Roll the dice: A Las Vegas vacation is not complete without golf

By Travel ArticlesNovember 21, 2012, 5:00 am

LAS VEGAS -- It happens in a flash, almost on a daily basis in celebrity-rich Las Vegas.

One minute you are unsuspecting, doing your rubber necking tourist thing. The next moment someone gets spotted. Even celebrities of the golf world can be victims.

Way down the eighth fairway two familiar specks appear and golfers having lunch stop, leave their tables, take their drinks out to the patio and watch Butch Harmon tutor a world-ranked golfer named Phil Mickelson. This time the scene is played out from Janelas Restaurant at Rio Secco Golf Club, where the seventh, eighth and ninth holes are within veranda view.

Mickelson has hit a high cut into the wind about 300 yards past a corner bunker on the 566-yard par 5. He makes birdie.

'The crowd that gathered was awe-struck witnessing how far and how flush he hit the ball,' recalled Charles Packard, formerly the head professional at Rio Secco. 'It was impressive.'

Impressive might also describe another gallery-like day at Rio Secco when Harmon's former pupil, Tiger Woods, set the course record of 64 just a week before his wire-to-wire, 15-stroke U.S. Open victory in 2000 at Pebble Beach. Tiger opened the day on the 10th, a 378-yard par 4, by holing his second shot from the fairway for an eagle.

These days your golf vacation to Las Vegas may never realize such celebrity-sighting stories to pass on -- The Rat Pack and Elvis are but distant memories. But you won't forget a visit to the city that is forever changing.

My family certainly remembers our first visit to Sin City. It was 1955, and the vision runs like an old black-and-white movie in my mind. Waves of mirage heat rolled over the asphalt, and a ribbon of hotels, casinos and colorful lights appeared. That Las Vegas Strip was nothing like today's full-color, upgraded glitz of carnival neon -- more like Xbox 360 or Apple's iPhone -- not the unpolished 16 mm film I first saw from a now-classic turquoise Buick Roadmaster. Golf never entered my mind.

Desert heat bakes today's irrigated golf courses in summer, when fees take a dip lower, but the game can be played all year. Weather reminds me of West Texas -- too hot, too cold, too windy -- but the golf courses are sculpted spectacularly and desert-rugged. In winter you can tee it up one day in snow showers and enjoy the rest of the week in 70-degree windless sunshine. You can be spoiled with $500 rounds at Cascata, Shadow Creek and Wynn Golf Club, or you can pay a lot less for numerous scenic layouts.

Here are some Las Vegas golf courses you might consider:

Rio Secco Golf Club

Rio Secco Golf Club, home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf (he's ranked No. 1 on Golf Digest's list of America's 50 Greatest Teachers), is an enviable start to a golf trip to Vegas, not only because it teams with Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, but it's the sister course to Cascata. Both are Rees Jones designs.

Play is fast and firm on this 7,332-yard par 72, with quick and undulating greens and six broad desert holes, six plateau holes and six diving into a steep canyon. This landscape rolls across 240 acres of craggy scenery, perched 800 feet above the Las Vegas Valley.

TPC Las Vegas

Formerly named TPC at The Canyons, this par-71, 7,063-yard adventure was designed by Raymond Floyd and Bobby Weed. TPC at Las Vegas is brawny and tawny, has striking views of Red Rock Canyon and was co-host to the PGA Tour's Open.

This is an Arizona-like desert golf course you will have to think your way around. It traverses canyons, rocky arroyos and has elevation changes.

The 12th hole -- a 145-yard par 3 -- plays to a canyon mesa island green. It is followed by a 423-yard, par-4 13th, called 'Death Valley.' It has a blind tee shot and arroyo trouble the length of the hole.

Bali Hai Golf Club

Just a minute from the vintage, famous 'Welcome to Las Vegas' sign on The Strip, Bali Hai Golf Club was built to recreate a tropical, Indonesian land of golf fun.

Designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley in 2000, Bali Hai is a lush seven acres of water and palm trees. It totals 4,000 trees with 2,500 stands of towering palms and 100,000 tropical plants. Transition and out-of-play areas are accented with Augusta white sand and black volcanic rock outcroppings.

