NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev.— Where do you go to detox the morning after the World Long Drive Championship? You just watched mutant beasts swing clubs at 150 mph and bash it past the 400-yard mark with Happy Gilmore-like ease.
Well, you’ve gotta go short. You’ve gotta go the opposite of long drive. So I found myself at North Las Vegas Municipal Par 3 Golf Course. It’s run by the city, whose slogan, “Your Community of Choice,” is proudly printed on the scorecard beneath the city’s official logo, an indecipherable mish-mosh of arrowheads, clouds and whatnot. It’s too bad the $8 logoed T-shirt in the golf shop only came in XXL because it was so bad it was great and I definitely would’ve purchased one.
I used that $8 instead to pay for my round on the nine-hole course. Which, according to the card, claims to be “Nevada’s First Night-Lit Golf Course.” I can’t verify the authenticity of that claim. However, I doubt there’s going to be a big fight over it.
I could’ve gotten the $7 senior rate offered by a nice guy working the counter. I look 60? Gee, thanks, pal. He really wanted to give me that rate. But I don’t have to lie to save a buck. I was happy to support Nevada’s First Night-Lit Golf Course. Even though this was daytime, and not the afore-mentioned dark and stormy night.
Two gents and a slow-moving elderly man, apparently their father, were up next on the first tee but Mr. Nice Guy Clerk suggested I vault ahead of them as a single, since the old man walked pretty feebly. Mr. Nice Guy Clerk even stepped out of the shop while I grabbed my bag and informed them that I’d be slipping in front, and they graciously agreed and wished me well. Which was very nice of them.
I wasted no time dropping a ball on the first tee mat—there are no grass tees on this course. I also dispensed with silly things like stretching, warming up or taking a practice swing. The first hole at NLVMP3 (my catchy acronym for North Las Vegas Municipal Par 3!) is a 118-yard dogleg left.
Dogleg? How, you ask, can a 118-yard hole be a dogleg? Simple. You put a mound in front of the green that partially blocks your view and the pin appears to be behind it and to the left—a virtual dogleg, if not an actual one. I dropped a pitching wedge shot onto the green and was off and walking briskly.
The scorecard stayed in my pocket most of the round. I see now that I should’ve referred to it a few times. It has a fantastic course map on the front. A tiny rectangle indicates each tee. A thin line with an arrow on the end points the way to the green, which is a small circle. It’s very Spartan. Even Spartans might wonder, “That’s all?” On the card’s flip side, with boxes to mark your scores, were a list of 13 rules.
I was in violation of Rule No. 2. “Play only one ball. No practicing on the course.” Once I left the old guy and his kids in the dust, of course I played a second ball. I could see assorted twosomes ahead that I would soon catch otherwise, so I played a second ball on the final eight holes. Plus it increases the value of my $8 greens fee.
Other rules explained that foursomes were the maximum group size allowed, and all alcoholic beverages must be purchased and consumed on the premises. Rule No. 10 was interesting: “Six strokes maximum per hole.” Brilliant. That also explains the headline above the rules list that said, “Play USGA Rules… Except Where Modified By The Following…” I think we’ve found a solution to slow play. Pick up after six.
Rule No. 12 said, “Do not hit until the group in front is clear.” But Rule no. 13 said, “On hold number nine (I think they meant hole number nine but damn, what municipal par 3 course can afford a high-priced proofreader?), if you cannot reach the green from the tee, hit when the group in front reaches the green.” Hole No. 9, by the way, is a 170-yard man-eater. If you can’t reach it in one, you should be playing a municipal par 3 course. Oh, wait. You are. Well done!
In summation, if you have more rules than golf holes, you probably have too many rules. Or not enough holes. Or both. Don’t make me bring an attorney just to read the scorecard, please. What’s that, Mr. Bushkin? I should strike that last sentence on legal grounds, in your expert opinion? I’m not going to, sir. I live on the edge. I’m not some lawyer’s puppet. I’m a free man. But I digress.
You probably thought you superbly executed a Slawson Cutoff a minute ago, that well-worn maneuver where a golfer attempts to recap his round shot-by-shot but you interrupt by asking him what he hit on the last hole, thereby fast-forwarding his tedious replay through the first 17. Let me bring in ESPN Game Day court jester Lee Corso: Not so fast, my friend.
The NLVMP3 is a nine-hole track with only two holes exceeding 125 yards—the ninth and the 157-yard third. The latter gets my vote as the course’s signature hole. It’s a lovely downhill par 3, with the green in a bowl surrounded by a collection of shady pines. The whole course, by the way, is tree-laden and very park-like, unlike the stark, rocky, blindingly bright desert that is Las Vegas. It’s a nice little spot. The third’s green is Slim Shady-narrow, making it a tough target. I squeezed one ball just onto the left side, and missed right with a second shot that was still puttable from off the green. A pair of pars.
Two holes were less than 100 yards (the second is 92, the eighth is 74) but the manly ninth is 170 and uphill, and it plays a club longer than its length. As it should, since it’s the signature finishing course.
This is as easy as anything gets in Las Vegas. The holes aren’t memorable or demanding. This is golf at the lowest grass-roots level possible. We need more of these places.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the strict eligibility requirements about playing here at NLVMP3. Another sign on the chain-link fence near the entrance said: “Dress Code: All golfers must wear shirts with sleeves or collars.” So the way I read that is, sleeves are optional as long as you have a collar. Or a collar is optional if you have a sleeve. It’s one or the other. If your shirt has a collar, feel free to cut off the sleeves and show off your guns, dude. Or, maybe if you wear a dog collar around your neck, for instance, then you don’t have to wear a shirt. That’s one confusing “or” on the sign, man. I’m sure as hell not going out and buying a dog collar just so I can play shirtless golf. I’m not made of money, especially after blowing that extra buck by not lying and taking the senior discount.
So what about pants? Unlike shirts, the sign makes no mention of them so I guess they’re not mandatory. I suppose that’s part of the, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” myth. Everybody I saw at the course wore pants or shorts (no dog collars) so maybe this place is classy after all. That’s why I carefully adjusted the Hello Kitty headcover on my driver, which went unused, and tossed my golf balls back in the bag after I finished my round in 45 minutes.
What can I say about NLVMP3? The golf was fast and curious. It was eight bucks well spent. How often does anyone leaving Las Vegas say that?