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November 23, 2014

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Put your clubs to use year-round in Southern Nevada

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Sam Morris

This is a view from the tee of Rio Secco’s 11th hole May 20, 2014.

Views of Five Tough Vegas Holes

This is a view of the green on the par 3 The 18th hole at Bear's Best May 21, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Just like an all-you-can-eat buffet on the Strip, Las Vegas’ golf courses offer a variety of options for golfers.

We have two of the nation’s most exclusive courses in Shadow Creek Golf Course and Cascata Golf Course, both operated by casino companies that make it tough for the general public to get a tee time. We have courses designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus and architect Tom Fazio. And we have affordable courses in virtually every corner of the valley, for which Internet and short-notice specials on greens fees are available.

And, because of our favorable weather, you’ll be able to play virtually year-round.

Five moments when Las Vegas golf mattered

1. Tiger Woods gets his first win as a professional here, capturing the Las Vegas Invitational in 1996. The 20-year-old Woods carded a final-round 64 to force a playoff with Davis Love III, eventually prevailing to pocket $297,000.

2. During the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational in 1991, Chip Beck became the second golfer in PGA Tour history to record a 59. He still didn’t win the tournament.

3. The LPGA Championship was played in Las Vegas from 1961 to 1966 at the Stardust Country Club, now called Las Vegas National, on Desert Inn Road.

4. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, the first PGA event each calendar year, was established in 1953 in Las Vegas. It stayed through 1968 and was played at the Stardust Country Club and Desert Inn Country Club.

5. The UNLV golf team won the 1998 national championship. Also, Rebels Warren Schutte and Ryan Moore won individual national titles in 1991 and 2004, respectively.

Looking for a deal?

There are discount websites. Vipgolfservices.com, for example, has tee times for a variety of local courses: $59 for Badlands Golf Club, Spanish Trails Golf and Country Club and Sienna Golf Club; $69 for Revere Golf Club; $80 for TPC Las Vegas; and $175 for Dragon Ridge Country Club.

How to get children involved

• First Tee of Southern Nevada: The local nonprofit hosts junior tournaments and clinics, working with 25,000 children annually. Programs teach golf fundamentals, course behavior and life skills. The group is part of the global First Tee program, which has almost 200 chapters. Go here for details.

• The Desert Willow Junior Golf Academy: At Desert Willow Golf Course in Henderson, children ages 6 to 17 can learn everything from basic swing fundamentals to course etiquette. The program is broken into several levels based on skill. Cost is $55 monthly for four lessons. Desert Willow is one of the area’s few facilities with junior tees, which are closer to the greens than adult tees. Go here for details.

• Sticks for Kids: At the North Las Vegas Golf Course, children can rent clubs for free when they pay green fees as part of the Sticks for Kids national program. At $7, it’s a bargain. The nine-hole par-3 course also is lighted. Go here for details.

• Summerlin Golf Academy: At Angel Park Golf, Tom Carlson and Jane Schafer have been schooling local children for more than 20 years. They host three-day junior camps during the summer for all skill levels. Camp costs $250 a week for four hours daily or $135 a week for two hours daily; green fees are included. They also offer lessons year-round, beginning for 5-year-olds. For $30, children can get started golfing and receive a club as part of the fee. The academy also has a club trade-up program that allows children to upgrade their clubs as they grow. Go here for details.

TRY YOUR SKILLS AT THESE SIGNATURE LAS VEGAS HOLES

There are close to 75 courses in Southern Nevada. Each has a signature hole featuring obstacles such as water hazards or sand bunkers strategically placed to guard the green. The chances of carding a respectable score can be tough for every skill level of golfer. That’s what makes it fun.

    • Bear’s Best Las Vegas

      11111 W. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas

      The hole: No. 18. 463 yards, Par-4

      What makes it a challenge: The last hole on this Jack Nicklaus-designed course has water and sand guarding the right side of the green. It’s backdropped with palm trees and a bunker to the left, meaning there are plenty of chances to lose a shot or two at the end of a round. And, when you make it onto the green, there’s a three-tier green that presents another challenge.

