Tucked away in the southeastern suburbs of Las Vegas, 21-year-old Rio Secco is now old enough to enter Sin City’s glittering casinos. Twenty-one is also a great age to reinvent yourself.
After a summer shutdown, Rio Secco reopened in late 2017, the beneficiary of a $2 million touch-up by original architect Rees Jones. With input from legendary instructor Butch Harmon, who hosts his School of Golf at the course, Jones injected more playability into the layout by adding forward tees on five holes; eliminating six bunkers and reconfiguring others to make them smaller and more strategically positioned; and trimming back overgrown trees and bushes.
All greens — five of which were rebuilt and recontoured — now sport new Dominant X-treme bentgrass. Additionally, the course has returned to its original 1997 routing. The result: a bump-up in fun for every golfer.
Harmon, who teaches Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler, among others, is all in. “These courses should be designed for the everyday player, not the Tour pros,” he says. “Making it easier, and designed so golfers can play more quickly, is exactly what golf needs.”
That said, Rio Secco remains a formidable challenge. Carved from desert plateaus and canyons in the foothills of the Black Mountain Range, the course serves up some of the most memorable holes in the Southwest, notably the par-4 second, which features a dramatic box-canyon setting, and the par-3 12th, its tee separated from the green by a massive, scrub-choked pit. And if the long par-4 closer, set in a vast arroyo and bracketed by native desert, succeeds in wrecking your scorecard — blame it on Rio.
7,313 yards, par 72
Architect: Rees Jones (1997)
51-year-old PGA Tour Champions player David Toms told me he’s striking the ball as well as ever, but said there are only three courses on the regular PGA Tour where he still feels he could win: Colonial, TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town. “The others are too long for me. Those three courses reward shotmakers.”
FOR PETE’S SAKE
Toms has never won the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, but if he’d like to learn more about Hilton Head Island’s legendary Lowcountry layout, he should check out the Pete Dye Room in the Harbour Town Clubhouse. Slated to open this month, the multimedia exhibit celebrates Dye’s design achievements with an array of videos, interactive models and displays. seapines.com/golf
It’s Bermuda — you gotta play in shorts, right? At the Fairmont Southampton, they’ll make it worth your while with the Bermuda Shorts Weather Guarantee. If, during stays in January through March, temps don’t reach “Bermuda shorts” weather (63° F), your room is free that night. With the stellar Turtle Hill par-3 course on-site and oceanside Port Royal nearby, that’s an offer worth baring your legs for. February rates from $289. fairmont.com/southampton-bermuda