MESQUITE, Nev. -- It's that time when golfers' eyes light up. The pulse starts racing a little quicker and there's a little more sweat in your palms. It's time ... you're playing that brand new golf course for the first time. There's no better feeling in the world than stepping up to the first tee not knowing what the next four hours will bring but anticipating your date with 18 amazing holes ahead of you.
Welcome to Conestoga Golf Club. Mesquite's new kid on the block -- the course opened in January 2010 -- is one of seven world-caliber golf courses in Mesquite. But one look at this Gary Panks design, which is managed by Troon Golf, and you'll know you're in for a challenging and gorgeous round of golf.
Playing 7,232 yards from the tips, Conestoga Golf Club is a two-tone golf course, mixing in traditional designs with desert landscaping looks.
"People are hearing about the course and looking for a new challenge," said Rob Krieger, Director of Golf at Conestoga. "We pride ourselves on great conditioning and customer service. And people will find a golf course that's very natural with great settings. It's just a fun golf course, and with five sets of tees, it's playable for everyone."
That playability comes into play early and often. One tip: Make sure to play the proper set of tees. Krieger suggests moving up a set of tees from what you feel like you should play -- at least for the first round. And don't be afraid to leave the driver in the bag.
"You really just need to keep your ball in the fairways," Krieger said matter-of-factly. "You don't need to be super-long to play well. But you do need to keep it in play."
In other words, check your ego at the door and you'll be fine.
On the course, many holes stand out as the layout rolls up, down and around mountainsides. Take the par-3 second hole, for example. It plays 188 yards from the tips, but that's misleading as the green is perched some 80 feet below the tee boxes.
"No. 2 always gets a big 'wow' from players," Krieger said. "It's a great hole surrounded by a wash area with great views of the area."
Picking the proper club here can be tough. The elevation change and factoring in the wind can produce a few anxious moments while the ball is in the air. Find the putting surface and you'll breathe a sigh of relief as you ready yourself for an early birdie putt.
The rest of Conestoga Golf Club's front nine also requires golfers to think their way around. With fairways running out and forced carries, players need to be precise with shots off the tee or over ravines. It's a shot-makers dream design that can be intimidating but also rewarding.
The back nine turns into more of a traditional layout as players return to level terrain after their trek through the canyons. The 10th is a stunning hole, a 198-yard par 3 that plays entirely over water (the more forward the tees players select, the less the water comes into play ... a nice touch). A bunker short, a second one long and right and a waterfall give this hole an A-plus rating from both a layout standpoint and a visual impact.
Conestoga Golf Club's finishing hole is one of those that looks easy but definitely is a challenge. A par 4 stretching out to 472 yards, a pair of bunkers, one left and one right, cut into the fairway, making a perfect tee shot a must. The second shot, which will be long unless you're a big hitter, will be in the 200-yard range with a big bunker waiting menacingly in front of the green and desert outcroppings left and right. It just goes to show that a perfectly placed bunker can provide plenty of defense to a hole.
"Water only comes into play on two holes," Krieger said. "But the wash area and desert come into play a lot."
Next time you're in the Las Vegas area, check out the new kid on the block: Conestoga Golf Club. It's one of those courses that make you think about shots, both before and after the round as you replay a few shots you'd like to play differently. And that's no problem. "We get quite a few golfers who play in the morning and then come back and replay the course in the afternoon," Krieger said.
Be sure to get a yardage book. You'll be glad you did, as there are a few spots where your yardage must be precise or you'll find yourself in trouble by hitting through a fairway and into a wash area. And listen to the course host before the round. You'll get a couple of tips about the early holes that will definitely cut a stroke or two off your score.
On the drawing board
Set to be unveiled in early 2011, the clubhouse is expected to rival the course in beauty and feel. A cozy lounge with a bar and restaurant will give players a place to unwind and tell tales about the round and to make plans for the next trip around Conestoga.
Improve your game at Conestoga Golf Club
Warm up on the wide-open range that features target greens ranging from 75 to 250 yards, or chip and putt on the practice green right next to the first tee. Get a feel for those greens before you need to make that 5-footer on the first hole.
Conestoga Golf Club in Mesquite, Nevada: The verdict
Conestoga Golf Club may be new, but one time around this track and you'll feel like you've known the course for years. It's very mature and is only going to get better.