The par-71 course measures 7,002 yards from the tips and opens up views of the Luxor pyramid and other hotels on The Strip.

Bali Hai's 16th is a a par-3 island green that frequently comes with an audience from the Cili Restaurant patio, and the third hole, which is a 468-yard par 4 with a creek running the entire right-side. Some call this hole 'Shipwreck.'

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort

The Paiute Tribe thought big when imaging this complex that includes 54 holes of desert golf and lush conditions. The Resort is 25 minutes from the strip, and stars with its boondocks location. Golfers enjoy the only Pete Dye-designed golf courses in Nevada.

Select the Wolf, Sun Mountain, or Snow Mountain Courses, as well as some widely varied golf that includes water features, rolling terrain, and rugged mountain vistas.

Snow Mountain Course is the original at Paiute, and according to some, it's still the best. The 7,164-yard course features a progressive layout with wide rye grass fairways, traditional Dye railroad tie-decorated bunkers and dogleg finishing holes. Water plays on seven of the holes at Snow, from a peninsula green on the 16th hole to an 18th hole that seems to wrap itself around a lake.

Paiute's Sun Mountain Course is tamer, they say, and considered a 'kinder, gentler' Pete Dye course. Golfers will be by the natural rolling terrain, the course's isolated location within the resort and the mountain backdrop. Easily the most scenic of the three courses, Sun features blue lakes and Joshua trees.

The Wolf Course is the most difficult of the three, as well as the longest course in Nevada at 7,604 yards. Swales, bunkers, arroyos and undulating greens test you along with the fairways. The par-3 15th hole is an island green where half the challenge is simply getting on the green.

Wynn Golf Club

When you visit Las Vegas, you gotta splurge on one decadent round of golf. Wynn Golf Club's rack rate is $500 -- but that includes bunches of extras such as country club locker room amenities and attendants, no-charge rental clubs, shoes and forecaddies -- all included.

Wynn Golf Club occupies the land that was once the storied Desert Inn Golf Club. When it operated from 1952 until 2002 every celebrity golfer walked these fairways -- entertainers such as Bing Crosby, Jackie Gleason, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore and the Rat Pack.

Construction on Wynn Golf Club began on Feb. 11, 2003. The first day of operation for Wynn Golf Club was opening day of Wynn Las Vegas, April 28, 2005.

Wynn, a Tom Fazio design, is compact in acreage -- a par-70 course that is 7,042 yards in length with Tifway II Hybrid Bermuda grass on the fairways and tees.

Taking completely flat terrain, they moved more than 800,000 cubic yards of earth to create the elevation changes and a rolling landscape that includes 100,000 new shrubs to the 1,200 existing trees that were salvaged and relocated from the former Desert Inn Golf Course, some more than 50 years old and more than 60 feet tall.

Where to stay

On your golf trip to Las Vegas be sure and stay at Caesar's Palace. Request the resort's brand-new Octavius Tower, a 668-room hotel. It has a private entrance and easy access to the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis and Gardens.

The Octavius Tower, with 550-square foot rooms, marks a major milestone in the two-year renaissance of Caesars Palace, which began in March 2011 with the return of Celine Dion and encompasses the recent launch of Rod Stewart at the Colosseum.

Other projects also include the return of Elton John, Old Homestead Steakhouse, Nobu Hotel, Restaurant and Lounge and Shania Twain's Colosseum headlining.

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U.S. captures Junior Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 26, 2018, 12:29 am

The U.S. defeated Europe, 12 ½ to 11 ½, in the Junior Ryder Cup at Golf Disneyland at Disneyland Paris.

Rachel Heck, 16, of Memphis, Tenn., clinched the winning half-point on the 18th hole with a 12-foot birdie putt that halved her match with Annabell Fuller, 16, of England.

"It was the most incredible experience of my life," said Heck, a Stanford commit who last week made the cut in her second LPGA major, the Evian Masters.

Michael Thorbjornsen, 16, of Wellesley, Mass., the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, drove the green on the 315-yard 18th hole, the ball stopping within 5 feet of the pin. His eagle putt completed 2-up win over 15-year-old Spaniard David Puig and ensured that the U.S. would retain the Junior Ryder Cup, as the defending champion needs only a tie (12 points) to maintain possession of the trophy.

