Courses and Travel

Course Spy: Rio Secco Golf Club

Photo: Robert Beck/SI

<p><strong>Giving Thanks</strong><br /> <i>At this time of year, golfers are wise to count their blessings. Read what several writers are thankful for this season.</i></p> <p>I'm thankful that Tiger is still motivated and Phil is still unpredictable.</p> <p>I'm thankful for <!-- --><a class="articlelink" href=",28290,1377053,00.html"><strong>Oakmont</strong></a><!-- / -->, <!-- --><a class="articlelink" href=",28290,1289723,00.html"><strong>Firestone</strong></a><!-- / --> and the <!-- --><a class="articlelink" href=",28290,1429585,00.html"><strong>Black</strong></a><!-- / -->.</p> <p>I'm thankful for the Shark at Birkdale (<i>left</i>) and Berganio in Arizona.</p> <p>I'm thankful that Anthony Kim talks it and walks it.</p> <p>I'm thankful that <!-- --><a class="articlelink" href=",28290,1432718,00.html"><strong>Montauk Downs</strong></a><!-- / --> is so close and so good.</p> <p>But most of all, I'm thankful that a good friend in the golf world is still around fighting his battle with vigor and looking forward to the next time we can chase the sunset. &#151; <!-- --><a class="articlelink" href=""><i>Damon Hack</i></a><!-- / --></p>

Rio Secco Golf Club
Henderson, Nevada
7,332 yards, par 72
Green fees: $100-$295, 702-777-2400

The pro shop staff was snotty about charging full price for an absent member of our group (the course was empty!) and also in calling a cab for our return to the Strip. At least the beer-cart lady kept us informed about the pace ahead.

The steep green fees weed out a lot of casual golfers, so play was swift on a summer Sunday morning. We had time to check out Butch Harmon's school beyond the first green, but with Natalie Gulbis nowhere to be found, we high-tailed it to the second tee.

The forced carry at the par-3 third hole is the only drama on a pedestrian front nine, but designer Rees Jones lit up the back nine. Elevated tees, target-style fairways that ribbon through desert canyons and an unusual 5-5 finish yield a memorable round.

Rio Secco is only cheap by Vegas standards. But the course was in great shape, the back nine's a stunner, and you might bump into one of Butch's students. It's worth your money, despite the service issues and an ongoing drainage problem at the 16th green.

You can hire a fabulous babe called a "T-Mate" as your caddie — which is reason enough to visit for most Vegas golfers. Tiger's course record of 64 is seldom in jeopardy, but Rio Secco is worth the wake-up call after a night on the Strip.

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