Luxury Links of Vegas

After you hit it big in the casinos, check out these top Las Vegas golf courses for taking your swings in the heat of the desert.

Sure, most Las Vegas vacations include gaming action—hitting the slots, trying your hand at table games, learning to shoot craps. There also are numerous Cirque du Soleil shows and other Vegas entertainment extravaganzas, the exploding celebrity-chef restaurant scene and the multitude of shopping options, from tacky T-shirts at street vendors to million-dollar jewels at Tiffany & Co., to keep one busy on a Las Vegas vacation.

Another escapist activity coming into its own these days in Vegas: golf.

In 2005, Las Vegas was named the top emerging golf destination in the world by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO). With courses designed by such greens notables as Jack Nicholas, Pete Dye, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Arnold Palmer, it’s surprising the city didn’t earn its golf status sooner.

Before hitting the greens, however, there are few things you should know:

Luxury Greens

The year Las Vegas was recognized for its golf is when the landmark 18-hole course opened right on the Strip at the Wynn Golf Club. Open to guests of the Wynn Las Vegas and designed by Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn, the 7,042-yard, par 70 course features beautifully manicured waterfalls, streams and a forest, punctuated by dramatic elevation changes. With $500 greens fees, it’s also one of the most expensive golf courses in Las Vegas.

Two other spectacular high-end courses include the Rees Jones-designed Cascata Golf Club, for guests of Harrahs six Las Vegas resorts, and Shadow Creek Golf Club, for MGM properties’ guests, designed by Fazio with features similar to the Wynn course, including 20,000 pine and cottonwood trees transplanted from North Carolina.

Slightly More Affordable Courses

For great golf also on the Strip but without having to take out a second mortgage, check out the Bali Hai Golf Club. “It offers convenience and phenomenal golf,” says golf writer Ed Schmidt, Jr. Greens fees start at $250.

Schmidt also recommends the Rio Secco Golf Club, located in nearby Henderson, Nev., about 20 minutes from the Strip and generally not as crowded as other courses. The Rees Jones-designed course offers great views of the Strip and features canyon holes, plateau holes and others that wind through wide desert washes and ancient riverbeds. For lessons, there’s the Butch Harmon School of Golf; greens fees start at $250.

The pro TPC Las Vegas has a great course layout and good facilities. It also has been recognized as “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary System (ACSS), the educational division of Audubon International. Greens fees are generally $275, but for the month of January 2009, they’re $175.

If you’re a Pete Dye fan, be sure to check out the three courses he designed at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort. Fees start at $159.

Special golf packages are available through all the resorts at Lake Las Vegas for the development’s Reflection Bay and The Falls courses. Beginning Jan. 15, 2009, individual guest rates start at $215; public rates start at $250. Twilight rates are $150 weekdays, $175 weekends.

Reasonable Rates

For a taste of Scotland, book a round of golf at the Royal Links Golf Club. The course was designed by Dye International and features holes inspired by 11 British Open rotation courses, including the “Road Hole” and “Hell Bunker” from the old course at St. Andrews and the “Postage Stamp” from Royal Troon. Greens fees start as low as $55 for late afternoon start times, depending on the day and date.

The Desert Pines Golf Club is a top-notch public course with fees ranging from $45 to $179. The 18-hole course underwent an extensive renovation in Summer 2007.

Badlands Golf Club has 27 holes co-designed by Johnny Miller and Chi Chi Rodriquez that are carved through desert canyons. Every hole can be described as a signature hole, say a few avid golfers. Fees start at $100, but can be as low as $50 for 3 p.m. twilight starts.

The Jack Nicholas-designed Bear’s Best Las Vegas course features 18 of the champ’s favorite holes, modeled after courses from around the world. GolfDigest Magazine has named it one of the best courses in Las Vegas. Special online rates start at $100.

Destinations: Las Vegas

Themes: Golf

Activities: Golf