PGA Professional Brian Hawthorne remembers the day he was hired in 2005 to run Wynn Golf Club in Las Vegas like it was yesterday.
Sitting at a table in Steve Wynn's villa, his new boss warned Hawthorne then that the golf course likely wouldn't be around forever, even though millions of dollars had been spent building Tom Fazio's 7,042-yard, par-70 layout on the old Desert Inn Country Club.
"He told me, 'You realize this is a five-year assignment. We have other plans for this space. We want this as special as it can be for as long as we have it,'" recalled Hawthorne, Wynn's former director of golf who left Wynn Resorts in February to work with Full Swing Golf. "I told him I totally understand and that I was excited to be working with him. I made it 10-and-a-half years (working there). Reflecting back, I feel like I beat the odds in Vegas."
Wynn Golf Club likely will not -- at least not in its current form.
News that Wynn plans to transform the golf course's 137 acres into "Wynn Paradise Park" has golfers lamenting the demise of one of the game's most famous (or infamous?) courses.
The park's centerpiece, a 38-acre lagoon, reportedly will be surrounded by premium meeting and convention space, a 1,000-room hotel tower, a small casino and extensive dining and nightlife. The elaborate water attraction will include both daytime watersports and nighttime entertainment elements, such as firework shows. The billion-dollar development must still meet approval by the company's Board of Directors.
An architectural massing model presented at an investors conference April 6 and seen in several media outlets showcased golf holes near the lake. However, Michael Weaver, Wynn's senior vice president of marketing and communications, wrote by e-mail that: "We've not yet decided if any of the golf course will actually be retained."
Las Vegas media outlets have reported that construction of Wynn Paradise Park might start as early as this fall, meaning the course could close within six months. For now, it remains open to golfers willing to pay the $500 green fee or to casino whales whose loyalty at Wynn's tables earns a tee time. Wynn's price tag has always been a controversial subject.
I'd recommend you play the course if you've still got it on your bucket list. I gave Wynn four stars in my Golf Advisor review in 2012. Looking back, it's probably five-star worthy. It's not as memorable as the other $500 rounds near Las Vegas -- Shadow Creek and Cascata -- but it's still a special experience. The rolling topography and landscaping of the course feels like a pleasant stroll through the rolling hills of North Carolina. It's a nice change of pace from the frantic chaos of the Strip. The round ends at a cascading waterfall behind the 18th green. Everything else is nearly flawless: the caddies, the conditioning, the service in the locker room and the food in the restaurant.
Given Wynn's dedication to the game -- he hired Fazio to build Shadow Creek before they teamed up again at Wynn -- Hawthorne wouldn't be surprised if golf somehow found its way into Paradise Park. He indicated there is potential for a par-3 course or a new nine holes.
"There is still a good amount of land" available, Hawthorne said. "There is plenty of irrigation already there and large trees that could be moved around, just like the first time. I'm speaking completely not knowing what might happen. ...
"Mr. Wynn has the Midas touch with whatever he does," Hawthorne continued. "If there is a nine-hole window, my guess is he would bring in Fazio, and he would make it magical."
Or maybe Wynn's golf magic is truly over and preparations are being made for its final disappearing act. In Vegas, the show must go on, whether golf gets invited to the party or not.