Top 10 Golf Courses in and Around Las Vegas
Get ready to tee off at these must-play golf courses.
In the world’s gaming capital, even one of the most impressive and diverse golfing lineups in America — nearly 50 courses strong — can’t seem to push it into bona fide, top-tier “golf destination” territory. It’s just another amenity jostling for attention among the bright lights, high-rise hotels, I-was-there attractions and myriad entertainment options. Finding four or five hours to burn under sunny Mojave desert skies should be a no-brainer, but it’s never that simple. So many manmade distractions, so little time.
But golfing travelers should make the time. Because in terms of memorability, fun and world-class service, Las Vegas golf rocks. It also soars toward red sandstone cliffs, hovers above broad valleys, negotiates plenty of water features and, believe it or not, kisses the Strip itself in a couple spots. In fact, what happens on Las Vegas golf courses … makes you want to come back for more.
Southern Nevada sports a Big Three of high-rolling casino-owned golf courses, but Cascata is far and away the sure thing. Carved from the rugged landscape between Henderson and Boulder City, Rees Jones’ masterpiece has desert views for days — and some of the best sunsets you’ll find anywhere — but the course is so much more. A river that runs through the architecturally perfect clubhouse might be the feature everyone remembers, but the design also etches itself into golfers’ minds and the imaginative greens are nasty fun. A day at Cascata with golf and forecaddies will still set you back around three bills, maybe more. But we consider that a value for a course like this. 1 Cascata Drive, Boulder City, NV 89005 (702) 294-2005 cascatagolf.com
Built by Steve Wynn for his wealthy Mirage clients back when that volcano-spewing hotel-casino was the “next big thing” in Las Vegas, Shadow Creek is the original “amenity course” — a golfing wonderland rendered from virtually nothing but flat desert wasteland north of town. It’s a testament to epic golf designer Tom Fazio that the golf course feels like it’s been here forever, an alpine-dotted oasis where few would expect to find fairways and greens. Wynn has since moved on to his newest self-monikered project along the Strip (with another Fazio golf course that is impressive in its own right), and now Shadow Creek lives under the MGM Resorts International brand — and the reins on who can play have been loosened considerably (although you’ll still need to stay at an MGM property to qualify for a tee time). Last we heard, tee times were in the $300-$500 range, so a day at Shadow Creek is more bucket list than anything — but it is probably without a doubt the most-desired notch every golfer wants on his headboard. NBA legend Michael Jordan brings his celebrity friends to Shadow Creek every April to raise money for charity — and we suggest you be like Mike, at least once. 3 Shadow Creek Drive, North Las Vegas, NV 89031 (702) 399-7111 shadowcreek.com
If you are looking for true waterfront golf then head to Lake Las Vegas which features two incredible golf courses built by the great Jack Nicklaus. Reflection Bay, which made a welcome return in November 2014 after closing during the recession, was the first public resort golf course in Nevada personally designed by Nicklaus and is definitely worth a visit. But Nicklaus’ original design at SouthShore was pure Las Vegas lore from the beginning — the most private of private clubs, where the biggest names played and invites were near-impossible unless you “knew a guy who knew a guy.” These days, you might run into LPGA sensation Natalie Gulbis working on her game or any number of celebrities (we hear Vice President Joe Biden requests a tee time when he’s in town). And although it’s still very much a private club, Las Vegas visitors can book tee times through packages at the Westin Lake Las Vegas resort across the water. SouthShore is a must for any golfing traveler who wants to live the private life for a day. 100 Strada Di Circolo Henderson, NV 89011 (702) 856-8432 pacificlinks.com
WOLF CREEK & COYOTE SPRINGS
If you’re up for a golfing day trip, two very different courses in different directions north of Las Vegas are worth the drive. A couple hours northeast up Interstate 15 in Mesquite is the otherworldly Wolf Creek, which gained fame with Golf Digest’s “America’s Best New Course” designation in 2002 and as part of the Tiger Woods EA Sports video game in 2009. The drama and target golf can be overwhelming for some, but the detractors are far outnumbered by those who embrace the wow factor. “When people see Wolf Creek in pictures, it looks like a completely different planet,” says Brian Oar, owner of Mesquite Golf Packages, which receives more inquiries for the course than any other in the Mesquite-St. George area. “The terrain is so unique for golf, it’s hard to believe they could build a course there. It’s simply spectacular and leaves people speechless.” Wolf Creek: 403 Paradise Parkway. Mesquite, NV 89027 (866) 252-4653 golfwolfcreek.com
Halfway up I-15 to Mesquite, if you veer north onto Highway 93 instead, you’ll find Coyote Springs, perhaps Jack Nicklaus’ finest course — hole for hole — anywhere in the country (although it lacks the waterfront visuals of SouthShore). Built as the cornerstone of a planned megacommunity in the desert, the surrounding area has never lived up to the promise, but the golf course remains in perfect condition — and about as remote of a high-end golf experience as you can find, even in the outer reaches of Nevada. Rates for Coyote Springs top out around $150, and Wolf Creek can run as high as $195, but both can be played for much less depending on the time of day and year. 3100 Nevada 168, Coyote Springs, NV 89037 (702) 422-1400 coyotesprings.com
