Opened to the public in 1997 and designed by the legendary Pete Dye (Whistling Straits, TPC Sawgrass), Desert Pines invokes memories from rounds played in the Carolinas as the course is inundated with pine trees and white sand bunkers that give the tract an east coast feel while still maintaining some of the crucial elements of desert-style play.
We caught our first -- and pretty much only -- break of the morning just before teeing off while talking to the starter. Being that this is the week after Thanksgiving and most people are playing catch-up at the office, we were being sent out alone approximately 45 minutes after the most recent tee time. That meant we had the place completely to ourselves.
Score one for the good guys.
Here's what you need to know about Desert Pines. This is arguably the tightest tract in Vegas, with extremely narrow fairways and very little distance separating the holes. You'll need to have a good handle on your driver to make par and, even then, it's no guarantee. The rolling fairways present a variety of tricky lies and the greens -- well, don't get us started on the greens.
The undulating, bent grass greens -- a Dye trademark -- are some of the fastest in all of Vegas, with a multitude of tiers and complex breaks that had this trio putting more than we'd care to admit. In fact, we haven't been this challenged on the putting surface since last summer's run on Pine Valley, one of the game's greatest and most complex courses.
Water comes into play on nine of the 18 holes and Dye has done a sensational job of guarding his greens using a combination of bunkers, rolling hills and the drink. This is evident at the Par-4, 322-yard fourth and Par-5, 517-yard seventh, where it's best to drive up ahead to scout the landscape before hitting your approach.
The only knock on the place is that a portion of the course abuts the freeway, leading to ambient noise you won't find at some of the other tracts in town. But, in all honesty, we barely noticed it. Like in chess, you have to think one shot ahead at Desert Pines, and we were more concerned with grinding out par then getting distracted by a few passing cars.
On the flip side, the course is in terrific shape and the staff was one of the most courteous we've dealt with in Vegas, as several employees went out of their way to offer both insight into the intricacies of the course and to make sure we had everything we needed to enjoy ourselves.
Should you find yourself booking a tee time at Desert Pines, we advise that you arrive early and get some work in with both your driver and putter. These will be your make-or-break weapons. The course, in the words of famous boxing referee Joe Cortez, "Is fair, but firm." Distance isn't the problem at Desert Pines. Accuracy is.
Too bad Frank Sinatra never sang about that.
ADDRESS: 3415 East Bonanza Road, Las Vegas, Nevada 89101
WEBSITE: Click here
DIRECTIONS FROM THE STRIP: (13 minutes, 8 miles) Take I-15 North, merge onto I-515/95 south via exit 42B, get off at Eastern Avenue (exit 73) and make a left. Make a right onto East Bonanza road and drive one mile. The course will be on your right.
RATES: $60-$179, depending on tee time
Back: 70.6/125 (6,810 yards)
Middle: 67.9/118 (6,464 yards)
Forward: 69.4/116 (5,873 yards)