Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 | 2 a.m.
I don’t belong here. That’s the thought running through my mind as I walk through Wynn Las Vegas toward the storied, exclusive Wynn Golf Club. I’m worried about everything regarding my impending round at the recently reopened course.
Am I dressed acceptably? Am I going to embarrass myself? Are there rules I’m going to inadvertently break?
My concerns are momentarily eased at the course’s entrance, which is less extravagant than expected. You might even miss it if you weren’t specifically looking.
The workers at the desk greet me and detail the venue’s history before I hit the course. I’m particularly struck by the legend that a tournament winner once requested his winnings in gaming chips … and lost them all later that night. How very Vegas.
This was all supposed to be a thing of the past when Wynn Golf Club shut down two years ago, with no plans to reopen. Remember, the space was supposed to become Paradise Park Lagoon. Instead, the company scrapped that project, announcing late last year that it would relaunch its golf course—after some serious remodeling.
Wynn had no choice but to update, considering convention space now sits on what used to be the 17th green. The majority of the course was re-created from scratch over 10 months; the 50,000 man-hours of total work included moving 40,000 cubic yards of earth.
The course reopened October 11 with a $550 price tag for 18 holes, $50 higher than its previous cost. It comes with some serious perks.
I’m introduced to James and A.J., two caddies who work here full time. I’m told Wynn sifted through nearly 500 applicants before settling on this bunch, some of whom are Class-A PGA Tour member caddies.
Today, A.J. will play the round with me while James helps out. They’re both pleasant, but finding out A.J. is a former professional doesn’t help my nerves.
I typically play once a month on municipal courses when my brother comes to town. I’ve never imagined having a caddie. But as we arrive at the first tee box, there’s James, handing me the driver. A.J. waves me on and the round begins.
I get off to a rough start, peppering balls all over the course … except where they’re supposed to go. I finally begin finding my groove on the sixth hole, a 323-yard par 4 that doglegs to the right. I drive it down the middle, halfway to the green. My iron shot off the fairway then settles 15 yards from the hole—setting up a possible birdie chance. I three-putt my way to a bogey. C’est la vie.
My game continues to teeter between not terrible and abjectly awful. James stops keeping score after the front nine.
My struggles can’t stop me from admiring the stunning course, however, as we wind through lush trees and what must be the greenest grass in the entire Mojave Desert.
Late in the round, I make a turn and get smacked in the eyes by the skyline: Wynn, Encore, the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Palazzo and the Mirage. This is the only course on the Strip, and it’s unlike any other golfing experience going.
The 18th hole is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, the crown jewel of the course. The par 3 sits in the shadow of the casino with resort villas on the left, pine trees to the right and a 35-foot artificial waterfall sitting behind the green.
The best thing about the hole might be the contest that comes with it. A hole-in-one sends golfers home with between $10,000 and $20,000, depending on which tee box they used. I know it’s a long shot, but like everyone else, I’ve got that devil on my shoulder, whispering, “Why not you?”
I once landed a tee shot about five yards from the hole, after all, so I’m clearly capable of acing it. I confidently grab a five-iron, set my feet at the tee and shank my shot 50 yards into the trees.
Without me asking, James flips me another ball. I comment that it’s my last shot of the day, so I’d rather finish on a good one. James chuckles and responds, “Last time someone whiffed on the first shot and said that to me, he jarred the next shot. It was Justin Timberlake.”
My second ball soon joins the first among the pines.
I eventually sink a putt, and I’m left to lament that the round has ended. James drives me under the waterfall, a final “wow” moment in an afternoon full of them.
I walk to my car contemplating the reality that I’ll likely never play a course like that again in my life. My game might have lived up to the old saying, “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” but that doesn’t matter much after a round at Wynn Golf Club in which everything—from the first tee to the last, golf cart to the locker room, the bunkers to the lakes—was absolutely immaculate.
And man, did I enjoy the walk.
If you go:
• Greens fees: $550
• Includes a caddy, full-service locker room, putting green/full-swing netted warm-up area and option of Callaway loaner clubs at no extra charge.
• Reservations available at 702-770-4653 (hotel guests can book 90 days in advance, other guests can book 30 days out).
This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.