You gotta love/hate Las Vegas. With throngs of tourists wandering up and down The Strip, billions of dollars' worth of ersatz architecture, and the constant clanging of bells and beeps and bad lounge bands, Vegas can be brutal on the senses. Equally brutal is the cost of Vegas golf, which gets up there with the Stratosphere-the 1,149-foot Strip hotel that is the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
Take Las Vegas Golf Club: It's old (1949), short (6,319 yards) and with a 112 slope it is weaker than the cocktails served at the nickel slots-and costs as much as $99 to play!
Never fear, BBQ is here. Using our new Bang for the Buck Quotient, we've created a menu that will save you cash to blow on Sin City's other attractions.
Ignore the tight airport slot machines and go directly from baggage claim to Palm Valley Golf Club (greens fees: $70-$90) in nearby Summerlin, a half hour northwest of McCarran Airport. This 6,580-yard track designed by Billy Casper and Greg Nash deploys 80-plus bunkers and seven water holes to keep you alert. With par 5s at the first and 18th holes, gamblers get plenty of action from start to finish. Mercifully, Palm Valley's ample greens and wide fairways mix well with early-morning Bloody Marys.
Motor back to the north end of The Strip and check in to the Viva Las Vegas Villas. This is the ultimate in pitch-and-kitsch. Themed suites start at $69 a night ($125 on weekends) and come in a smorgasbord of flavors, including Blue Hawaii, Camelot, Cupid, Disco, Egyptian, Gangster, Gothic and Victorian. Elvis has not left this building: The E&P Suite, named for Elvis and Priscilla, features a pink Cadillac bed with a wrought-iron replica of Graceland's gates for a headboard.
With the Las Vegas family-fun experiment kaput, Sin City is sinful again. The most happening club scene is at the Palms Casino Hotel, where there's always lots of eye candy, including celebs aplenty. Be sure to change out of your golf togs before making the scene at Ghostbar. Ghostbarflies be warned: The weekend cover charge is $20, and the line out front can cost you an hour.
Breakfast of champions-two Red Bulls, a PowerBar, the maximum dose of Excedrin and a jug 'o java, all from the 7-Eleven a block north of the hotel. Press on to Los Prados Golf Course ($40-$65), just down the road from Shadow Creek. Both courses have guard-gated entries and, well, grass. The comparisons end there. Los Prados doesn't quite stretch to 6,000 yards, and it offers up four tantalizing par 4s less than 300 yards, which ups the gamesmanship when there's money on the line.
The quarter-pound hot dogs here are just $2.50, so buy two for the ride across town to Tuscany Golf Club ($55-$75) in Henderson. A Ted Robinson design that opened in July 2003, Tuscany changed hands that December, closed for renovations and reopened last summer. Three par 4s coming in, the 299-yard 16th flanked by the 408-yard 12th and 440-yard 18th, will make or break your round. All three are as hard as a pit boss's heart.
Buffets are such Vegas fixtures that there's a website devoted to them: lasvegas.buffets.com. Playing 36 is a fine excuse for gluttony at one spot you'll find reviewed there, Excalibur Casino's RoundTable Buffet, where the roast beef alone is worth the $14.49 tariff. All that's missing are turkey legs, jousting and tankards of Sin City ale.
Still got that swinging feeling? There's a lighted par-3 course at Angel Park, with replicas of Troon's Postage Stamp hole and the island-green 17th at the TPC at Sawgrass. The Callaway Golf Center has a par-3 course and a 110-stall driving range that stay lit until 11 p.m.
No rest for the bleary: Leave the hermetic confines of The Strip and return to Summerlin, where there are 14 Starbucks within five miles of Highland Falls Golf Club. Pick one and order one very hot, very black, very venti espresso.
Your last treat is Highland Falls ($70-$90), a Casper-Nash creation that just unveiled a huge new practice green. Take the hint and fine-tune the flatstick before trying the layout's notoriously tricky greens.