There are a lot of adult activities available in that desert playground called Las Vegas and for the golfer these activities include a wide variety of courses at prices ranging from reasonable to expensive. But for those in the “high roller” category three of the area’s high end courses are must-plays; Cascata, Wolf Creek Golf Club and Wynn Golf Club.

Each is a unique experience, each is expensive, but each also is worth it.


Cascasta-Rees Jones in the desert

Cascata is located in the foothills of the River Mountains in Boulder City, about a 30-minute drive from Vegas. The 800-acre property is 3,200 feet above sea level so immediately golfers know they will have to factor altitude into their club selection. It opened in 2000 to rave reviews and is a sister property to Rio Seco Golf Club, both of which are owned the company that owns Caesar’s Palace.

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Playing late in the day at Cascata Golf Club adds the beautiful sunset colors to the breathtaking scenery. (Photo courtesy Cascata Golf Club)

Rees Jones the course architect (known as the “Open Doctor” for his work on U.S. Open sites) upon seeing the property was immediately impressed but knew it would be a tough job to build in the rugged high desert. The construction required blasting, bulldozing and grading on a massive scale resulting in a layout that winds among the peaks so that rarely is any other hole even seen.

Each foursome has a caddie to do the usual caddie tasks who hops on the back of the cart to ride from green to tee and carts are mandatory because of the steep slopes. Most of the tees are elevated so not only is there a view of the hole to be played but of the vistas across the valley and nearby Red Mountain, all of which are memorable. Club selection at this elevation plus compensating for the wind and the usual uphill approaches to the greens is challenging but part of the fun for those not used to this kind of golf.

The interesting thing about Cascata is which ever way you turn you see something interesting. For example, to reach the golf shop and locker rooms you cross over a stream that runs through the clubhouse and why is soon apparent; a 417-foot waterfall (a cascata in Italian) at the far end of the driving range above the clubhouse tumbles down the slope.

Good advice for playing Cascata is, take your “A” game and a camera.



Wolf Creek Golf Club-Not a fantasy

The road from Las Vegas to Mesquite to play Wolf Creek Golf Club traverses some pretty bleak countryside but your reward for enduring it, golf on a spectacular course, is worth it.

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The sixth at Wolf Creek Golf Club. What’s more to be said.

Spectacular is an overworked word but certainly not too strong for Wolf Creek which has been described as a “fantasy course” and even chosen by EA Sports for the Tiger Woods PGA Tour game.

The course is at times visually intimidating but the Dennis Rider design is very playable, it just looks like there’s no place to hit your tee shot. Each hole is self contained meaning the sides of the fairway form a bowl so errant shots have some chance of staying in play rather than visiting the surrounding desert. Ball hawking in fact is not a good idea since there are some very nasty “critters with no shoulders” resident in the scrub, rocks and hard pan.

The key to posting good score is keeping the ball in play and hitting approaches below the pins since the surrounding slopes are mirrored in the putting surfaces. However all bets are off if the wind blows through across the mesas and down the canyons as it frequently does.

Since opening in 2000 the accolades showered on Wolf Creek have continued and the reason is easy to see. Take as an example the par-3 eighth hole. The 100-foot or so drop from tee to green frames the creek running down the approach and circling around the green. The usual tees played are set at 217-yards but the back set stretch to 248-yards but either requires a very long but very accurate shot.

Wolf Creek personnel when asked which is the signature hole honestly say, “all of them.”



Wynn Golf Club-Golf on the Strip

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The eighteenth at Wynn Golf Club has plenty of water to negotiate plus a waterfall behind the green. (Photo courtesy Wynn Golf Club)

When hotelier Steve Wynn razed the old Desert Inn and the fabled golf course of the same name a lot of golf people were saddened. After all, the course had been a stop on the PGA Tour for years as well as host to the Champions Tour and LPGA Tour.

But after 50 years the bulldozers came and in April of 2005 the new Wynn Golf Club opened for players. The new course designed by Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn is tucked along the Las Vegas Strip and is not like the old Desert Inn course at all though some large trees were salvaged.

The par-70 layout on just 137-acres does not have the feeling of being jammed into a space too small for golf. In fact it’s rather a relaxing experience since many of the holes feel somewhat isolated due to the rolling nature of the topography. Isolated that is except for the bordering Wynn Las Vegas and Encore towers.

Caddies are mandatory which is nice since water comes into play on 11 of the holes and it’s nice to have another set of eyes to determine “point of entry.” The caddie is also a fount of information from club selection suggestions to the fact more than 800,000 cubic yards of earth were moved by Fazio and Wynn to create the rolling character of the fairways plus build the elevated tees.

The final hole caps the Wynn experience nicely featuring a winding stream the length of the hole that runs from a 37-foot waterfall behind the green.