LAS VEGAS -- If you're not one of those golfers who hits range balls before a round of golf, you're missing out at Desert Pines Golf Club.
Balls automatically tee up after every swing at this fancy two-tier range surrounded by netting. It's the first indication that Desert Pines works hard to take care of its customers. For a guy like me who has a bad back, something as simple as not having to bend down between warm-up swings is a priceless blessing.
It's also a good idea to get the swing dialed in before heading onto the 6,810-yard, par-71 course. Opened in 1997, Desert Pines pinches narrow in a number of spots. Perry Dye had limited land to work with and creatively made it all fit together nicely. An extensive renovation in 2007 rebuilt all 18 bentgrass greens.
Desert Pines is the most affordable of the three Las Vegas courses run by Walters Golf. It's just a short cab ride from the Strip, but it feels miles away thanks to a setting reminiscent of the rolling hills of the Carolinas.
Thousands of pines line curvaceous fairways. Trees give golfers the sense of solitude, muffling out the noise from the adjacent roads, while keeping the players on adjacent fairways mostly out of sight.
Even though the slope is a mere 125 from the tips, Desert Pines plays tricky tough from the 6,464-yard white tees. Conquering the place requires a thinking man's approach, not sheer power.
Laying up leads to wedges into the short par 4s at no. 1, no. 4, no. 14 and no. 15, all less than 355 yards from the tips. Four ponds dictate strategy on eight holes, especially the parallel par-4 finishing holes at no. 9 and no. 18. The most creative use of the water comes together at three greens all within close proximity.
The best-looking hole features the Dye family signature: the railroad tie bunkers on no. 12.
Ray Pope, a resident of Hatch, N.M., visiting Sin City for a conference, said he enjoyed playing Desert Pines.
"It was a fun course, a little bit hard for a hacker," he said. "The architecture was cool. I like the way they crammed it into the small acreage. Yet I still felt safe on the course. It's worth the money. It was fair for Las Vegas."
Full disclosure: I really like short tight courses that leave bombers helpless and reward wise (if not conservative) decisions.
I nearly shot a career round, even though I sprayed the ball a bit, with a stellar wedge game. The mounding and trees along the fairway tend to knock wild shots down and funnel them back into play.
Desert Pines Golf Club does a nice job with its "country club" theme by making out-of-towners feel welcome.
March 6, 2013