Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wolf Creek at Paradise Canyon, among the top courses in Nevada, is the area's best. It is Shadow Creek meets Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and the results are jaw-dropping, with dramatic canyon and mountain views that complement a well-conceived design. The course winds through canyons, with some holes playing uphill, some downhill, and some crossing ravines. The namesake man-made creek dissects several holes and provides visual relief from the desert landscape. This is golf for golf's sake-no homesites here.

Neighboring Falcon Ridge Golf Club, on the other hand, is golf for real estate's sake, with homes everywhere. Still, it's an enjoyable layout. The terrain is similar to Wolf Creek's, only friendlier. Players find canyons, hillsides and plateaus to negotiate, but plenty of bailout areas too. The front nine barely cracks 3,000 yards from the back tees, but the newly finished back nine makes up for it with a 3,535-yard routing.

Crib Sheet
Mesquite
  • Casablanca Golf Club

  • Greens Fees: $45-$120;
    800-459-7529; casablancaresort.com
  • Falcon Ridge Golf Club
    Greens Fees: $35-$110;
    877-270-4653; golffalcon.com

  • Oasis Golf Club
    Greens Fees: $55-$140;
    888-367-3386; theoasisgolfclub.com

  • Wolf Creek at Paradise Canyon
    Greens Fees: $85-$180;
    866-252-4653;golfwolfcreek.com
  • Boulder City
  • Boulder City Golf Course
    Greens Fees: $47-$62;
    702-293-9236; bouldercitygolf.com

  • Boulder Creek Golf Club
    Greens Fees: $75-$150 (includes cart);
    702-294-6534; bouldercreekgc.com
  • Primm
  • Primm Valley Golf Club
    Greens Fees: $80-$175
    800-7867; primmvalleyresorts.com
  • On Mesquite's hilly north side, the Oasis Golf Club dishes up 27 holes, with an additional nine slated to open next fall. The 18-hole Oasis Course by Arnold Palmer features topsy-turvy fairways and small, true greens, many set on crowns or protected by water. Oasis is the only track in town that offers memberships, which lends the place a clubby feel.

    Four holes of the CasaBlanca Golf Club, also on the north end of town, play into the desert greenery around the Virgin River. Designed by environment--conscious Cal Olson, the layout can stretch to 7,011 yards. With several holes bordered by the river, CasaBlanca challenges golfers with more water than most Mesquite courses.

    If you're looking for lodging, the CasaBlanca Hotel, Oasis Resort and Virgin River Hotel are similar: not too fancy, not too expensive. Families might prefer the Oasis because it has go-carts and mini-golf. CasaBlanca offers shows--The Bellamy Brothers and Crystal Gayle have headlined--with tickets in the $15 to $30 range.

    Katherine's in the CasaBlanca and Charmaine's at the Oasis are can't--miss dining options. Both serve steaks (the filet topped with Romano cheese at Katherine's is excellent), lobster and Italian specialties. For authentic Mexican, check out El Charro, hidden down Riverside Road. The proprietors are from Zacateca, Mexico, and the food is reminiscent of that region. For breakfast, try the Huevos Machaca or the Huevos con Choriza. For lunch and dinner, there's killer Chile Verde.

    Another local tip: There's a Starbucks in the CasaBlanca, but visit Brew Monkey in the Brickyard Plaza for espresso, cappuccino and creations like the Earthquake, six shots of espresso with steamed milk, white chocolate, caramel and vanilla.

    Boulder City
    Quite the opposite of Mesquite, historic Boulder City is not rolling toward unbridled expansion. Boulder City, 35 minutes south of Las Vegas, was founded in 1931 to house the people who built the Hoover Dam. Daily tours escort visitors through the inner workings of that 726-foot-tall engineering marvel. Lake Mead National Recreation Area, with its $5 entry fee, is a smart spot to camp, park the RV or float your boat.

