Golf in the USA: Las Vegas, NV
This post is part of our Golf in the U.S.A. blog series. Golf in the U.S.A. rounds up the best public-access golf courses in music's biggest cities, so you can play some licks and swing the sticks on your next golf trip. Be sure to check out our previous installments: Austin, TX, San Francisco, CA, Long Island, NY, Jacksonville, FL.
GOLF IN LAS VEGAS, NV
Las Vegas: What Happens In Vegas Stays in Vegas (But Only if You Don’t Win)
There are dozens of cities that merit a golf trip. But there is only one that packages golf with all the rest of the perfect guys’ weekend. Casinos, nightclubs, fine dining, Penn & Teller (we’re Team Teller). Las Vegas is like a perpetual bachelor party.
You don’t need us to tell you Las Vegas has solid golf. You need us to tell you what the perfect courses for your trip is.
You might also need us to tell you what musical acts got their start in Sin City. After all, Las Vegas isn’t just a tourist town. There are a lot of hardworking people working to make your trip perfect, and some of them graduated from growing up on the outskirts of town to headlining the new Las Vegas Arena. Here’s a role call of Vegas fairways with a playlist to match.
BEST PUBLIC GOLF COURSES IN LAS VEGAS
Shadow Creek Golf Course
A quick warning on Shadow Creek: It’s technically available for public play, but there are hoops to jump through. For one, you and your pals need to stay at an MGM Resort. Then you’ll need to spend upwards of $750 in greens and caddie fees. Then you need to hope one of the club’s famous members — like Michael Jordan or Derek Jeter — don’t show up, because that usually means your tee time will be cancelled at the last minute. If you get through all that, you’ll be teeing off at one of the most dreamscape settings in golf. The work Tom Fazio did (with help from a blank check) is mind-bending. Augusta-green fairways, flowering trees, waterfalls...and especially the peacocks...none of this should be on the north side of Las Vegas. There’s visual spectacle, but then there’s the play as well. Fazio is well-known for his visuals, but Shadow Creek is also hailed for its strategic play.
There are several Las Vegas rock groups that have big sounds, and many sensory-overload golf courses as well, so it’s tough to decide who to match with which. For something as stimulating as Shadow Creek, we opted for the nuclear option...or maybe the “Radioactive” option: Imagine Dragons. Shadow Creek doesn’t make sense, and Dragons’ blend of big guitars, electronic elements, and occasional rap-rocking shouldn’t make sense either. But the band’s multi-platinum status says it works just fine.
Wynn Golf Club
Wynn Golf Club was bankrolled by the same man who funded Shadow Creek (Steve Wynn) and is theoretically the less flashy, less pricey alternative. In Vegas, that still means paying $500 for a tee time and that still means a gigantic waterfall backing the closing Par 3. The Wynn was shut down for a few years, as the owner considered creating the world’s largest wave pool, but fortunately the good guys (golf) won out. Tom Fazio came back prior to the course’s 2019 reopening to make a series of strategic amends to the only club located directly on the Las Vegas strip. Granted, as part of those high greens fees, you’re not expected to see anything that looks like the Las Vegas Strip. Except the gigantic waterfall.
The tale of Wynn Golf Club mirrors another big-production rock band out of Las Vegas: Panic! At The Disco. The pop-punk group seemed to hit its high point at the turn of the last decade before the band’s chemistry fizzled out. Frontman Brendan Urie surprised many by reinvigorating the act as a solo outlet, and ended up surpassing its previous success with two consecutive No. 1 albums. His piano performances, lifted by a crane above concert audiences, is equivalent to the Wynn’s bombastic closing waterfall.
Cascata Golf Club
One more big-money option for your buddies, and then we’ll give your wallets a little room to breathe (just a little). In the arms race that is waterfalls at Las Vegas golf courses, Cascata (which literally translates to “waterfall”) might take the cake. A 400-plus-foot flow comes down the mountain at the back of the driving range, forming a creek and flowing across the course and, in true Las Vegas fashion, through the clubhouse. Rees Jones has a reputation for creating “heroic” resort courses, and Cascata may be the most elaborate of all. Some golfers might call it the same thing as the famous mountain bike trail that neighbors the course: “The Sh*t.”
Cascata, for all of its glitz, is by far the most natural course among the big-ticket Las Vegas publics (in appearance, at least...those waterfalls aren’t natural). That calls for a big-ticket rock band that plays it a little closer to the vest. In this case, we’re looking at The Killers, the band that everyone knows for “Mr. Brightside,” but that has also crafted a series of arena-ready anthems like “When You Were Young” and “Somebody Told Me.” Is it Bruce Springsteen roots rock? No. But this is Las Vegas. You’re here for bright lights and big waterfalls.
