Mesquite, Nevada. Vegas Like It Used To Be

Written by Andrew Penner

Written by Andrew Penner:

On the par-5 14th hole at the Falcon Ridge GC in Mesquite, Nevada – it’s an epic boomerang par-5 with a hero tee shot option over the pond – my playing partner, long-haired Logan from Salt Lake City, decided to go for broke. “I can do this,” he muttered, before reeling back like a man possessed by Dr. Evil power. Unfortunately, he cold topped it. Nearly whiffed. But what ensued was one of the best “duffed” shots I’ve ever witnessed. “What happens in Mesquite, stays in Mesquite,” he embarrassingly offered after the ordeal was all said and done. (More on Logan’s laughable moment later.)

18th hole at Falcon Ridge GC

Of course, the real story of Mesquite – a casino-lined desert town located an hour north of Las Vegas – is the quantity and quality of its golf courses. With nine courses in town, all in close proximity, this is a fantastic destination for a swing-filled desert fling.

Another key characteristic of Mesquite is the fact that, although this is definitely a gambling outpost, the atmosphere is decidedly different than Las Vegas. It’s much smaller, much less expensive, and geared more to people who don’t need the high-end glitz and glamour of its “big brother” just down the road. Think “old school” Las Vegas. In fact, the tagline at the hotel I stayed in, the CasaBlanca Resort & Casino, is “Vegas Like It Used To Be.” I thought it was a spot-on descriptor.

However, in terms of the golf, you could also say this: Las Vegas never had this many good golf courses all situated so close to one another.

Without a doubt, the flagship course in Mesquite is Wolf Creek, a spectacular and highly memorable golf adventure. It’s bold and beautiful, routed through deep canyons and ragged desert landforms.

One of the leading architects in golfdom today, Tom Doak, had this to say about it. “It’s the sort of golf that makes a traditionalist want to run away screaming. Personally, I’d say that’s a little harsh. But, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, you should definitely play this course…at least once.

9th hole at Wolf Creek

If you’re into desert golf but don’t need the fear factor quite as high the Conestoga Golf Course might tickle your fancy in a more pleasing way.

Designed by a seasoned architect, Gary Panks, Conestoga features dramatic desert landforms (especially on the front) and a more traditional back nine that runs along the base of a towering mesa. Meandering through the fast-growing Sun City community, the only downside here is the ongoing residential construction.

3rd hole at Conestoga

You also won’t find much of a downside if you tee it up at The Oasis Golf Club, which is home to two solid Arnold Palmer-desiged courses. Both layouts – The Palmer Course and The Canyons Course – feature dramatic desert terrain, awesome panoramic views, and plenty of variety. As Mesquite’s only 36-hole semi-private facility, expect quality service and excellent turf conditions at The Oasis.

And, speaking of turf, there are a couple of things to know if you are new to winter golf in the desert. Like virtually every quality golf course in the American Southwest, overseeding on fairways, greens, and tee boxes typically takes place in September when the turf begins to go dormant. And the courses will usually close for a few weeks to allow the seed (usually a rye blend) to root and establish. However, to save on costs and water usage, most courses will typically leave the rough dormant or brown during the winter, which actually makes the golf courses play a little easier.

“Easier” is also a decent way to describe the effort required in terms of getting around Mesquite. Unless you’re playing, say, Coyote Springs or Sand Hollow (both are well worth playing, however, they are 45-minutes from Mesquite), you can expect no more than a 10-minute drive to get to any of the courses.

Unlike Las Vegas, heavy traffic is not in play. So you can go from making blackjacks to making birdies in less time than it takes a dealer to get through a shoe.

My grand finale in Mesquite was a fun-filled round at Falcon Ridge, which is just a stone’s throw from the CasaBlanca. There are at least a dozen excellent and, in some cases, wildly unique holes on the course. The back nine, especially, which features plenty of dips and dives and a beautiful run of holes along a sun-blasted mesa, is outstanding.

And it definitely produced one of the most dazzling “duffs” one could imagine. The moment occurred when Logan scudded one into a mess of mesquite and sage just ten yards from the tee box. As he began the “walk of shame” back to his cart for another ball, I shouted out, “Hey, Logan, it’s still moving!”

And, sure enough, his ball dribbled out of the desert and rolled onto the cartpath where it began its long and winding journey down the many switchbacks to the valley floor. For what must have been over a minute we watched it bounce, ricochet, disappear, magically reappear, and, finally, when it reached the bottom of the 150-foot descent, it ran down another length of path, popped over the curb, and rolled out to the ideal position in the middle of the fairway, some 225 yards from the tee box.

“Dude,” I said, when the laughter subsided, “I believe there are some casinos around here. You may want to head to a roulette table after the round.”

If you’re looking for another inexpensive “mini” Las Vegas, the border town of Laughlin, Nevada, located approximately two hours south of Las Vegas, is yet another option. It’s similar in size to Mesquite, has eight large casino hotels along the downtown riverside “strip,” and also boasts a few solid golf courses.

12th hole Laughlin Ranch

In my opinion, the top two courses in this area would be the Avi Mohave Resort Golf Club (a solid Brian Curley design that’s beautifully bunkered and shaped) and Laughlin Ranch Golf Club (a hillside stunner located in nearby Bullhead City.) The entire area is truly Vegas like it used to be.

7th green at Avi Mohave Resort Golf Club