Las Vegas Sun

September 16, 2019

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Last rounds on the Strip: Golf course made big impressions, but succumbs to economics

Wynn Golf Course

John Locher / AP

In this May 18, 2016, photo, Wynn and Encore hotel towers rise above the Wynn golf course in Las Vegas.

Pricy tee time

At $500, greens fees at the Wynn Golf Club were among the most expensive for open-to-the-public golf courses across the country. Here’s how that compares with some of the other priciest courses:

• Shadow Creek, Las Vegas: $500

• Wynn Golf Club, Las Vegas: $500

• TPC Sawgrass - PLAYERS Stadium Course, Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.: $500

• Pebble Beach Golf Links, Pebble Beach, Calif.: $499-$525

• The Greenbrier – TPC Old White Course, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.: $440

• Pinehurst – No. 2 Course, Pinehurst, N.C.: $435

• Cascata Golf Course, Boulder City: $425

• Trump National Doral Resort – Blue Monster, Doral, Fla.: $390

• Whistling Straits - Straits Course, Kohler, Wis.: $385

• The Greenbrier – The Greenbrier Course, White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.: $350

Scott Piercy began his run to the PGA Tour a decade ago with a memorable performance at the Wynn Golf Club.

Starting the final round of the winner-take-all “Ultimate Game” tournament four strokes behind leader and Wynn caddie Ken Jarner, Piercy shot a 5-under 31 on the back nine, capped with a 6-foot par putt on the par-4 18th. The Las Vegan credits the June 2007 feat not only for padding his wallet — he earned $2 million for the win — but for spring-boarding his career.

“The money I made off that gave me time to take a break from the grind of mini tours, get my body healthy and my mind right,” Piercy said. “It allowed me to move forward and do what I thought I could do best.”

From there, the Bonanza High School product went on to complete in the second-tier Nationwide Tour, qualifying for the PGA Tour two years later. He has since won three times on the PGA Tour and notched two top-5 performances in major championships.

But soon, the course where Piercy made history and others such as Tiger Woods and Donald Trump enjoyed leisurely rounds, will close. The Wynn Golf Club will cease operations Dec. 17.

“It’s sad to see it close, as far as what it meant to me and my career,” Piercy said. “It was top-notch, from its condition to its looks to its design.”

In November, an usher in a purple suit stood next to a menu displaying steak prices of $70 to $120 at the Wynn, in front of a door that led to the golf course’s restaurant.

Inside the door and off to the side, a 1,200-square-foot pro shop offered a going-out-of-business sale on many of its polo shirts and hats, in preparation for the shuttering of the Strip’s only golf course. The course will make way for Paradise Park, a $1.5 billion lagoon-themed attraction, complete with convention area and additional hotel rooms.

The Wynn Golf Club was exclusive in some regards, but left no trace of its history for the public eye to see.

There are no photos on the wall to indicate the course was a favorite for visiting celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg, or that it also hosted the likes of former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush after their days in office.

And the course — even a view of it — is closed to anyone without a tee time. From 3 to 5 p.m., an outdoor balcony opens to give restaurant customers a glimpse of the 18th green.

“It was another amenity of the hotel, just like the lavish spa they have or their upscale restaurants,” Las Vegas golf historian Brady Kannon said. “But certainly it is to cater to Strip hotel guests and specifically the Wynn guests — not any sort of local golf course or anything.”

Kannon, who runs booking website, played golf on the land that will house the future Paradise Park even before it was Wynn’s course. The Desert Inn Golf Club occupied the space from 1952 to 2001.

The Desert Inn course, described as “an oasis in the desert” by Kannon, hosted the inaugural PGA Tour Tournament of Champions event from 1953 to 1966.

It also hosted an annual Senior PGA Tour event from 1986 to 1993, two separate annual LPGA events and part of the PGA Tour’s annual five-day Las Vegas Invitational in the 1980s and 1990s.

With a rolling hills landscape, as well as trees, ponds, creeks and generations of koi fish from the D.I. course preserved in the Wynn Golf Club’s layout, the closing course honored its predecessor, Kannon said. The Wynn cut its own path with five par-3 holes and its signature waterfall past the 18th hole.

Despite the average appearance of the clubhouse and no-frills practice area, Kannon said the course was always “perfectly manicured” and service was “the best of any golf course in town.”

“You were escorted to a locker room, they shined your shoes for you, you were greeted by your caddy, you had free refreshments and light snacks for the day, and you were over-the-top pampered at that course,” Kannon said.

In interviews announcing his plans for the proposed $1.5 billion Paradise Park, resort owner Steve Wynn said the park would provide “tremendous uptick in the value of our surrounding real estate.”

Kannon said the course’s closing came down to simple economics. He said the new water park project, on one of the valley’s most valuable pieces of land, would likely provide more revenue than the greens fees.

The closing of the Wynn Golf Club follows a similar trend of shuttering courses across the Las Vegas Valley, which is part of the reason Kannon described it as “a minor miracle” that it was open 12 years.

“Eventually, it just becomes a financial thing,” he said. “But at least the course lasted as long as it did.”