Royal Links is not Scotland. In fact, it’s not even “true” links golf. But it doesn’t have to be. Nor does it necessarily try to be. What Royal Links has achieved is a bit of the “soul” of Scotland — a nod to the old-world game and traditions of the birthplace of golf with a decidedly Las Vegas-infused flair. If you’re looking to compare it to St. Andrews, Carnoustie and other immortal links courses, you’ll surely be disappointed. But if you approach Royal Links as a fun Las Vegas golf experience unlike any other, complete with some of the best pot bunkers in the western United States, you’ll want to come back again and again, maybe even eat fish-and-chips in the castle-style clubhouse and take pictures on the faux Swilcan Bridge heading to the first tee. On the course, you’ll find every hole an interesting challenge — and an architectural wonder — especially those you’ve “seen on TV” such as replicas of the famed Postage Stamp or the Road Hole complete with stone wall and Open Championship-style scoreboard. And when it plays firm and fast, you can almost envision the links of another place and another time. 5995 Vegas Valley Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89142 (702) 450-8181 royallinksgolfclub.com
Brian Curley and Lee Schmidt aren’t exactly names anybody knows outside of the golf industry, but what they created at Bali Hai is nothing short of amazing. First of all, Bali Hai is long — very long — with 4-pars that will test your skills with irons and hybrids. It’s a big hitter’s paradise among palm trees, water features, 100,000 tropical plants and everything you’d need to create an Indonesian theme at the end of a Strip where new dreams are being constructed every day. But more amazing is how seamlessly Schmidt-Curley wedged a world-class golf course between traffic-packed Interstate 15, frequent-flying McCarran International Airport and historic Las Vegas Boulevard. There’s something to be said for using the Mandalay Bay tower as a tee-shot aiming point and reading highway billboards as you traverse the fairways. But Strip golf isn’t cheap — it can run you in the $250-plus range (and Royal Links in the $150-plus range), but both courses owned by Walters Golf offer a variety of stay-and-play packages through their web site. And if you’re really looking for the full “Las Vegas experience,” both Bali Hai and Royal Links also offer ParMates caddies, who will tend to your every golfing need. 5160 South Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, NV 89119 (702) 450-8191 balihaigolfclub.com
The urban legend that Tom Fazio was required to build these two 18-hole courses on the California side of the border because of a non-compete agreement with Steve Wynn and Shadow Creek is just that — a myth. Fact is, it made the most sense to utilize the open desert terrain just south of the stateline stopping post of Primm, Nevada, to carve Fazio’s aptly named Lakes and Desert courses. Some think of the Lakes as the poor-man’s Shadow, but Primm deserves its own identity and accolades — including a slew of Golf Digest honors since opening in 1997 — for the one-two punch of an oasis Fazio created along the much-traveled road to Las Vegas, which you pretty much will never know is beyond the boundaries once you tee off on either course. It’ll take you a little less than an hour to get there from the Strip, but it’s a perfect spot to add an extra day to your drive-in or drive-out plans. And with rates topping out in the mid-$100s range, Primm Valley could well be one of the best values in all of Southern Nevada. 1 Yates Well Road, Nipton, CA 92364 (702) 679-5509 primmvalleygolf.com
Any true golf destination of Vegas’ size and scope should have a Pete Dye product in its arsenal, and Paiute Resort has that covered three difference ways. In Texas Hold ’Em terms it’s a “trips on the flop” of 45-hole, high-desert design genius, a sure winner for any player looking to combine excitement, challenge and natural beauty. Both the Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain courses get the most rounds, especially by groups and tournaments, because they’re relatively wide-open, laced with cool water hazards and equally handsome in the way Dye brings both his manmade fun and the saguaro-studded natural environment into balance. Then there’s Wolf, which bares its trick-the-eye-and-test-the-spirit teeth from the very first tee shot and gets tougher from there, especially if the desert winds kick up and all that Dye mounding rises to Himalaya height in the mind’s eye. It’s the state’s longest public course at more than 7,600 yards, but its four 3-pars are particularly memorable, especially the cliffhanging No. 8 and island green No. 15. The tribe behind Paiute’s development still have plans for a full-fledged lodging complement, but in the meantime, this outpost is a solid mini-destination all its own. Rates generally run from $59-$149 depending on course and time of year, but check out Paiute’s Golfapalooza packages for even better, all-inclusive specials. 10325 Nu-Wav Kaiv Blvd. Las Vegas, NV 89124 (800) 711-2833 lvpaiutegolf.com
There’s a reason why this facility of 36 holes plus lots of other cool stuff near the Summerlin area of town is a perennial Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper “Best of Las Vegas” award-winner. First, it’s relatively inexpensive — especially by Southern Nevada standards — with a peak rate of $155 and lots of tee times year-round for under a hundred bucks. The two 18-hole courses, Palm and Mountain, bear the name of golf legend Arnold Palmer as designer. Both tend to be shorter, friendlier target golf — the kind of courses where solid play results in low scores, making for happy swing thoughts among vacationing golfers and locals alike. Plus, Angel Park also boasts a natural-grass putting course with all sorts of twists and turns to test your stroke (it’s very possible you’ll putt at least one ball into a bunker — or even the water). And, perhaps most uniquely, Angel Park features one of the only two places you can actually play golf after dark in Las Vegas (the other being the TaylorMade Golf Experience — formerly the Callaway Golf Center — on the south end the Las Vegas Strip). Angel Park’s lighted Cloud Nine par-3 short course is perfect for those spring and summer desert evenings when the temperature is tempting and the clubs are calling your name, even if the roulette dealer isn’t calling your number. 100 South Rampart Boulevard, Las Vegas, NV 89145 (702) 254-4653 angelpark.com
Do you have a favorite golf course in the Las Vegas area? Join the discussion and let us know by leaving a comment.