Paiute Golf Resort
A majority of the courses in Vegas are affiliated with a casino or a resort of some kind. But if you want a purely-golf resort, Paiute is the place to be. Rather than spread the wealth around to a range of architects, the 54-hole complex put all its chips on Pete Dye. The late-career collection from one of golf’s preeminent architects gathers many of his signature features, and those who book a time at “The Wolf” will get to experience the island green, as well as a collection of railroad-tie bunkers. Surprisingly, despite its Vegas location, Paiute doesn’t quite reach the price point of many Dye designs.
Dye isn’t the only legendary artist to come to Vegas later in his career. Although Celine Dion tops the charts for residency earnings, no one can touch Elton John among rockers who have booked long-standing gigs in Nevada. Two of his residencies are among the highest-earning of all time for Vegas, including “The Million Dollar Piano,” which ended up being a $131.2 million dollar piano for the Rocket Man.
Rio Secco Golf Course
If Rees Jones’s design at Cascata doesn’t work out for your trip, there are more affordable options from the architect in Vegas, and they also come with Italian translations. The difference is that Cascata needed to construct the waterfalls to fit its title, while Rio Secco (“dry river”) literally describes the property’s signature feature. The showcase holes at this course run through a canyon where a river ran during historic, rainier times. Although the course is great, many stop into Rio Secco to consult with one of the high priests of golf instruction, Butch Harmon, who hosts his School of Golf at the site. Want to take your game to Tiger level? Sorry about your luck, but a session with Butch will still make for a good story, even if it doesn’t result in eight Major wins.
Studying under Butch Harmon is a quasi-religious experience, but you can have a literally religious experience in Vegas with a musical legend...assuming you’re a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Seven-time Grammy winner Gladys Knight is famously from Atlanta, but she moved to Las Vegas and is an active participant in the music program for the local Latter Day community. So active, in fact, that the last of those seven Grammys was Best Gospel Choir or Chorus Album for Saints Unified Voices, the gospel choir she directs through the church.
Bear’s Best Las Vegas
Rock bands aren’t the only ones who put out “greatest hits” collections. When you’ve had as extensive a design career as Jack Nicklaus, owners are happy to host your aggregated best. Nicklaus has several greatest hits collections, and Las Vegas is one of its happy hosts. Jack doesn’t just shape the holes to vaguely resemble his choice of replicas; he goes as far as placing black sand, the same color as his Montana Old Works course, when replicating a hole from that course. He also brings in the namesake “pines” when mimicking his acclaimed Castle Pines layout. Can’t get around to all 18 Jack Nicklaus courses featured here? Hit up Bear’s Best and sample them.
Similarly, music fans with tastes as deep as Fury Golf readers struggle to go to concerts for all their favorite acts. That’s where music festivals come in handy, bringing a wide range of acts together for a few killer days of music. The electronic, pop, and country scenes are well-represented in Las Vegas, and rock and metal are equally set with Psycho Las Vegas. The name of the event is justified in 2021 by acts like Danzig (a personal favorite of our founder, Ted), Emperor, and Mercyful Fate, but more mellow acts like Flaming Lips and Blue Öyster Cult will also appear.
Boulder Creek Golf Club
Your wallet need a breather? We hope it’s because you’ve been playing some high-end golf, and not because you played the wrong slot machine. No worries: There are quality munis to be had, even in Vegas. The best can be found on your way out to Cascata, in the town of Boulder City. The town’s “Desert Hawk” and “Coyote Run” nines can be combined for an 18 that peaks past 7,600 yards. Mark Rathert provides a strategically-minded round on par with the bigger names at the aforementioned courses.
Like at Boulder Creek, Las Vegas also turns out indie-minded performers who aren’t the arena-fillers we’ve listed thus far. Jenny Lewis, known both for her solo output as well as being frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, is at the fore for Vegas’s alternatively-minded rockers.
Royal Links Golf Club
There are few things farther from traditional links golf than the desert landscape of Las Vegas. But, being Las Vegas, the Royal Links Golf Club did its best to bring the charm of the old world to the new. That means replica holes from 11 Open rota courses, accompanied by marches across faux Swilcan bridges. Look, you’re not going to impress your golf history buddy unless you actually go to St. Andrews, so just embrace what’s on tap here: a replica Road Hole, a castle-themed clubhouse with “Scottish” pub to match, and — perhaps most interestingly for your guys’ weekend — a caddie program that puts more emphasis on beauty than ability to read putts.
Royal Links operates in the same tradition as Las Vegas’s most famous musician. After all, our parents — er, we mean your parents — didn’t go to Vegas to get married by the real Elvis Presley. They didn’t do it for the authenticity of the experience. They did it to have fun.
Hungry for more? Check out this extended list of Vegas courses from our friends at The Breakfast Ball; we even discussed a few of these courses on an episode of their Chasing Daylight podcast.
So what’d you think of our sin city list? Did we miss any of the best Las Vegas golf courses or bands? How about an opinion on what city we should travel to next for Golf in the U.S.A.? Let us know in the comments!
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