April 15, 2008–I have to be honest with you. For awhile, I wasn't the biggest fan of Las Vegas’ Desert Pines Golf Club. I'm not sure what it was, and why this Las Vegas golf course didn't give me a true warm, fuzzy. Maybe it was the back-to-back fairways that seemed just a bit too close together, or maybe it was because of my personal struggles with the putter and the Desert Pines greens were just a bit too slick and tough. Poor me. Whatever the case, over the last couple of years, my opinion has done a complete reversal, and now I welcome every opportunity I get to tee it up at this Las Vegas golf course dubbed Pinehurst in the Desert.
This “a-ha” moment recently took place while I was standing on the green of the par 3, 8th, and gazing out over the water that surrounds the hole. It was a beautiful moment, magnified by the time of day—sunset—and the views of both the 7th and 17th greens, which are also decorated by the shared water hazard. And off a bit farther in the distance were the tees and fairways of the 9th and 18th holes. Down yonder was the clubhouse, and all around were the trees that put the “Pines” in Desert Pines.
It was one of those times when you sit back and thank your lucky golf balls that you have the opportunity to play the game of golf and experience different courses and settings.
At Bali Hai you’ll play shots from under majestic palm trees and off wide, welcoming fairways before retreating to an award-winning clubhouse (the stunning par 3, 16th lurks off the restaurant patio), while at Royal Links you’ll experience what it’s like to challenge infamous major championship holes from courses such as St. Andrews, Royal Troon and Carnoustie. And each tee sign is adorned with a monument detailing a significant moment in Open Championship history.
But back to Desert Pines, an oasis in the desert designed by Perry Dye (Pete’s son), where a barren piece of land was transformed into a scenic golf course. Water comes into play on nine of the holes, and all 18 play in the shadows of the more than 4,000 pine trees that dot the land. And recently, the course owners spent more than $1 million renovating the delicate putting surfaces and these days 18 new, state-of-the-art bent grass putting greens are in play. Many top agronomists were consulted before the project was begun, and the diligence is now paying off as several positive reviews have been received.
“18 new bent grass greens that putt pure,” wrote VegasGolfer Magazine.
And Four-time Cy Young award winner and Las Vegas resident Greg Maddux is another new Desert Pines devotee. Maddux played the course as the guest of VegasGolfer Magazine and then penned an article—with some assistance from the editors—about his experience.
“It’s a lot of fun,” wrote Maddux, who is off to another solid start with the San Diego Padres in 2008. “In fact, it might be the ultimate risk/reward course around … (and) there are great finishing holes and all of the par 5’s are a lot of fun.”
The Desert Pines experience is good for individuals and foursomes, but is also a solid choice for Las Vegas groups. The clubhouse was designed and decorated under the watchful and talented eyes of Susan Walters, wife of Walters Golf president Bill Walters. Susan is responsible for the museum-like décor of all the Walters Golf clubhouses, and justifiably so.
As a company, Walters Golf offers a large event planning department that reportedly organizes more than 600 groups annually with each property having an event coordinator on staff. Walters Golf also maintains preferred partner status with many Las Vegas Strip hotels that allows for the company to help facilitate all aspects of corporate or other group outings including weddings.
Desert Pines is home to a spacious, full-service clubhouse that includes a pro shop and Duffers Restaurant, where breakfast and lunch are served daily and the Champions Room is nice for private functions.
“For groups, we are a great choice because we are close to the Strip and downtown, and this course is very group friendly,” says Brennan Blednick, Sales Director for Walters Golf, who is currently working on value-added packages for group customers. “The course is fun to play for both low and high handicappers, and the golfer that doesn’t play a whole lot won’t lose a ton of golf balls or get beat up too badly at Desert Pines. And because of that groups can get in and out in about 4.5 hours allowing plenty of time for other business or activities.”
Also located at Desert Pines is a “Tokyo-style” two-tiered practice range that is outfitted with state-of-the-art technology including automatic teeing systems, and climate controlled and shaded hitting bays. The center is lighted for night practice and features five target greens in the landing areas that are patterned after some of the country’s most famous, par 3, 17th holes. The Walters Golf Academy is also available for individual lessons or golf schools. The Academy is headed by Golf Magazine Top 100 Teaching Professional Mike Davis. The DP practice center is the only one of its kind in Vegas and has been recognized nationally for its quality.
Current Las Vegas Desert Pines golf rates start at $89 for visitors while Las Vegas residents can earn a special local appreciation rate.
Playing Desert Pines Golf Club
If you want to score well at Desert Pines and successfully maneuver the narrow and demanding fairways, you’ll have to suck up the ego and leave the driver in the bag at times. You’ll be tempted to go for that extra 30 or 40 yards on several holes, but as Maddux wrote this course is a true risk/reward adventure. If you hit one crooked, you might be playing from a fairway over, or worse, trying to punch out of the pines and needles.
Go in with a game plan and take your chances when they are available. Maybe the best holes for scoring include the par 4, 355-yard, 1st (straightaway but with a challenging green), the par 4, 322-yard, 4th (short, but protected by water and you need to throttle back the tee shot), the par 372-yard, 10th (sets up right in front of you if you hit a good tee ball), the par 5, 551-yard, 13th (longish but without water and major obstacles), and the par 4, 324-yard, 14th (the easiest hole on the course).
The fun and true challenge of Desert Pines Golf Club begins at about 50 yards and in because the greens are a challenge and have plenty of elevation changes. And strategically-placed and difficult bunkers guard the putting surfaces.
And after your round, maybe you’ll get that warm, fuzzy Desert Pines feeling.
Writer Brian Hurlburt is the Founding Editor of GolfLasVegasNow.com and former publisher of VegasGolfer Magazine.