HENDERSON, Nev. -- Just 20 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, Rees Jones’ Rio Secco Golf Club is every bit as dramatic as it is difficult.
But unlike other courses with the potential to punish, Rio proves fair – and it never stops being fun.
Home to the Butch Harmon School of Golf, Rio Secco reopened in October following a $2.1 million renovation that included the re-contouring and resurfacing of all 18 greens with Dominant X-treme bentgrass. Every one of the course’s greenside bunkers were also redone while fairway bunkers on 10 more holes were reshaped. The project also provided upgrades to the club’s practice facility, which now features a natural grass driving range and a new 4,500-square foot practice green.
Aside from the changes to the green complexes, the bulk of Jones’ stunning design remains unchanged, with very good reason. Rio Secco’s front nine features six consecutive holes, Nos. 2-7, that wind through a steep canyon Jones took advantage of before the surrounding neighborhood took shape. The stretch is the most memorable and most difficult collection of holes on the course. The layout then climbs onto a high plateau that offers clear views of the Strip on holes 9, 10, 11 and 12. The closing stretch of Nos. 14-18 cuts down on the views, rises and dips, providing an opportunity to recover some previously lost strokes on the way to the clubhouse.
Of particular note is Rio Secco’s strong and scenic collection of par 3s, three of which require a lengthy carry over deep canyons. The golf course really pops when the Bermuda rough goes dormant in the cooler months, and the overseeded rye fairways meander through the desert. Visitors should also be sure to check out the multi-million dollar homes that sit atop the cliffs all around the golf course – although they’ll be hard to miss.
Considering Rio Secco is a Jones family design, it’s a given that it’s a challenge, but this is doubly true when the wind blows. The layout’s elevation changes make proper club selection vital on a calm day, and exceedingly difficult when the wind whips.
Still, no matter the conditions, the golf course never stops being a joy.
Greens fees peak in the spring and the fall at $279 for a weekend tee time. Those who want to battle the Vegas heat in the summer can secure a spot on the starter’s sheet for closer to $100.