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Forget Miami travel to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl

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LAS VEGAS – Here's an idea: Forget that trip to Miami for the Super Bowl this year. Head to Las Vegas instead. The parties are just as good, if not better, and you can put a few bucks on the game – legally. Plus, there's plenty of great golf in Las Vegas to balance the nightly festivities.

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Being in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl is actually a better alternative than being at the Super Bowl in Miami for many reasons. Here, you can play a round of golf before kickoff, make dinner reservations after the game at a world-renowned restaurant and party at some of the best nightclubs in the world – all without dealing with the mass congestion associated with the Super Bowl host city.

Upwards of $100 million is expected to be legally wagered at Las Vegas sports books on the big game, which will be played at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida on Feb. 7. And although the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority can't identify how many people come to Sin City specifically for the Super Bowl, hotel-occupancy rates typically exceed 90 percent during the National Football League's biggest week. So it's never too early to start planning.

Super Bowl golf packages in Las Vegas

Tee times in Las Vegas can also go pretty fast for the two or three days before the Super Bowl. But there are slots to be had – especially the day of the game – and plenty of golf courses and casinos offer packages.

Walters Golf, for example, has a Super Bowl golf package that includes top Las Vegas golf courses such as Bali Hai Golf Club on the Strip, the British Open-inspired Royal Links Golf Club and Desert Pines Golf Club, starting at $395 per person.

The Walters Golf packages combine golf with fabulous casino hotels such as the Venetian or the adjoining Palazzo Resort, which recently opened chef Emeril Lagasse's sports bar, Lagasse's Stadium, sure to be a hot place to watch the big game.

Rio Secco Golf Club, home of the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, reserves Friday and Saturday tee times for guests of Harrah's properties, including the Rio, Harrah's Las Vegas, Caesar's Palace, Paris and three other Las Vegas hotels or resorts. Golfers who play Rio Secco in the days leading up to the game – and many high rollers play every year – get a special gift bag. The goodies vary from barbeque sets to wedges.

The Friday-Saturday packages also include lunch. A special, morning shotgun start on Super Sunday is served with breakfast. 'People really do like to have a good time before the game,' said Charles Packard, general manager of Rio Secco.

The TPC Las Vegas in Summerlin was pretty well booked on the Friday and Saturday before the Super Bowl, but officials are also planning something special for Sunday morning.

'There are lots of groups in town during Super Bowl week,' said Jaclyn Beaudreau, director of business development for the Ray Floyd and Bobby Weed-designed TPC Las Vegas. 'It's very exciting, and people love to play golf before the big game.'

Some Las Vegas golf courses increase their rates during Super Bowl week, but according to Tony Lenzie, general manager and director of golf for Siena Golf Club and Arroyo at Red Rock Country Club, it's business as usual with one exception.

'We typically do a 9 a.m. shotgun start on Super Bowl Sunday, so the golfers can get their round in and still get back home or to the hotel for the game festivities,' Lenzie said. 'It's a fun weekend to be in Vegas.'

Of course if you'd really like the course all to yourself, golf during the Super Bowl. Just lay down a bet and play a course like Silverstone Golf Club, which has a GPS system on the carts that gives you more than yardage; you get live score updates from Miami.