 2:00!

Palm starts off near the clubhouse and the first few holes are kind of boring, if you ask me. I was ready to write this course off as “solid” and a pretty basic desert design at best, but then I went through the tunnel and onto the other side of Summerlin Parkway where the majority of this course is situated.

Everything on the other side of the street is much more enjoyable. There are a lot of good holes in this stretch. Most notable would be the double-dogleg par-5 6th. It has numerous risk/reward options with a split fairway and all sorts of different angles to consider. The short, but deadly par-4 9th is also a good one. It is a sharp dogleg left around a lake. I wish I had more local knowledge before playing both of these holes because I took some aggressive lines that I shouldn’t have and it cost me a stroke or two on an otherwise really good round.

Both of the par-3s on the front nine are also nice, with water hazards to hit over.

Eventually, you come back across the parkway for the final few holes. I liked the par-3 17th and the 18th was decent, too, but otherwise it gets a little boring again once you are back on this side of the property. Overall, I would say I really liked 2/3 of the course and the other third was just “meh.” That’s why I would easily lean toward Mountain as a more interesting 1-18 layout that also has more eye-catching scenery and landscaping.

I would say Palm is in slightly better condition than Mountain, primarily because it is fully transitioned to summer bermuda. It’s a little lighter in color and there were some more light brown streaks throughout the fairways and rough, but the playability is more consistent. There were still some thin spots scattered throughout, though, so it was far from pristine. Overall, the tee boxes, fairways and rough were all in pretty good mid-summer condition. The greens were definitely a bit firmer on this side, but still pretty receptive and rolling at medium speeds. I was in one bunker and it was typical crappy Vegas sand—a bit thin and rocky.

Both Palm and Mountain are good courses and I can see why they are popular with a lot of local players who want to avoid the resort courses and inflated prices that come with them.

Some pictures from Angel Park Golf Club (Palm) (8/7/17):

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