Escape from Las Vegas: Golf courses that go beyond the desert

By Travel ArticlesDecember 17, 2012, 5:00 am

LAS VEGAS -- Everyone knows Las Vegas plays by a different set of rules, and so do its golf courses. But when you think of Las Vegas golf, what usually comes to mind?

For most, it's some sort of desert golf, overseeded in the fall, winter and spring.

But not all Las Vegas golf courses are created the same, and some of them are very unique. Just because you're playing golf in Las Vegas doesn't mean you have to stay in Las Vegas -- in a manner of speaking.

Courses like Royal Links, Desert Pines, Bali Hai and Wynn Golf Club all have holes you might see in other parts of the country -- or the world, for that matter.

Here's a look ...

Royal Links Golf Club

The first thing you notice about Royal Links Golf Club is the castle-style clubhouse. There are Scottish kilts and ales and whisky and bagpipes. And when the temperature is down in the winter, you really feel like you're across the pond. Better yet, this Dye Design has 18 holes inspired by the British Open courses, so you get to hit the kinds of shots you'd hit on links courses in Great Britain, especially when the wind is blowing.

Golfers at Royal Links can experience the Road Hole of St. Andrews, the Postage Stamp of Royal Troon and holes from Carnoustie, Turnberry, Royal Liverpool, Prestwick, Royal Lytham, Muirfield and Royal Birkdale. Take a caddie, or better yet, a gorgeous female Parmate, and you've really got a unique experience.

Bali Hai Golf Club

In one respect, Bali Hai Golf Club couldn't be more Las Vegas, especially when you consider its location right on the Strip.

But the course itself is anything but. This tropical-themed course designed by Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt features impeccable conditions, thousands of palm trees, tropical plants, water features and beautiful crystal white bunkers. Mandalay Bay looms in the background, but inside the fences, Bali Hai is nothing but lush, tropical conditions. Add a caddie, and you've really got a unique experience.

Bear's Best Las Vegas

If you're a fan of Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, then Bear's Best Las Vegas is a can't-miss experience. Nicklaus chose holes from courses like Desert Mountain in Arizona, Castle Pines in Colorado, Palmilla Golf Club in Los Cabos, Mexico, and PGA West in Palm Springs, Calif., to name a few.

Even more compelling, however, is the impeccable conditioning and backdrop of the Red Rock Mountains, offering one great view after another. One of the more unique aspects of the course is that a different kind of sand -- black sand -- is used in the bunkers the two holes from Old Works Golf Club in Montana for accuracy.

Wynn Golf Club

Like Bali Hai, Wynn Golf Club is located right on the Strip, but it's more secluded. Located behind Wynn Las Vegas and Encore Las Vegas, it's a pampered golf experience like none other. It comes with a premium price, of course, but what follows is an almost Augusta-like experience in terms of conditioning and solitude. Perfect bentgrass greens, white sand bunkers and a network of pristine streams, ponds and flora create one memorable view after another.

The golf course was designed by Las Vegas business magnate Steve Wynn and Tom Fazio, (they also created Las Vegas' Shadow Creek Golf Club, which Wynn eventually sold), and it sits on the old site of the Desert Inn, which played host to 50 years of PGA and LPGA Tour events. The course also includes 7,200 trees and 100,000 bushes and waterfalls, including one that's 37 feet tall behind the 18th green.

Desert Pines Golf Club

With thousands of imported Carolina Pines, wall to wall grass, plenty of water and slick bentgrass greens, Desert Pines Golf Club is hardly a typical Las Vegas golf course. The idea was to create a feeling of playing in the Carolina Sandhills. And while that might be tough to accomplish, it certainly doesn't feel like desert golf.

The course is tight, somewhat demanding, but also presents several opportunities with drivable par 4s. Best of all, Desert Pines is a great place to hang out, either to watch a game in the clubhouse or get a little practice at the lighted double-decker range that's open after hours.

Angel Park's Cloud Nine

There are two championship courses at Angel Park, but the most unique layout is the par-3 course that's not only lighted, but also pays tribute to many of the great par 3s around the world. Cloud Nine actually has 12 holes, but nine of them are lighted. That means you can play 12 during the day and nine at night. There's an island green, ala TPC Sawgrass, a Postage Stamp hole reminiscent of Royal Troon in Scotland, and a green with a bunker in the middle of it, similar to Riviera Country Club. As a bonus, there's also a terrific nine-hole putting course, which is also lighted.

Getty Images

'The Golf Club 2019' adds Elvy to commentary team

By Nick MentaJuly 19, 2018, 4:45 pm

“The Golf Club 2019” is adding a new name to its commentary team.

Broadcaster Luke Elvy will join returning announcer and HB Studios developer John McCarthy for the title's third installment.

Golf fans will recognize Elvy from his recent work with CBS in addition to his time with Sky Sports, FOX Sports, TNT, PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour Radio.

A 25-year media veteran from Australia, he now works in the United States and lives with his family in Canada.

"Ian Baker-Finch was my right-hand man on Australian televison," Elvy told in an interview at the Quicken Loans National. "And Finchy said to me, 'What are you doing here? You should be with me in the States.’ He introduced me to a few people over here and that's how the transition has happened over the last five or six years."

Elvy didn't have any prior relationship with HB Studios, who reached out to him via his management at CAA. As for why he got the job, he pseudo-jokes: "They heard the accent, and said, 'We like that. That works for us. Let's go.' That's literally how it happened."

He participated in two separate recording sessions over three days, first at his home back in February and then at the HB Studios shortly after The Players Championship. He teased his involvement when the game was announced in May.

Although he doesn't describe himself as a "gamer," Elvy lauded the game's immediate playability, even for a novice.

“It’s exactly how you’d want golf to be,” he said.

"The Golf Club 2019" will be the first in the HB series to feature PGA Tour branding. The Tour had previously licensed its video game rights to EA Sports.

In addition to a career mode that will take players from the Tour all the way through the FedExCup Playoffs, "The Golf Club 2019" will also feature at launch replicas of six TPC courses played annually on Tour – TPC Summerlin (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course (Waste Management Phoenix Open), TPC Sawgrass’ Stadium Course (The Players Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St. Jude Classic/WGC-FedEx St. Jude Championship), TPC Deere Run (John Deere Classic), and TPC Boston (Dell Technologies Championship).

“I played nine holes at Scottsdale,” Elvy added. “It’s a very close comparison. Visually, it’s very realistic."

The Golf Club 2019 is due out this August on PlayStation 4, XBOX One, and PC.

Getty Images

Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

Getty Images

'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

Getty Images

Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”