Paiute Golf Resort – Wolf Course in Las Vegas, NV
Tee Time: October 27, 1:57, 75 F, Calm
Designer: Pete Dye, 2001
Playing Partners: Mike Harvey, Brendan Noonan, CJ Phelan, Greg Ryan, Pat Spomer
Tees: Yellow, Par 72 (70.7 rating/126 slope/6,483 yards)
Course Handicap: 13 (11.7 index)
Stats: 88 (44-44); 37 putts; 8/14 fairways; 8/18 greens; 0 penalty strokes
A thirty minute drive north from the glitz and glamour, the neon lights and ringing slot machines, and the fishnet stockings and sleeve tattoos of Las Vegas places you at Paiute Golf Resort. Close enough to be a stop on any Vegas trip and a welcome change from the atmosphere of the Strip. After pulling up to the bag drop (where some may be later than others if they got caught speeding…), just stand up and take a deep breath of fresh air to let your lungs filter out all the Marlboros you inhaled walking out of the casino. Wander around the massive pro shop and enjoy the sheer luxury Paiute has to offer. From then on it’s all business. Get the clubs on the cart and head off to whichever range is closest (they have 2). I suggest dialing in the short irons before getting a feel for the speed of the greens, because those are the areas that will be taxed most.
To give you an idea how fast these greens are, I 4-putted the very first hole for double bogey… from 20 feet. I’m not the greatest putter in the world, but still, the only time I’ve seen anything quicker is from the safety of my own home while watching the US Open. Anyways, the first hole is a great starting hole. Sand traps dotting the left landing area can be carried with a well-hit tee shot, but the right side is the way to go. The contours of the fairway will most likely kick your ball back along the edge of the short grass for a short shot in. The second hole presents the first of a few tee shots where driver can be launched at the green, with a hard roll downhill to a nice short pitch in, or a long iron safely in the fairway. There are a few shots like this throughout the course, which makes it a lot more interesting instead of just pumping drivers off the tee all day. The par-5 3rd follows, a gentle uphill trek to a narrow green 524 yards away, framed by two deep bunkers in the front left. A simple par 3 is next, with trouble far enough from the green where it shouldn’t be an issue. I really like #5, another one of those risk-reward holes. Take a fairway wood safely to the left and leave a short iron over that nasty bunker in front, or try to clear the four sand pits down the right side and let your wedge do the work. The 6th introduces the first of a couple holes with a long gravel gash through the fairway. The par-3 8th is a nasty hole for those who miss. A steep cliff directly to the right of the green puts any tee shots hit that direction now 30 feet below and a long climb back up.
The backside of Paiute’s Wolf course is much more varied than the front. Though we only made it through hole #15 before losing all sunlight, so sadly those finishing holes may go unreviewed. The par 5’s on this side are much easier. #10 has little trouble throughout its 490 yards and #13 is much the same at 487 yards. #11 is another of those holes where an accurate tee shot with any club is much more important than the distance. The 438-yard par-4 14th plays a sharp dogleg right while daring you to bite off as much as possible off the tee without ending up short in the gravel pit. But the highlight of the back 9, and the whole course really, are the two par 3’s. The 167-yard 12th plays to a large green, but scary spots surround the putting surface. The lake shouldn’t come into play (hopefully), but the long bunker in front will as well as the dangerous sand trap to the back left that would leave a delicate shot at the water. Also, the large mounds of rough around the green mean no two chips will ever be the same. The island green at #15 is huge but with the two tiers, the landing area is effectively cut in half. Missing the green is a 95% guarantee to be in water so while aiming for the center might result in a three-putt bogey, still better than a double or worse from getting a shot wet.
Then there were our last 3 holes. I learned from this weekend that Vegas golf is not conducive to a fun pace of play. Five hour rounds are the norm, and if I’d known that going in I would not have done a twilight rate, even with a little over 4 hours of good daylight left. But once the sun dipped behind the mountains to the west, the temperatures dropped 15 degrees and we were golfing blind. The last three holes: tee shot, drive until you spot a ball or two in the fairway, second shot, listen for the green or rough, run up and chip/putt, anything inside of 8 feet is good, run off to the next hole. All done in 20 minutes for the last 3 holes, though I’m not sure we followed the USGA Rules of Golf too closely there. Still, that we got 7 players to finish 18 holes like that without even thinking of giving up was impressive. Plus without that rapidly setting sun, I never would’ve gotten this sweet shot of Brendan teeing off at #12:
#8, Par 3, 165 yards, 13-handicap, My Score: 5
I just liked how interesting this hole is. The narrow green running diagonally from front left to back right. The three consecutive bunkers in front. The large mound on the left that could kick mishits onto the green anyway. And then the black diamond grade drop to the gravel pit on the right. When CJ hit his down there, I feared he would never be seen again. And then somehow he hit a spectacular wedge to a couple feet and saved a par, the best scramble par anyone had all weekend, hands down. Also the view from the tee is the best on the entire course of the desert landscape surrounding the resort that seems to run for miles and miles into the hills. It looks a lot like the final scene in Quantum of Solace when James Bond drops the villain in the middle of nowhere to die a slow death with only a pint of motor oil to quench his thirst. Bad way to go.
Amenities: A; a massive pro shop, classy restaurant, abundance of support staff, 2 driving ranges, GPS and everything else you’d expect in a classy resort in Vegas.
Difficulty: B+; while generous landing spots off the tee are nice, the trouble around the greens puts a premium on accuracy with the plateaus, sand traps and rough, not to mention the lightning quick putts.
Scenery: B+; the course itself is one of the prettiest around, with lush green grass and local plant life in abundance. Also the feeling that you are the only civilization for miles in this barren desert between the mountains adds somewhat to the experience, and in certain spots you can make out the Strip 20 miles away.
Value: B+; $89 twilight rate is pretty good, but then again we only got 15 holes of visible daylight, but morning times are $139 and that still feels worth it to me.
Overall: 3.6 (B+); I honestly believe this is the must-play course of Las Vegas. The sheer quality of the course itself is astonishing and you can tell everyone on staff takes pride in making this golf resort a jewel in the desert. If you somehow go blow all your cash at the blackjack tables (does anybody win at that game?), at least save enough in an emergency fund for greens fees here. I really want to come back and play the other two courses at Paiute, Snow Mountain and Sun Mountain.