What: The reported host course for the Tiger vs. Phil challenge match, Shadow Creek, is nearly equal in hype and aura to the players themselves. The “It” course of the 1990s was hotelier’s Steve Wynn’s vision and architect Tom Fazio’s execution. When Shadow Creek debuted in 1990, there was no course anywhere, private or public, where an invitation was so coveted. Until 2000, the only way aboard was via an invitation from Steve Wynn himself. In March of 2000, Wynn was divested of his Mirage holdings and he was forced to hand over Shadow Creek to the new owners, MGM Resorts International. The mystique changed forever, but not the course itself. A Fazio renovation in 2008 stretched the par-72 layout to 7,560 yards, but none of the holes were materially altered. Tiger Woods and Fred Couples share the old course record of 60, while the newer version has witnessed 66 as the best score, once by Dustin Johnson.
Where: North Las Vegas, Nevada, a 30- to 35-minute ride from the Strip. Don’t bother piloting your own car or arriving by taxi. The only way to get through the gates at Shadow Creek is inside an MGM Resorts International courtesy limo.
Who Can Play: No longer cloaked in secrecy, but still a tough “get,” Shadow Creek is technically public, because it’s open to anyone—anyone, that is, that spends sufficient coin at an MGM property. You can book any room—it no longer has to be a suite—at an MGM Las Vegas property except Circus Circus and Excaliber and inquire about a tee time. However, the opportunity is good for Monday through Thursday only. Weekends are solely the domain of MGM invited guests. If you happen to be a past or present U.S. president, own a few gold records or an Oscar statuette, or perhaps wear an NBA Championship ring on your finger, you can find your name on the tee sheet on any day.
What it Costs: Green fees are $500 and that includes round-trip transportation, golf cart, caddie and rental clubs if needed. Caddie gratuity is extra—generally $75 at a minimum. There was serious talk about raising rates to $750 for 2018. The idea was nixed, but it’s back on the table—in classic Vegas fashion—for 2019.
What it Looks Like: Hewn from a poker table-flat, lifeless plot of desert, Fazio and Wynn conjured up a Hollywood set come to life, complete with rolling terrain, thousands of pines, bursts of flowers and a network of creeks and lakes. The foliage and features block out any glimpse of the surrounding desert, except for the mountain peaks.
Signature holes: There’s not a weak link in the entire chain, but five holes stand out for scenery and challenge, including the 553-yard, par-5 fourth, the 409-yard, par-4 ninth and the 438-yard, par-4 15th. Still, the showstoppers, as they should be in Las Vegas, arrive at the end, with the 164-yard, par-3 17th and the 564-yard, par-5 18th. In particular, the 18th befits its locale as the ultimate gambler’s hole. From an elevated tee, the ambitious player will contend with a water carry on both shots via a network of three lakes separated by waterfalls. Choose the three-shot route and you still must fly over water to a long, narrow green surrounded by grassy hills, pine trees, mountains and flowers. Desert? What desert?
Membership Makeup: Yes, there is a membership at Shadow Creek—they actually hold an annual member-guests event—but the criteria for membership is fluid. It all runs through MGM. If you’ve been given a locker in the spectacular locker room, it means you’re a member, and you remain a member until you are not. It’s all based on your credit line and your activity. Michael Jordan utilized Shadow Creek as his home away from home Celebrity Invitational. George H.W. Bush, in his active years, kept a fishing pole above his locker for use in the golf course lakes. Matt Damon, Silvester Stallone, Wayne Gretzky and Derek Jeter are among others whose brass nameplates adorn lockers.