Go Big in Vegas at Wynn and Cascata

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 19, 2012, 3:14 am

LAS VEGAS -- You don't need to be a casino whale to be treated like a VIP in Sin City.

Just head to the golf course for a taste of the life of a millionaire.

Vegas, as we all know, goes wildly over the top when it comes to luxury. The best courses in town might put a dent in your wallet, but there's a reason Shadow Creek, Wynn Golf Club and Cascata cost up to $500. Superior service and amenities come with a certain price. So do impeccable course conditions and good caddies. If you want an exclusive experience that will impress your buddies or a client, these are the places to go.

I haven't played Shadow Creek Golf Club, the consensus No. 1 course in Las Vegas by all the major publications, but I can vouch for the Wynn Golf Club and Cascata Golf Club. The only people who argue that playing these courses isn't worth the money probably haven't seen them yet.

The wonders of Wynn

The wonders of the Wynn never cease once you step in the front door. It’s all right there, even the golf course. The Wynn Golf Club is all about convenience for its guests.

'We have such a great location,' Wynn Director of Golf Brian Hawthorne boasted. 'Just ride down the elevator, and you're at the first tee. We average rounds of 4 hours, 15 minutes. When you are done, it's back to the other experiences.'

Tom Fazio didn't have much room, just 137 acres, to create a memorable 7,042-yard course on the old Desert Inn site, but he delivered a manicured paradise of rolling green fairways and lush landscaping. The par 70 that opened in 2005 plays pure, like a classic country club. All 13 caddies are PGA Professionals. They know golf and could probably whip you by 10 strokes if you were looking for a bet. All five par 3s are strong, each with their own challenge. The $2 million waterfall behind the 18th green symbolizes the extravagant ways of Wynn.

'What Fazio did is impressive,' said Dean Rider, visiting from California. 'He created berms right and left. Whatever hole you are on, that's all you see. The old Desert Inn was flat and boring. Each hole now stands alone as its own experience.'

Back inside, the five-star Tower suites are the cream of the resort's 2,716 rooms. The spa garnered five-star status from the Forbes Travel Guide in 2012 for the third consecutive year. Between the 15 restaurants and the 111,000 square feet of casino space, there's plenty to see and do. My favorite meals on my visit were the shrimp and grits at the Wynn clubhouse and the steak at SW. There's even a Ferrari and Maserati dealership on site.

Treated like royalty at Caesars, Cascata

The biggest knock on playing golf at Cascata Golf Club -– managed by Caesars Entertainment Corp. -- is its distance from the Strip. It's a 22-mile, 40-minute drive to Boulder City.

I look at this issue from a glass half-full perspective. Cascata feels so special because of its stark, secluded setting in a serene world of cacti and mountains as far from the frenetic neon bling of the Strip as possible.

'When you are on property, you feel like miles from anything. You don't see other holes or other groups,' Cascata General Manager Charles Packard said.

Cascata has dropped its green fee to $375, and it can be had for $300 at off-peak times.

Once golfers arrive, they're greeted at the door of the lavish 37,000-square-foot Tuscan clubhouse by their caddie for the day. Inside, visitors get a visual shock right away, a waterfall flowing through the clubhouse. This 'cascata' -- an Italian word that translates to waterfall -- flows 417 feet from the top of a mountain and around the golf course to the clubhouse. It's the first sign why this Rees Jones design cost $70 million to build.

The course, which opened in 2000, dances up and down on 450 acres with more than 800 feet of elevation changes, zigzagging through rocky outcroppings some 3,200 feet above a desert valley. The views stretch for miles, and sometimes, it feels like your ball will fly that far off of elevated tees in the thin air.

The golf course plays difficult for first-timers. Thankfully, the caddies are well versed on some of the slickest, most confounding greens in the Southwest.

'There is a lot of risk-reward (at Cascata),' Packard said. '(Scoring) is about where you put the ball on the greens. It is user friendly.'

Cascata can humble even the biggest of egos. Fortunately, golfers can drown their sorrows at the Qua Baths & Spa back at Caesars Palace Las Vegas. Qua translates to 'here' in Italian. To be honest, a guest doesn't even need a treatment to feel like a billion bucks again.

