LAS VEGAS -- Welcome to Painted Desert Golf Club, where the desert surroundings and lush landscaping come together to form a solid golf experience.
The course, built in 1987, winds through neighborhoods in northwest Las Vegas and meanders over and around sections of desert areas. Add in risk/reward golf holes, true rolling greens and elevation changes, and you've got a golf course that will test even the best players.
The Jay Morrish design reaches 6,729 yards from the tips, but three sets of tees welcome players of every ability to tee it up. But what the course may lack in distance, it more than makes up for in challenge. Narrow fairways require pin-point accuracy off the tee, as errant shots can/will find their way into the desert landscaping.
"You simply have to hit it straight off the tee," Painted Desert Head Professional Ryan Darland said. "If you do that, you'll have the chance to score well. If you miss the fairway and hit it into the rough or desert, chances are you'll just be pitching back into the fairway."
So it's good to make sure you've got that 15th club -- the desert club -- in your bag. You know, the one you don't mind scuffing up with a desert shot or two.
Painted Desert Golf Club: The course
Perfectly placed bunkers and water features on five holes (wait until you see the par-4 14th, but more on that later) will force players to think their way around the course, as driver isn't always the club of choice.
And that's especially true on the par-4 14th. At 292 yards from the tips, it's driveable. But is that the play for you?
"It's just a fantastic hole," Darland said. "It's definitely one of the best risk/reward holes around. You can pull it out of bounds or push it into the water. And that's whether you go for the green or decide to lay up off the tee. Just grab the straightest club in your bag off the tee."
Darland admits it's even a tough hole for him. "It looks like an automatic birdie hole," he said. "Look on the scorecard, and it's just 290 yards. But I make double (bogey) more often than I make birdie. I have a real love-hate relationship with it."
That par 3s also provide a strong challenge for players, especially the fourth. At 187 yards, it's got decent length, and with a pond in front and bunkers on the sides, it definitely will raise players' anxiety level a notch or two.
The longest par 5 is 554 yards (from the tips), so they are all reachable with two good shots. But, again, bunkering on these holes is ideal, so rolling second shots onto the greens requires solid accuracy (along with a little luck).
"Again the risk/reward factor comes into play," Darland said. "If you're a good bunker player, go ahead and go for the greens. But if you're more comfortable with your wedges, lay up and then take aim at the pins with your third shot."
Painted Desert Golf Club: In the clubhouse
Whether it's breakfast or lunch for two or an elegant dinner for your party of 100, the staff at Painted Desert can accommodate your needs. One option is to grab your food and head out to the patio for great views of the Las Vegas skyline and the course.
In the golf shop, grab those last-minute items (an extra sleeve of balls, sunscreen, etc.) before heading to the first tee.
The practice facility will let players work on every part of their game -- from the driving range to the bunker area to the putting green.
Painted Desert Golf Club: The verdict
Painted Desert Golf Club is not the longest course you'll find in Vegas. It's not the most challenging course you'll find in Vegas. But when it comes to golf experiences and people running the show, you'll be impressed.
"We like to say it's a course people would love to play every day," Darland said.
The course will meet your expectations and test your game from the first tee shot until that final putt drops. And you'll play at a price that will make your pocketbook happy.