The best of Las Vegas golf: Bet the house on these top 10 courses!

LAS VEGAS -- With more than 50 golf courses within close proximity of the Las Vegas Strip, there's endless variety for golfers.

Sin City's best charge some of the highest green fees in the country. Considering the alternative -- think of how much you could lose at the tables in five hours -- that actually might be a bargain. Leaving Las Vegas without playing at least one round of golf constitutes as a sin in this city.

Here are 10 of the premier public-access golf courses in Las Vegas:

Shadow Creek Golf Course, North Las Vegas

Tom Fazio's 1989 miracle in the desert still maintains its lofty status as Las Vegas' best golf experience. Anybody who wants to play Shadow Creek, home to the Michael Jordan Celebrity Invitational, must pony up $500 and stay at an MGM Resorts International casino hotel. The limo ride to the club kicks off a magical day at a $60 million exclusive playground second to none.

Cascata, Boulder City, Nev.

Cascata, which costs roughly $300-$375 to play, is Caesars Entertainment Corp.'s answer to Wynn and Shadow Creek. A "cascata" -- an Italian word that translates to waterfall -- flows 418 feet from the top of a mountain, around the Rees Jones-designed golf course and through the lavish 37,000-square-foot Tuscan clubhouse. The $70 million course, which opened in 2000, rises and falls to follow 800 feet of elevation change through rocky outcroppings 3,200 feet above a desert valley. Caddies are well versed on reading the slick, confounding greens. The 22-mile, 40-minute drive from the Strip does not deter bucket-list chasers.

Rio Secco Golf Club, Henderson, Nev.

Swing guru Butch Harmon serves as the famous face of Rio Secco, home to his original golf school. Rio Secco's views of the Strip from the foothills of the Black Mountain Range distract golfers from just how tough Jones made the 7,313-yard course in 1997. A Million Dollar Hole-in-One Challenge highlights the watery par-3 seventh hole.

The 7,604-yard Wolf Course reigns as the best of the three Pete Dye designs at this desert outpost a half-hour drive's from the Strip in the shadow of the Spring and Sheep Mountain ranges. Karrie Webb and Annika Sorenstam celebrated the Wolf Course's 2001 opening with a match on Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. The island green at the 182-yard 15th hole looks eerily similar to no. 17 on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Bali Hai Golf Club, Las Vegas

This tropical oasis right on Las Vegas Boulevard South remains the best of the three courses owned by Walters Golf (Desert Pines Golf Club and Royal Links Golf Club are other options). Its South Pacific theme permeates from the impressive clubhouse, home to the Cili Restaurant & Bar, to the course, designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley in 2000. Seven acres of water, 2,500 towering palms and 100,000 tropical plants and flowers are all offset by white Augusta sand and black volcanic outcroppings.

This target-style 7,080-yard desert design by Bobby Weed and Raymond Floyd has hosted both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour. New GPS systems coming to the carts will guide golfers through the harrowing five-hole stretch on the back nine that skirts a canyon. The greens might be the fastest in Las Vegas. The nearby JW Marriott adds to the first-class feel for which the Summerlin community is known.

Primm Valley Golf Club, Primm, Nev.

It's only a 35-minute drive from the Strip to reach this 36-hole oasis in the Mohave Desert. There's some debate about which Fazio course is better, the Lakes or Desert. Both opened a year apart in 1997-98 and provide similar scenery, although different styles. As the name suggest, an extensive lakes and river system comes into play on the 6,945-yard par-71 Lakes Course. Palm and mesquite trees, cactus and desert wildflowers accent the 7,131-yard Desert Course. Vast waste bunkers line seven holes with water in play on five.

This 7,194-yard tribute to the best holes ever designed by Jack Nicklaus features some interesting twists -- black sand in the bunkers to mimic those at Old Works in Montana and pines trees along one fairway as a nod to Castle Pines in Colorado. The back nine reveals its best moments, including views of million-dollar homes, desolate desert and the entire Strip from end to end. The evil par-4 18th hole takes no prisoners.

Wolf Creek Golf Club, which opened in 2000, might be the most visually intimidating -- and stunning -- course on the planet. The rocky cliffs and dizzying elevation changes are wow worthy. Bring the camera and a few extra pellets. Leave the ego at home, though, because Wolf Creek bites back. It's well worth the 80-mile trek from Vegas.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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Commented on

Finally a list that is accurate. I’m a native Las Vegan who has been playing golf (badly) since the 70’s. Back then, the LV Country Club, Desert Inn, Tropicana, and the Dunes were my favorite places to play as a youth. Only the Country Club remains, and it’s still private. The Bellagio hotel sits on top of the grounds where the Dunes existed. The Winn took over the DI, but they have built a great course over the original. The Trop was razed for a theme park owned by the MGM that went away. Thanks for getting it right.

Commented on

I'm staying at the four seasons this weekend and wondered what the degree of difficulty is at Bali Hai. I'm a bogie plus golfer so if that place is too hard can you recommend somewhere else for this Saturday?
Thanks, Joe

Commented on

Joe, you should be fine. Pretty wide fairways, A few forced carries but just play the right tee boxes. Definitely more manageable than some of the desert courses in the hills.

Commented on

Going to be in LV in April. Don't know whether to play Shadow or Wynn. If I catch a good run of cards I'll do both! LOL #$500

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The best of Las Vegas golf: Bet the house on these top 10 courses!
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