Singles results

Match 1 - Lucy Li (USA) def. Amanda Linner (EUR), 4 and 3

Match 2 — Rasmus Hojgaard (EUR) def. William Moll (USA), 1 up

Match 3 —  Ingrid Lindblad (EUR) halved Rose Zhang (USA)

Match 4 – Nicolai Hojgaard (USA) def. Canon Claycomb (USA), 4 and 2

Match 5 — Yealimi Noh (USA) def. Emma Spitz (EUR), 3 and 2

Match 6 —  Ricky Castillo (USA) def. Eduard Rousaud Sabate (EUR), 3 and 1

Match 7 – Emilie Alba-Paltrinieri (EUR) def. Erica Shepherd (USA), 2 up

Match 8 — Michael Thorbjornsen (USA) def. David Puig (EUR), 2 up

Match 9 – Alessia Nobilio (EUR) def. Alexa Pano (USA), 2 and 1

Match 10 —  Robin Tiger Williams (EUR) def. Cole Ponich (USA), 2 and 1

Match 11 – Annabell Fuller (EUR) halved Rachel Heck (USA)

Match 12 — Conor Gough (EUR) def. Akshay Bhatia (USA), 1 up


TOUR Championship Final Round Becomes Most-Watched FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever and Most-Watched PGA TOUR Telecast of 2018

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 25, 2018, 6:48 pm

ORLANDO, Fla., (Sept. 25, 2018) – NBC Sports Group’s final round coverage of the TOUR Championship on Sunday (3:00-6:19 p.m. ET) garnered a Total Audience Delivery (TAD) of 7.8 million average viewers, as Tiger Woods claimed his 80th career victory, and his first in five years. The telecast’s TAD was up 212% vs. 2017 (2.5m). Television viewership posted 7.18 million average viewers, up 192% YOY (2.46m) and a 4.45 U.S. household rating, up 178% vs. 2017 (1.60). It also becomes the most-watched telecast in the history of the FedExCup Playoffs (2007-2018) and the most-watched PGA TOUR telecast in 2018 (excludes majors).

Coverage peaked from 5:45-6 p.m. ET with 10.84 million average viewers as Woods finished his TOUR Championship-winning round and Justin Rose sealed his season-long victory as the FedExCup champion. The peak viewership number trails only the Masters (16.84m) and PGA Championship (12.39m) in 2018. The extended coverage window (1:30-6:19 p.m. ET) drew 5.89 million average viewers and a 3.69 U.S. household rating to become the most-watched and highest-rated TOUR Championship telecast on record (1991-2018).

Sunday’s final round saw 18.4 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports Digital platforms (+561% year-over-year), and becomes NBC Sports’ most-streamed Sunday round (excluding majors) on record (2013-’18).

Sunday’s lead-in coverage on Golf Channel (11:54 a.m.-1:25 p.m. ET) also garnered a Total Audience Delivery of 829K average viewers and posted a .56 U.S. household rating, becoming the most-watched and highest rated lead-in telecast of the TOUR Championship ever (2007-2018). Golf Channel was the No. 2 Sports Network during this window and No. 7 out of all Nielsen-rated cable networks during that span.

 This week, NBC Sports Group will offer weeklong coverage of the biennial Ryder Cup from Le Golf National outside of Paris. Live From the Ryder Cup continues all week on Golf Channel, surrounding nearly 30 hours of NBC Sports’ Emmy-nominated live event coverage, spanning from Friday morning’s opening tee shot just after 2 a.m. ET through the clinching point on Sunday. The United States will look to retain the Ryder Cup after defeating Europe in 2016 (17-11), and aim to win for the first time on European soil in 25 years, since 1993.


-NBC Sports Group-

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Tiger Woods names his Mount Rushmore of golf

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 25, 2018, 6:29 pm
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Mickelson savoring his (likely) last road game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 25, 2018, 3:49 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Phil Mickelson lingered behind as his foursome made its way to the ninth tee during Tuesday’s practice round.