    There's no gambling in Boulder City-the only gaming-free city in Nevada--so golf is one of the best reasons to visit. There are two very different courses here. Boulder City Golf Course, popular with locals, is one of the best bargains within a short drive of The Strip. An 18--hole muni designed by Billy Casper and David Rainville in the 1970s, it's an open, 6,600-yard layout where every golfer can find fun and challenge. Mature trees provide welcome shade in warmer months, and the grillroom is always bustling, with head golf pro/food manager Tony Fiorentini turning out his juicy half-pound Black Angus cheeseburgers.

    Boulder Creek Golf Club, a 27-hole, upscale daily-fee opened in 2003, provides expansive views of the desert and mountains from every hole. The Mark Rathert design has two original nines--Coyote Run and Desert Hawk--that comprise a 7,628-yard romp from the back tees around six lakes, with palm trees dotting many of the fairways and greens. A third nine--the 3,739-yard Eldorado--uses the desert and scrubby waste areas to frame landing zones.

    Although Boulder City is an easy day trip from The Strip, you may want to stay over to check out the many antique shops or the 68 miles of rugged mountain biking trails in nearby Bootleg Canyon. Check in at the historic Boulder Dam Hotel. This 1930s classic isn't big (22 rooms) or elaborate, but it's close to restaurants and shops. An overnight stay includes breakfast at the hotel's Matteo's Restaurant.

    Wherever you stay, don't miss lunch at Milo's Best Cellars, on the main drag. Co-owner David Rivera loved the town so much when he would visit, he decided to open a fine wine shop there. Before long, a full menu complemented his 400-plus wine list. Try the Bordeaux Platter, a selection of gourmet cheeses that go perfectly with its namesake French red. Milo's also stocks more than 50 bottled beers.

    At The Coffee Cup next door you'll find good old-fashioned grub right out of Mayberry RFD. Established in 1931 to serve Hoover Dam workers, the joint dishes out hearty breakfasts--omelets as fluffy as a lie in clover and hash browns crispy enough to make low-carb dieters go to the dark side.

    Primm
    An hour's drive southwest of The Strip you'll see billboards advertising Primm, the last stop on I-15 for gamblers heading toward California. The hotels here--Whiskey Pete's, Primm Valley Resort and Buffalo Bill's, all owned by MGM Mirage--offer similar rates and amenities such as casinos, three-star rooms and buffets. And they all have huge parking lots filled with buses, motor homes and cars full of Californians who come for the slots.

    There's not much to do here but gamble and play golf. Dedicated golfers can find two courses in this roadside attraction of a town--well, six and a half miles south, actually, across the state line in California. Primm Valley Golf Club boasts two Tom Fazio designs, both more scenic than you'd expect given the region's flat, wide-open terrain.

    Fazio and his bulldozer team pushed around acres and acres of sand to create the Desert Course (1998) and the Lakes Course (1997), both of which made GOLF MAGAZINE's Top 100 You Can Play in 2000. The beautifully groomed layouts are more parkland than desert. You'll encounter streams and lakes, but a strong desert theme dominates the rough, natural bunkers. Some holes--the sixth on the Desert Course, for example--feature waste bunkers stretching from tee to green, filled with cacti, native grasses and hard-packed sand.

    Other than these two courses and the three casino hotels in town, there's an outlet mall (Tommy Hilfiger, Gap), a Tony Roma's and a gas station. Families stay at Buffalo Bill's, with its red barn shape and roller coaster, while Whiskey Pete's offers a comedy club and live music. Primm Valley Resort is closest to the outlet mall. All three, which are connected by monorail, deliver standard, no-frills rooms at less-than-Strip prices.

    Dining in Primm is affordable: The $5.95 prime-rib dinner competes for best deal with the $4.95 steak-and-eggs breakfast. Going all out means a trip to Tony Roma's, the always-reliable, finger-licking-good rib joint, which is located in Buffalo Bill's. But even a splurge here, on the outskirts of Vegas, will leave you plenty of dough for the gaming tables, high-end restaurants and other assorted debauchery back on The Strip.

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