The three Roman baths inside the locker rooms are reinvigorating enough. Ancient rituals call for three distinct mineral pools, each varying in temperature and size. The Tepidarium, filled with warm mineral-enriched waters, helps to restore natural elements of skin. The Caldarium features hot mineral-enriched waters to release tension and soothe muscles. The Frigidarium, filled with icy mineral waters, invigorates and detoxifies. Start in the Tepidarium pool and then alternate between the Caldarium and the Frigidarium for maximum effect. Sauna, steam and the Arctic ice rooms relieve more aches and pains.

Not that living in luxury in Las Vegas could ever be painful.

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Winning on Kerr's mind this week and beyond

By Randall MellMarch 24, 2018, 2:11 am

Cristie Kerr moved into position Friday to do more than win the 21st LPGA title of her career.

She moved into position to claim an LPGA Hall of Fame point this week.

Yes, winning is foremost on her mind at the Kia Classic, where she took the lead with an 8-under-par 64 in the second round, she’s on a larger quest, too.

After turning 40 last fall, Kerr was asked what her goals are.

“The Hall of Fame is attainable, if I stick with it,” she said.

Kerr is five shots ahead of Lizette Salas (67), In-Kyung Kim (69), Hee Young Park (70) and Caroline Hedwall (70).

It’s a good time for Kerr to get on a hot streak, with the year’s first major championship, the ANA Inspiration, next week. She has long been one of the best putters in the women’s game, but her ball-striking is impressive this week. She hit 17 greens in regulation Thursday, and she hit 16 on Friday.

“I like winning,” Kerr said. “I like challenging myself. Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older, with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, `Man, why does my hamstring hurt?’ From working around this hilly golf course.”

Kerr acknowledged Friday that her body is more vulnerable to time’s realities, but her mind isn’t.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

“The golf ball doesn't know an age,” Kerr said. “I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.”

Kerr won two weeks after her 40th birthday last fall, boosting her LPGA Hall of Fame point total to 22. She is five points short of eligibility for induction. A player earns one point for an LPGA victory and two points for a major championship title. So there’s a lot of Hall of Fame ground to gain this week and next.

It’s a long-term goal that motivates Kerr to take care of her body.

“I don't think the golf changes,” Kerr said. “I think, physically, it gets harder as you get older. Like I said, I've got tape on my hamstring. I strained it, just a little bit yesterday, walking around this golf course. It's tough as you get older, just being fresh and rested. I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.”

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Big names chasing Kerr into the weekend at Kia Classic

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 1:55 am

CARLSBAD, Calif. - Cristie Kerr shot an 8-under 64 on Friday in the Kia Classic to take a five-stroke lead into the weekend.

The 40-year-old Kerr had eight birdies in her second straight bogey-free round to reach 13-under 131 at rain-softened Aviara.

''I like winning. I like challenging myself,'' Kerr said. ''Definitely doesn't get any easier as you get older with the travel and recovery time. I got up this morning and I'm like, 'Man, why does my hamstring hurt?' From working around this hilly golf course. The golf ball doesn't know an age. I've always said that. As long as I stay hungry, going to just keep playing.''

She has 20 LPGA victories, winning at Aviara in 2015. She won twice last year and helped the U.S. beat Europe in her ninth Solheim Cup appearance.

''It's tough as you get older just being fresh and rested,'' Kerr said. ''I put more focus into that as I've gotten older. I still practice, but off the course I try to get more rest.''

Lizette Salas, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall were tied for second. Salas shot 67, Kim 69, and Park and Hedwall 70.

''I really like this golf course. I really like the environment,'' said Salas, the former University of Southern California player from Azusa. ''My family gets to come out. So much confidence at the beginning of the week, and definitely showed the first two days.

Jeong Eun Lee was 7 under after a 69, and defending ANA champion So Yeon Ryu had a 70 to get to 6 under.

Full-field scores from the Kia Classic

Ariya Jutanugarn (72), Brooke Henderson (70) and 2016 winner Lydia Ko (71) were 5 under. Shanshan Feng (68) was another stroke back, and Singapore winner Michelle Wie (72) was 1 under.

