At 7,604 yards from the back tees, the Wolf course of the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (10325 Nu-Wav Kaiv Blvd., Web site) is the longest of any in the state. Despite the impressive yardage, each hole has five different tee boxes, setting up a comfort zone for golfers of all abilities.
Created by Pete Dye, the architect of some of the finest courses in the country including TPC at Sawgrass, Whistling Straits in Wisconsin and Indiana's Crooked Stick, to name a few Wolf was opened in 2001, when it was played in a Shell's Wonderful World of Golf match that included pros Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb, who shot 65 and 64, respectively.
"Pete Dye carved the course right out of the desert," says club pro Greg Wickensimer. "Every tee shot has a mountain in the background. It's extremely peaceful, with no homes on the course."
The Paiute golf complex with its three courses (Wolf, Snow Mountain and Sun Mountain) is built on an Indian reservation, without water restrictions. Most Las Vegas courses have specific amounts of water allowed for the fairways and greens because of the city's limited water supply. Paiute Golf Resort, however, can use as much as desired, which means the grounds are quite lush.
The par-3 15th enjoys a beautiful island green, with the hole playing 182 yards from the back tees and 98 from the front.
"Dye gives you many opportunities to play the holes differently," Wickensimer says. "It all depends on which way the winds are blowing."
Yes, being so close to the mountains can create breezy conditions, and club selection should be calculated on whether the winds are with or against you, especially on the par-3s.
Like most Dye courses, plenty of bunkers are strategically placed throughout, many of which are deep and require an adept touch around the green.
Wickensimer's favorite hole? How about the third. It is a 580-yard straight, uphill par-5 that is reachable in two for top players, but has a nasty pot bunker right behind the green.
Finally, Shadow Creek Golf Course (3 Shadow Creek Drive, North Las Vegas, Web site) might stand as the most memorable golf experience in all of Las Vegas, yet getting a chance to play there takes more than a phone call to make a reservation.
The 7,200-yard course, built on 320 acres 18 years ago at a cost of roughly $50 million by Vegas tycoon Steve Wynn, was originally the exclusive playground for Vegas' highest rollers. At that time, you needed a personal invitation from Wynn who owned the Mirage and many other luxury hotels to come out.
Wynn sold the course seven years ago, and it is now a property of MGM Resorts, which owns a slew of Strip hotels, including the Mirage, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and MGM Grand.
The great majority of tee times still are given out to high rollers, but the course allows the first two and last two tee times of the day to be given to more financially prudent guests staying at the MGM Resorts, who might not blink at blowing through $20,000 at the craps table.
Those tee times don't come cheap, though. The green fee is $500, which includes a limo ride from the hotel to the course. Once you arrive, it feels like you've left Las Vegas and arrived in some sort of tropical resort.
There is all sorts of wildlife scampering around, including pheasants and swans. With approximately 20,000 trees lining the course, each hole is visually separated from the next, which adds to the unique experience.
Looking for a challenge? The par-3 fifth hole necessitates a tee shot over the top of a forest in order to safely reach the green.
"Yet, the course isn't necessarily difficult to play and that's really the point," says Mark Brenneman, the course's club pro and general manager.
"People expect the clubhouse to be over-the-top Vegas, but it's very modest. The course is meant to be a quaint experience in a place known for overstatement," Brenneman says. "It's all about fostering camaraderie with your group."
And an indelible experience that may well rise above anything won or lost in the casinos.
• Gallery: Las Vegas | Note: Photos courtesy of courses they depict
This article was originally published in May 2007.