Recently, some friends and I headed out to the desert to celebrate birthdays. I’ve played a lot of golf with friend “A” and we got into town early for 36 holes, before the others arrived. My friend and I wanted to stay on the east side of the Las Vegas Valley and started the trip out at Desert Pines Golf Club, a budget selection. Tee times here range from $70 to $90 this time of year and I found an early morning tee time for $55. Considering all the overpriced golf in Vegas, I didn’t think that was a bad deal!
Desert Pines is northeast of The Strip, a few minutes from the I-15/I-515 interchange and smack dab in the middle of town. The course’s location is one of the things that I’ll remember the most about Desert Pines. But, in an odd sort of way!
After exiting the interstate we went maybe two miles before getting to the course, which occupies a large, squarish block of land in a rougher looking part of town. The course is surrounded by retaining walls and a gated parking lot, which requires that the staff open and close the gate each day. What was really funny to me is that billboards line a road which borders the course. And, you practically tee off from under a billboard on the 13th hole!
By now, I’m sure you are wondering exactly how the designer could fit a course onto the small property! And, the answer to that is, well they tried. The course is a Dye Designs course, and I think Perry Dye technically gets the design credit. I’m not trying to knock his routing skills, but I think the property was more suitable to residential or commercial development than for golf. You get a couple quick peeks at the top of the Las Vegas skyline and Mt. Charleston, but that is about it for scenery.
Unfortunately, the course had a cramped feeling, because of the size of the property. The 1st and 10th holes parallel each other away from the clubhouse and there were some distractions from the staging area when teeing off on those holes. There is also a trio of greens around some water (the 7th, 8th, and 17th greens) that looked neat, but they are all very close together. I’m sure you’d be able to hear golf balls splashing all day long if you put on your hard hat and sat in that area!
From the tips (where we played), Desert Pines was short. The course is a par 71 with three par 5’s and four par 3’s. From the back tees it still packs a punch with a rating of 71.1 and a slope of 137. I think the biggest difficulty are going to be uneven lies and small, continuously sloping greens.
Prior to the round, I read that Desert Pines could play up to around 6,800 yards. So, I was a little puzzled when the scorecard showed that the course maxes out at 6,222 yards! I don’t know the decision behind shortening the course, maybe to speed up play or allow for greater safety would be my guess. If shortening the course was for the pace of play, it worked! Even after a frost delay we got around in less than four hours, which is good by Vegas standards.
My favorite stretch of holes was the 7th through the 9th. The 7th is a reachable par 5, with a narrow green tucked between a water hazard and some bunkers. The 8th is a mid-length par 3, framed by pine trees which surround the tee and gave it a nice look. The 9th is a brash, 447 yard par 4 that runs parallel to the long, par 4 18th. Water separates those two holes, in typical Dye family fashion! Visually, the 12th was another impressive looking hole with railroad ties lining deep bunkers.
Another design feature at Desert Pines is all the mounding, likely to help separate the holes. Mounding separates the majority of the holes, with water features and crushed, rock-like waste areas separating the remaining holes. It was busy by the time we got going because of the frost delay, and you have to be on the lookout for incoming golf shots to your fairway. Likewise, yelling fore is a good idea if your shot is headed over the mounds.
The conditions at Desert Pines were fair. I would have been disappointed paying more than we did, but for around $50 they were playable. The tees were overseeded while the fairways were painted, so the course had a slightly paler look than if everything was overseeded. I had a bunch of thin lies in the fairways and there were some bare spots that I didn’t see marked as ground under repair. The greens were smooth and just kept trickling! I’d say the sand in the bunkers was better than most desert sand.
The most unique characteristic about Desert Pines is it’s twist on traditional desert golf, and because of that it is probably worth a play. The course’s claim to fame is that it is modeled after golf in the Carolinas. Well, I live just hours from the Carolinas and saying that Desert Pines has a Carolina feel is a stretch of the imagination if you ask me! It is a great looking golf course in the desert with all the pine trees, water features and domestic vegetation but that is as far as I would go. If you enjoy Dye family designs and are looking to stay close to town, then I think Desert Pines is worth a look.
Below are pictures from my round.
#1 (323 yard par 4):
#2 (172 yard par 3):
#3 (479 yard par 5):
#4 (305 yard par 4):
#5 (405 yard par 4):
#6 (394 yard par 4):
#7 (478 yard par 5):
#8 (170 yard par 3):
#9 (447 yard par 4):
#10 (337 yard par 4):
#11 (149 yard par 3):
#12 (382 yard par 4):
#13 (526 yard par 5):
#14 (296 yard par 4):
#15 (317 yard par 4):
#16 (189 yard par 3):
#17 (406 yard par 4):
#18 (447 yard par 4):