On Thursday afternoon, I played what was the centerpiece round for my trip. I was able to arrange an invite to play The Las Vegas Country Club and I was excited to check out this piece of local history. I brought some friends along with me and we had a full foursome that teed off around 2:00.
We never had anyone in front of us and only had a twosome behind us for a brief time because they stopped playing after nine holes. It really was like having the place to ourselves as we enjoyed a fun and relaxed round.
The Las Vegas Country Club was originally opened in 1967 and designed by Ed Ault. It has gone through some renovations over the years to keep up with modern trends, but it still retains a very classic, traditional feel that is distinctive in the Las Vegas area. LVCC is not the oldest course in town. I know the public Las Vegas Golf Club dates back to 1938 and what is now known as Las Vegas National Golf Club (formerly Stardust CC) opened in 1961. Then, you have Desert Inn Golf Club (1952), which was completely revamped and became Wynn Golf Club before unceremoniously closing down last year. Lastly, there is Sunrise Vista on Nellis AFB, which also dates back to the early 1960s. I haven’t been able to play that one yet because they have made it harder for civilians to get on the base in recent years. Beyond these, I am not sure any other currently open courses that pre-date the 1980s, but I could be mistaken.
Either way, LVCC remains as one of the old school tracks in a city with such a unique history that is slowly being wiped away by the big, modern, family-friendly resorts and more dramatic desert-style golf courses. This course is a truly traditional parkland kind of course. There are no changes in elevation and there are many parallel fairways as the the layout makes the most of minimal space. And unlike most Vegas courses, there are many big, mature trees lining the fairways and shaping the holes. It’s a more common feel to many old local courses throughout the country, yet it sits right in the middle of Las Vegas.
The location adds to the intrigue here as the course sits just behind the old Westgate Hotel and not too far up The Strip from where the Wynn course was. Some of the neighborhoods around this course are a little sketchy (especially bordering the front nine), but it still feels nice and closed off from the outside world even when you are right up against some old condos and apartment buildings that now look very run-down, but were probably once the toast of the town. Las Vegas National has the same kind of feel. You are basically in your own little lush country club island with the cityscape all around you.
Modern landmarks come into play, as well, as you take aim at the Wynn/Encore towers on one tee shot and the Stratosphere tower is an everpresent sight that helps as an aiming point at times. Even the High Roller ferris wheel (or whatever you want to call that kind of ride) is in the background a few times just like it was throughout the Wynn course.
Some people might mistake “traditional” or “classic” design as plain, and sometimes I am guilty of thinking that myself. However, The Las Vegas Country Club is one of those old school courses that stands the test of time. I found it very enjoyable and the fact that it is so different than most Vegas courses certainly added some appeal.
The course is also not without its memorable holes. I thought the bunkering throughout the design had a nice look, and then there are several water hazards in play. The side-by-side par-3 3rd and 14th holes are both quality holes with water in play. They also happen to be located right next to the snack shack, where you can purchase your snacks/drinks or just enjoy the free fresh-squeezed lemonade on tap.
The other two par-3s on LVCC are both great and also bring water into play. The 8th is probably the best one out here and then the 17th is kind of cool with the Westgate tower hovering right over the green.
The two most memorable holes here, however, are the finishers on each side. Both the 9th and 18th are short risk/reward par-5s with intimidating approach shots over water to well-protected greens. The 9th is a slight dogleg left while the 18th is a pronounced dogleg right. The club’s iconic fleur de lis logo is embedded on a bank behind the 9th green with the clubhouse overlooking the hole, making me assume that this was originally the 18th and the nines were flipped at some point in the past 50 years.
Adding to the enjoyment was the fact that the course was in excellent condition all the way around. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all lush and well manicured throughout. The greens were very firm and rolling well at medium speeds. They were not as fast as they looked like they would be, but they can’t cut them too tight this time of year. The bunkers had good sand—not too soft and not too firm.
Beyond just a nice golf course, the amenities and service are what really help set The Las Vegas Country Club apart. We felt very welcomed as unaccompanied guests and the staff treated us well. The clubhouse has a unique 60s style and is filled with all sorts of old pictures that display the history of the club. They have hosed PGA, LPGA and celebrity tournaments here throughout the years, as well, so there is a lot of that kind of memorabilia around the clubhouse to look at.
When you add it all up, you get a very unique and special Vegas golf experience that you just won’t find anywhere else. Ultimately, I will walk away ranking Red Rock CC better overall for this trip out of the two private clubs I played, but LVCC created the more memorable experience that I feel grateful to have been a part of. I believe The Las Vegas Country Club does offer some stay/play opportunities with local hotels from time to time (including the Westgate), so do your research and you might find yourself getting to experience it for yourself. It is highly recommended!
Some pictures from The Las Vegas Country Club (5/24/18):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)