Lexi Thompson was 2 over after a 74, making the cut on the number in the final event before the major ANA Inspiration next week at Mission Hills.

Kerr opened with birdies on the par-5 10th and par-3 11th, added birdies on the par-4 16th, 18th and second, and ran off three in a row on the par-3 sixth, par-4 seventh and par-5 eighth.

''I don't think you can fall asleep on one shot,'' Kerr said. ''It's a really good golf course. I think I play better on courses that demand the focus, so I think that's why I've played well here in the past. ... I'm trying not to put limits on myself right now. I've got some good things going on with my swing.''

She has long been one best putters and green-readers in the world.

''I can see the subtleties that a lot of people can't,'' Kerr said. ''It's a gift from God being able to do that. I've always had that, so I'm lucky.''

Laura Davies withdrew after an opening 82. The 54-year-old Davies tied for second last week in the Founders Cup in Phoenix, playing through painful left Achilles and calf problems.

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DJ hits 489-yard drive, but it doesn't count for history

By Rex HoggardMarch 24, 2018, 12:22 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Dustin Johnson is no stranger to big drives, but even for DJ this one was impressive.

Trailing in his Day 3 match at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Johnson launched a drive at the par-5 12th hole that traveled 489 yards, but that number comes with an asterisk.

“He got lucky it hit the road,” smiled Kevin Kisner, who was leading the world No. 1, 3 up, at the time. “I thought he would make an eagle for sure, he only had 80 yards [to the hole]. He didn’t hit a very good putt.”

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

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Johnson’s drive, which was 139 yards past Kisner’s tee shot, is the longest recorded on the PGA Tour in the ShotLink era, surpassing Davis Love III’s drive of 476 yards in 2004 at the Tournament of Champions.

The drive will not go into the record books, however, because the Tour doesn’t count statistics from the Match Play.

It should also be noted, Kisner halved the 12th hole with a birdie and won the match, 4 and 3, to advance to the round of 16.

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Durant leads Champions event in Mississippi

By Associated PressMarch 24, 2018, 12:21 am

BILOXI, Miss. - Joe Durant had three straight birdies in a back-nine burst and a shot 6-under 66 on Friday to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' Rapiscan Systems Classic.

Durant birdied the par-4 11th and 12th and par-5 13th in the bogey-free round at breezy and rain-softened Fallen Oak. Because of the wet conditions, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.

''It just sets up nice to my eye,'' Durant said. ''It's a beautiful golf course and it's very challenging. The tee shots seem to set up well for me, but the greens are maybe as quick as I've ever seen them here. You really have to put the ball in the right spots. I played very nice today. With the wind swirling like it was, I'm really happy.''

He won the Chubb Classic last month in Naples, Florida, for his third victory on the 50-and-over tour.

Full-field scores from the Rapiscan Systems Classic

''Done this long enough, Friday's just one day,'' Durant said. ''Especially in a three-day tournament, you've got to go out and shoot three good numbers. Fortunate to put one on the board, but I know I have to back it up with a couple of good days because you can get passed very quickly out here.''

Mark Calcavecchia was a stroke back. He won last month in Boca Raton, Florida

''It's probably my best round I've ever had here and it was a tough day to play,'' Calcavecchia said. ''The greens are just lightning fast. They're pretty slopey greens, so very difficult to putt.''

Steve Stricker was third at 68. He took the Tucson, Arizona, event three weeks ago for his first senior victory.

''Just getting it around and managing my game I think like I always do,'' Stricker said. ''You get in the wrong position here with the greens being so fast and you're going to be in trouble. I did that a couple times today.''

Billy Mayfair, Billy Andrade and David McKenzie shot 69. Jerry Kelly, the winner of the season-opening event in Hawaii, was at 70 with Wes Short Jr., Glen Day, Gene Sauers and Jesper Parnevik.

Bernhard Langer opened with a 71, and two-time defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a 72.

Vijay Singh, coming off his first senior victory two weeks ago in Newport Beach, California, had a 73.