There are close to 60 golf courses in the Las Vegas area, which extends from the wild and windswept Wolf Creek in Mesquite, Nevada, way up near the Arizona border to the pristine Primm Valley on the California State line.
Las Vegas trips typically revolve around gambling, food (and drink), shows, hotels and the never-ending nightlife. But golf is also a major pastime, whether it’s for buddies trips, bachelor parties, conferences, corporate events or simply to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s legendary Strip.
I recently made a pilgrimage to Las Vegas, living it up in the heart of the city and venturing to three of the area’s top golf clubs that were all well off and a world removed from the Strip. What I found was the ultimate contrast, going from the glitz and hubbub of Vegas’s main drag to the solitude, serenity and beauty (both man-made and natural) of these golfing oases in the desert.
The green at the par-4 first hole at Cascata, where water runs down the entire left side, one of the many glasses of water features 4a stunning layout. Set in the foothills of the River Mountain Range about a half-hour southwest of the Las Vegas Strip in Boulder City, Nevada, Cascata is a lavish design that sits about 3,200 feet above the desert valley.
The course derives its name from the Italian word for waterfall (or cascading water) and visitors will quickly see why provided they’ve paid the fee that can top $500. There’s a 417-foot foot waterfall at the back of the practice facility that works its way down the hills before flowing directly through the 37,000 square foot Tuscan-themed clubhouse.
On your way to the pro shop and locker room, you’ll actually walk over a bridge that crosses the river in the clubhouse. The course itself is even more impressive, with designer Rees Jones describing it on his website as “The 8th Wonder of the golfing world.” At first glance, it’s a pretty barren and seemingly inhospitable spot for golf, but Cascata is truly an oasis of green amid stark beauty.
Recirculated streams and water features run through the immaculate 400-acre course, which cost about $70 million to build and offers stunning vistas at almost every turn. During the design process, Jones used helicopters to “find” many of the holes, incorporating dry stream beds and natural rock outcroppings that seem very much like dunes.
With deep canyon walls framing many of the holes, there’s a silence at Cascata that’s almost eerie after the constant clamor in the city. Roadrunners, quail, and bighorn sheep are plentiful and the holes are wonderfully framed by palm trees, poplar trees, yucca, Joshua trees and an extensive array of shrubs and wildflowers.
A 50-mile view greets those on the third hole at Cascata. It’s a pricey round, but one that provides a memorable escape and is popular among Vegas high-rollers looking to play somewhere special. On the tee of the downhill par-5 third hole, you can see for 50 miles. It’s an impressive tee shot and one that gets a bit more fearsome when the wind picks up.
A short time later, you’ll come to one of the most scenic holes on a course full of them, the par-3 7th with its green tucked into a canyon and backed by a mountain. The par-5 18th is a double dogleg with water that cuts across the fairway and runs into a pond fronting the green.
It’s a stunningly impressive risk-reward hole, one where a significant amount of money has undoubtedly changed hands. The course is so high end, it offers PXG clubs among its rental options. I tested a set during my round and absolutely loved them.