He needed the extra practice, no doubt. He’s one of just six players on the U.S. Ryder Cup team with even a modicum of knowledge about Le Golf National, but the likely reason for Lefty’s leisurely tempo was more personal.

The 2019 Ryder Cup will likely be Mickelson’s last road game as a player.

He’ll be 52 when the U.S. team pegs it up at the 2022 matches in Rome. Although there’s been players who have participated in the biennial event into their golden years – most notably Raymond Floyd who was 51 when he played the ’93 matches – given Mickelson’s play in recent years and the influx of younger players the odds are against him.

“I am aware this is most likely the last one on European soil and my last opportunity to be part of a team that would be victorious here, and that would mean a lot to me personally,” Mickelson said on Tuesday.

It’s understandable that Mickelson would want to linger a little longer in the spotlight of golf’s most intense event.

For the first time in his Ryder Cup career Mickelson needed to be a captain's pick, and he didn’t exactly roar into Paris, finishing 30th out of 30 players at last week’s Tour Championship. He’s also four months removed from his last top-10 finish on the PGA Tour.

Ryder Cup: Articles, photos and videos

Although he’s reluctant to admit it for Mickelson Le Golf National looks every bit a swansong for the most accomplished U.S. Ryder Cup player of his generation.

In 11 starts at the Ryder Cup, Mickelson has a 26-16-13 record. Perhaps more telling is his 7-3-1 mark since 2012 and he holds the U.S. record for most matches played (45) and is third on the all-time list for most points won (21.5), just two shy of the record held by Billy Casper.

Mickelson’s record will always be defined by what he’s done at the Masters and not done at the U.S. Open, but his status as an anchor for two generations of American teams may never be matched.

For this U.S. team - which is trying to win a road Ryder Cup for the first time since 1993 - Lefty is wearing many hats.

“You know Phil and you know he's always trying to find a way to poke fun, trying to mess with someone,” Furyk said. “He's telling a story. Sometimes you're not sure if they are true or not. Sometimes there's little bits of pieces in each of those, but he provides some humor, provides some levity.”

But there is another side to Mickelson’s appeal in the team room. Although he’s never held the title of vice captain he’s served as a de facto member of the management for some time.

“At the right times, he understands when a team needs a kick in the butt or they need an arm around their shoulder, and he's been good in that atmosphere,” Furyk said. “He's a good speaker and good motivator, and he's been able to take some young players under his wing at times and really get a lot out of them from a partner standpoint.”

In recent years Mickelson has become something of a mentor for young players, first at the ’08 matches with Anthony Kim and again in ’12 with Keegan Bradley.

His role as a team leader in the twilight of his career can’t be overstated and will undoubtedly continue this week if Tuesday’s practice groupings are any indication, with Lefty playing with rookie Bryson DeChambeau.

As DeChambeau was finishing his press conference on Tuesday he was asked about the dynamic in the U.S. team room.

“We're going to try and do our absolute best to get the cup back,” he said.

“Keep the cup,” Lefty shouted from the back of the room, noting that the U.S. won the last Ryder Cup.

It was so Mickelson not to miss a teaching moment or a chance to send a subtle jab delivered with a wry smile.

Mickelson will also be remembered for his role in what has turned out to be an American Ryder Cup resurgence.

“Unfortunately, we have strayed from a winning formula in 2008 for the last three Ryder Cups, and we need to consider maybe getting back to that formula that helped us play our best,” Mickelson said in the Scottish gloom at the ’14 matches. “Nobody here was in any decision.”

If Mickelson doesn’t step to the microphone in ’14 at Gleneagles in the wake of another U.S. loss and, honestly, break some china there probably wouldn’t have been a task force. Davis Love III likely wouldn’t have gotten a second turn as captain in ’16 and the U.S. is probably still mired in a victory drought.

Lefty’s Ryder Cup career is far from over. The early line is that he’ll take his turn as captain in 2024 at Bethpage Black – the People’s Champion riding in to become the People’s Captain.

Before he moves on to a new role, however, he’ll savor this week and an opportunity to win his first road game. If he wants to hang back and relish the moment so be it.