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T-Mates Not The Only Memorable Experience Offered At Rio Secco

Where: 2851 Grand Hills Drive [map], 89052
August 24, 2012 at 7:10 PM | by | ()

Try as you might, you'd be hard pressed to find a family of golf course architects with a more distinguished portfolio of legendary tracts than that of the Jones family. Patriarch Robert Trent Jones, Sr. is responsible for the highly regarded layouts at Spyglass (Pebble Beach, CA) as well as the 1955 redesign of The Olympic Club (site of this year's US Open) while son Robert Trent Jones, Jr. can lay claim to the accolades bestowed upon the stunning Princeville Resort (Kauai, HI) and Chambers Bay (University Place, WA), site of the 2015 US Open.

But it's Junior's younger brother, Rees, who has put his stamp on some of Las Vegas' must-play golf courses. Don't get us wrong, Rees' work is legendary outside of southern Nevada as well (he handled the redesign of Pinehurst No. 2, site of the 2014 US Open), but some of his more enjoyable courses reside right here in Sin City.

Nestled in the foothills of the Black Mountain Range, 13 miles southeast of The Strip in Henderson, Nevada lies Rio Secco Golf Club. Designed and built in 1997, Rio Secco is often considered the younger brother of Cascata, another Rees Jones design which was recently ranked No. 58 on Golf Magazine's Top 100 Golf Courses You Can Play list. In addition, both courses are owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment.

But don't let Rio Secco's lack of national recognition fool you. Many locals will immediately come to the course's defense, arguing they prefer playing here instead the ultra-pricey Cascata.

For starters, this place offers a wide array of amenities from the Butch Harmon School of Golf (Golf Digest's top-ranked golf instructor and more famously known as Tiger Woods' former coach) to one of our favorite course restaurant and bars, Janelas. The staff is very courteous (the starter went out of his way to give us every possible tip before teeing off) and the views of the city are some of the best in the business.

And, by the way, LPGA Tour uber-babe and Las Vegas resident Natalie Gulbis considers Rio Secco one of her favorite courses in town. And, let's not forget Rio Secco's T-Mates, either, if you really want to improve the look of your game.

The course offers complimentary range balls, but the carts aren't equipped with onboard GPS systems, so we highly advise you purchase a guidebook in the pro shop before teeing off. Rio Secco features several elevated tee boxes as well as a few strategic holes that require careful calculations, so it's best to form a well-devised plan of attack before pulling out your driver.

In addition, don't let the distances on the scorecard (listed below) intimidate you. While Rio Secco is one of the longer courses in town, again, you'll have several tee shots from elevated boxes that allow for longer drives. Some may disagree, but we thought the course played a tad shorter than the 6,356 yards listed from the white tees.

The course itself is in solid shape which is impressive considering that this is the time of year most Vegas tracts tend to be a bit beat up from summer play and brutal heat.

Both nines begin with mild Par-4s to ease you into the layout. The front kicks it up a notch at No. 3 for a Par-3, 166-yard hole that features an intimidating carry over a deep canyon that runs the length of the green in front. Holes like this are designed to wreak havoc in the mind of the bogey golfer, but don't let the setup get the best of you. No. 3 offers a generous green that won't be hard to find with a well-struck tee shot.

Pay close attention to the Par-4, 381-yard fourth, as this type of concept (albeit with doglegs) is repeated throughout the course. The fourth offers an elevated tee shot into a narrow fairway that is guarded on both sides by steep hills. However, the downhill nature of the hole allows for longer drives and, thus, shorter approach shots into the green.

Big hitters can grip it and rip it for birdie on the Par-5, 559-yard eighth, where a bomb of a tee shot will offer the opportunity to go for the green on your second shot. Just be warned, shorter hitters are advised to lay up and play it safe. The approach requires a carry over unplayable rock into a green that has a bunker waiting patiently in back.

While the front nine will challenge golfers of any skill set, the back nine is where things get really interesting. So interesting, in fact, that holes No. 11, 13 and 14 (all Par-4s) will have you questioning whether or not you really want to hit driver. All three begin with elevated tee shots, but Nos. 11 and 14 feature severe doglegs that will tempt the golfer into cutting the corner in an attempt to setup a wedge into the green.

Just be warned that if your driver is a bit shaky, this is not the time to be heroic. Rio Secco will swallow up your golf balls without thinking twice.

Jones brings Rio Secco to a close with back-to-back Par-5s at Nos. 17 and 18 (take note of the pricey real estate). A well-struck tee shot at No. 17 will put you in position for birdie, while the 18th plays to a whopping 601 yards from the blue tees. Again, the scorecard makes the hole more intimidating then it really plays,as a wide fairway offers plenty of safety for a slightly off-course tee shot.

This is a course we would happily play again as the routing and views make for a very entertaining round. The back nine offers one of the best layouts in the city that will reward golfers who are having a solid day off the tee. Rees Jones did an excellent job with Rio Secco. So much so that we're now chomping at the bit to take a shot at his other local layout, Cascata.

Favorite hole: The view from the tee box on No. 11 is exquisite, but we'll go with the Par-4, 377-yard 16th which begins with an elevated tee shot into a canyon that runs the length of the hole. You may be best served keeping your driver in the bag on this one as an errant tee shot will either wind up lost or will pave the way for an uphill lie on the approach. The green is surrounded by canyon walls which offer one of the most spectacular sights on the course.

Final score: 90
Tees played: White (Rating: 70.7, Slope: 136)
Handicap before: 12.4
Handicap after: 12.4

Notables: Rio Secco caters to the tourist crowd and does a nice job in the process, but be advised that this won't be a brisk round of golf. While there are multiple rangers out on the course monitoring pace of play, they won't be quick to hurry any groups who booked an outing through Caesars. That was a big reason as to why we walked off the 18th at just under five hours. To put that in perspective, top-ranked private clubs require members and their guests to complete the course in four hours and 15 minutes.

ADDRESS: 2851 Grand Hills Drive, Henderson, NV. 89052

DIRECTIONS FROM THE STRIP: There are several routes you can take from The Strip, so you may want to consult with Mapquest. However, the easiest route is to take I-15 South to Exit 27 (St. Rose Parkway), after four miles turn right onto Seven Hills Drive, then turn left onto Grand Hills Drive.

RATES: Vary, but you can expect to pay between $140-$225 during the peak season and $60-$175 during the offseason. As a resident playing during the offseason, this writer paid $40.

CONTACT: 702-777-2400; www.riosecco.net

RIO SECCO (Par 72)

Black: 7,313 yards
Blue: 6,927 yards
White: 6,356 yards
Red: 5,759 yards


Black: 75.0/153
Blue: 73.0/149
White: 70.7/136
Red: 73.4/127

(PHOTOS: T-Mates via Rio Secco, All others: VegasChatter)

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