Extravagant Golf in Las Vegas

Extravagant Golf in Las Vegas

It wasn’t long ago that Las Vegas was one of the great stops on the PGA Tour. These days, it’s pure also-ran. True, Jim Furyk has won three times in the past 10 years (and lost in a playoff in 2005) and Tiger Woods made the event his first PGA Tour win in 1996, but anymore, Vegas has lost its glitter.

Nevertheless, Vegas plods on, this year as the Frys.com Open, not to be confused with the Buy.com Tour. Given the sad field, Furyk could very well show up with 10 clubs in his bag and still win.

But what has improved in Las Vegas is the quality of its public golf courses. Yes, most of the biggies are ridiculously pricey (as are the second-tier layouts), but if it will keep you away from the tables for six hours, you’ll likely come out ahead. Or, think of it this way: Even if you’re laying out five bills to play Vegas’ elite tracks, that’s money you could win back in 15 minutes back at the casino. So, go ahead and splurge. Here’s a thumbnail sketch on the 5 Best places to roll ’em — on the greens — in Las Vegas.

Shadow Creek
Remains the ultimate Hollywood set come to life, an oasis of pine trees, rolling hills, flowers and waterfalls hewn from a poker table-flat, lifeless plot of desert by magicians Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn. It’s $500 to play and open only to MGM/Mirage hotel guests.

The first true competitor to Shadow Creek opened in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2003 that regular folks could actually play it — again, for $350 to $500 a pop. Situated 30 minutes south of the Strip in Boulder City, this Rees Jones design is draped dramatically across stark mountain slopes and offers Tour quality caddies, the occasion Bighorn sheep sighting and a river that runs through the clubhouse.

Wynn Las Vegas
A hostile corporate takeover in 2000 divested Steve Wynn of Shadow Creek, so five years later, his response was this heart-of-the-Strip layout that replaced the old Desert Inn course. It’s also five bills to play and you must be a guest of Wynn Las Vegas, but for that you get a mature-looking and yes, spectacular, Tom Fazio design and right-out-your-door access.

Angel Park
Not as strong a test as the top 3, but much cheaper and more flexible, Angel Park boasts two Arnold Palmer championship 18s, plus a short course, putting course and practice range that are all lit for night play. Superior dining awaits in the clubhouse.

Bali Hai
Wildly overpriced and lacking a practice facility, Bali Hai also suffers from a so-close-to-the-airport location that you could likely snag a cocktail from the flight attendant in your backswing, if you can concentrate at all given the jet noise. Yet, for all that, if you’ve got the dough, go for it, as it’s a five minute cab ride along the Strip from the major casinos, features a fun, gorgeous, South Seas-themed design from Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley and a restaurant, Cili, that’s among the best of its kind in the U.S.