      “Hitting the green is no guarantee of a two-putt,” General Manager Jim Stanfill said.

      Plan of attack: Half the battle in carding a good score on this hole is mental.

      “You have to play (the hole) as if (the hazards) don’t exist,” Stanfill said. “In your mind, not only are you worried about water, you are worried about dropping it into the sand.”

      A good tee shot is paramount.

      “No. 1, you have to set up with a good drive,” Stanfill said. “You have to be in play. You have to be precise.”

    • Rio Secco Golf Club

      2851 Grand Hills Drive, Henderson

      The hole: No. 11. 478 yards, Par-4.

      What makes it a challenge: The elevated tee box overlooks the Strip, yielding one of the best views from a golf course in the valley. But the rest of the course isn’t as relaxing. Because it’s a canyon hole, swirling winds always are a challenge.

      And the fairway is narrow, easily forcing the ball out of play.

      “If you miss the fairway, you are in rocks in the desert, and the ball can go anywhere,” head golf professional Dick Rogers said.

      Plan of attack: Rogers recommends a straight tee shot of 260 yards. The green is open in the front, allowing golfers access by rolling up.

      “But that’s the only easy part of the hole,” Rogers said.

    • Southern Highlands Golf Club

      1 Robert Trent Jones Lane, Las Vegas

      The hole: No. 17. 214 yards, Par-3

      What makes it a challenge: At more than 200 yards from the back tees, it’s a long par-3. The green is guarded by a hazard of two waterfalls on the right and a rear bunker.

      The course is home to the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, and even the top college golfers struggle to score par on No. 17. Birdies are rare.

      “It’s pure carry. You’re not going to be able to roll it up onto the green on this one,” sad Jim Delaney, Southern Highland’s director of golf.

      Plan of attack: Attack the green from the left.

      “To set yourself up for an easy up-and-down for par, aim at the landing area left of the water and short of the green,” the Southern Highlands website advises.

    • Las Vegas Paiute Golf Course

      10325 Nu-Wav Kaiv Blvd., Las Vegas

      The hole: No. 15 on Wolf Course. 182 yards, Par-3

      What makes it a challenge: Each year, about 20,000 balls are lost in the water hazard guarding the island green.

      “It has a way of bringing out the worst in people’s swing,” said Tom Fisher, the course’s PGA professional. “It tenses people up. They try too hard.”

      It resembles No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, notoriously one the toughest holes on the PGA Tour.

      “The intent is to intimidate,” Fisher said of the Paiute hole.

      Plan of attack: Golfers often are tempted to try to make a hole-in-one, which usually leads to landing in the water. The better bet is knowing which club to pick and trusting your yardage calculations.

      “Aim for the center of the green, not the pin,” Fisher said. “That’s your best bet.”

    • Royal Links Golf Club

      5995 Vegas Valley Drive, Las Vegas

      The hole: No. 4. 621 yards, Par-5

      What makes it a challenge: The sheer length, combined with frequent windy playing conditions, easily intimidates.

      “It’s a true three-shot hole,” General Manager Chuck Bombard said. “It really requires you to make three thought-provoking swings.”

      The left side of the hole features trees and out of bounds; the right side as 1 1/2 feet of rough and a sand trap guarding the green. The green isn’t forgiving because it slopes away from many directions.

      “You have to be careful all the way around,” Bombard said.

      All of the Royal Links holes resemble those from the British Open, which rotates between 11 courses in Europe. This hole was inspired by No. 8 at Royal Liverpool Golf Club at Hoylake in England.

      Plan of attack: Scoring well on this hole requires a straight tee shot of 200 to 220 yards to the fairway, Bombard said.

      “It’s a long hole,” he said. “We don’t recommend people play from (the championship) tee.”

      From the fairway, use one of your woods to get closer to the green — but not too close. You’ll need a full shot onto the green to avoid uneven lies as you enter the approach.

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