Monday, August 18, 2008

Reviewing a Golf Course - Wolf Creek Golf Course, Mesquite, Nevada

I play a lot of golf. I also have a golf blog (welcome!), so I figured it would be beneficial to both you and I to begin reviewing golf courses. We'll talk about the course, the conditions, the price, the beverage cart and if it's worth the visit. If you've played, leave some comments. Here we are, golf course reviewing.

The website of Wolf Creek Golf Course has a simple message attached to it -- "Think you're up to it?" After two solid days of Vegas, it was extremely questionable when myself and a best buddy of mine made the 90 minute trip from the strip up Interstate-15 to what looks like a golf course on Mars. (I feel that I need to preface my review of Wolf Creek. For some extremely unimaginable reason, it rained two inches in an hour the day before we hit our tee shots on the Wolf, and being erected through walls of dirt and mud, a downfall like that will lead to some extreme runoff. The course was struggling because of the conditions, but I will keep that in mind during the entire review. Also, the greens were really slow because I'm not sure they could have mowed them.)

When you're out two nights in a row at places like Bellagio, Wynn, Mandalay Bay, and Luxor, it's hard to step to the first tee with complete peace of mind. (Honestly, with the way I was feeling, it might have been hard to successful drink from a bottle of water with any confidence at all.) Nonetheless, when first arriving at Wolf Creek you notice a few things. Nobody was out to greet us when we unloaded our bags and we were the ones that put them on the cart. However, Once entering the clubhouse the crew was polite and helpful. We learned that Wolf Creek is almost always in the top-100 of course to play by Golf Digest and others (No. 25 last year). The pro shop attendee also let us know that a group from Pebble Beach and Spyglass came and said they enjoyed Wolf Creek as much, if not more, than those two gems. "Umm, ok cool, lets get this thing going."

The driving range is pitiful. An irons only slab of grass that might be able to contain a shot 210 yards or more. From there we hit some putts and were off.

Now, here is what I'll tell you about Wolf Creek. A slope rating of 154 from the tips (only 6,939), the nickname "Challenger" graces the back tees for more than just the difficulty (ranked 31 by Golf Digest in '07 as Toughest Courses to Play). Just finding some of the back tees makes for a challenging day in and of itself. The first hole, a par-5 that should make for a confidence building par, has back tees that are so far from the cart path you might want to carry two balls and a fruit bar just for the hike. The second hole has the back tees so far up a mountain that overweight golfers literally couldn't play it.

The course is in one of those unique "the bite is worse than the bark" lists because of the par-3s. Sure, it's pretty impossible to get around the front nine without having to buy golf balls at the snack shack (they literally sell sleeves after the fifth and 14th holes), but it's the par-3s that make the hangover really come on strong. The first is the third hole, a 227-yard par-3 straight up a hill that makes the yardage a true 240+. If you miss the green, you better just stay in the cart, because the designer of this course hate bailouts.

One of my knocks with Wolf Creek comes on the 7th and 8th holes. Sure, the course is tough and you know that before starting, but here it is downright goofy. The 7th is a 302-yard par-4 where you hit a shot around 200 yards and then have a wedge into an elevated green. Simple if you can find the fairway, the 7th is one of the only places on the front you might catch a birdie. The 8th is a 248-yard par-3 to an island green that you can barely even see. Stealing money from a casino and walking out pummeled-free might be easier than making a par here. The reason I'm not a fan of this is because realistically it's easier to make a 3 on the par-4 than the par-3.

The back nine lightens up a little, with some maneuverable holes and some solid views. Number 12 is one of the more fun par-5s you'll ever play, keeping the drive just right of the lake and trying to find a skinny, but lengthy (55 yards) green with a few tiers. Miss the green a yard right and you better be looking for a drop area. The 17th hole is also a great par-5, where you can get to in two with a solid drive, but you're risking a water ball to the peninsula green. I'm not exactly sure what the designers were doing with the 18th, a 307-yard par-4 that is just pretty blah, but I guess the aesthetic waterfall to the left of the fairway makes up for it.

The golf course is a solid track that is very challenging but relatively fair (besides 7 and 8). You're never going to park your rental car at Wolf Creek with a low number in mind, but it's interesting to test your game against a beast like this one.

The yardage book they give out for free is helpful but a little behind the times. A few more yardages to the cut off zones (especially on the second hole) would be helpful in envisioning a shot shape off some tees. Also, the snack shack is awesome (it even has a drive-thru!) but we didn't see a cart girl all day and played on a Sunday. Also, for a place that tips 110 during summer days, it was ironic that the obligatory mid-round hot dog was warm at best.

All in all, if you don't mind the 90 minute drive from Vegas, it's a great course to try and a nice break from the mayhem of the strip. I would recommend the course to anyone that asked and would love to tee it up there again when the conditions were a little more favorable. If you're looking for a course to truly test your game and can't get on Oakmont or Augusta, trying out Wolf Creek isn't a bad plan.


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