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Sin City Secrets: Unveiling six underrated golf courses in Las Vegas

By Bill Bowman, Contributor

When it comes to most things in Las Vegas, it's glitz, glamor and grandeur. And that includes some of the area's 50-plus golf courses: flashy -- bells and whistles -- over-the-top.

Las Vegas National Golf Club
Las Vegas National: classic, old-school golf.
Las Vegas National Golf ClubBoulder Creek Golf Club - Coyote Run - 9thHighland Falls Golf Club - 15th fairwayDesperado Course at Badlands Golf Club - 8th

But what about good, old-fashioned golf? How about a few courses in the area that give players just what they want -- a great golf experience. Period.

We're glad you asked. Here are six underrated courses in the Las Vegas area. These layouts don't always get the big headlines when it comes to Vegas courses, but playing them will surprise -- and impress -- players.

Las Vegas National Golf Club

Just minutes north of the Las Vegas Strip sits Las Vegas National Golf Club.

Designed by Bert Stamps, the 18-hole, traditional-style course is a par-71 layout and is one of the oldest golf courses in Las Vegas, having opened in 1961. Mature trees line fairways, and well-positioned bunkers and lakes add to the challenges. Elevation changes and a few severe doglegs will also test players as they meander around this 6,721-yard layout.

The course has played host to PGA Tour and LPGA events, and even Tiger Woods has played it. Woods played LV National en route to his first PGA Tour win in 1996 (the five-round Las Vegas Invitational) when he carded a one-under-par 70 during his round on the course. That should show players this course is no pushover.

If it's good enough for the pros, it's certainly one golfers should tee up at when they visit Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Sun Mountain Course

Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Sun Mountain Course is the second of the three courses at the Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort (along with the Snow Mountain Course and Wolf Course).

With three courses on the property, it's easy for people to talk about their favorites. With the Wolf, you've got the island green on the par-3 15th that intrigues people. With the Snow Mountain, you've got the original that was the favorite when the resort opened in 1995.

But don't forget about the 7,112-yard Sun Mountain layout. It's a staff favorite with challenging holes and stunning views. And according to General Manager Chad Gunier, once you play the final three holes -- a par 3, a par 5 and a par 4 -- you'll see why.

Boulder Creek Golf Club

Boulder Creek Golf Club is off the beaten path -- but well worth the drive if you're visiting Las Vegas.

This 27-hole layout designed by Mark Rathert, is the dictionary definition of hidden gem. Located in Boulder City, 25 minutes from Las Vegas, this course is one of those layouts that challenges players early and often. How much do I dare cut off that dogleg? Is it worth it to go for the green in two? Why haven't I been out to this golf course before?

Come up with the right answers to those questions, and you'll definitely be back to take on Boulder Creek Golf Club again.

Highland Falls Golf Club

This 18-hole Billy Casper/Greg Nash layout is the centerpiece of the three Golf Summerlin courses -- along with Palm Valley and Eagle Crest. At 6,512 yards from the tips, Highland Falls Golf Club one of those courses that doesn't look that challenging if you're just looking at the yardage.

Reachable par 5s, rolling fairways, undulating greens and a brilliant final three holes will add up to a golf experience that is not only underrated but downright impressive.

Primm Valley Golf Club's Desert Course

There are two Tom Fazio courses at Primm Valley Golf Club, about 30 minutes south of Las Vegas. But while the two 18-hole layouts are side-by-side, it's Primm Valley's Lakes Course that gets the majority of the publicity.

And that's not a problem. It's a wonderful golf course that will test golfers with its design and its beauty.

But players need to check out the 7,131-yard Desert Course. The name is a little misleading, because while there is desert landscaping, the lush green ribbons of fairways are every bit as impressive -- and inviting -- as the ones on the Lakes.

Badlands Golf Club

Okay, you may have heard a few horror stories from your co-workers or friends about this challenging Johnny Miller-Chi Chi Rodriquez 27-hole course.

Don't believe them. Granted, there are a few tight fairways here, but if you think your way around Badlands Golf Club, you'll be fine. And along the way, you'll have fun.

You'll also see some of the best course architecture anywhere as the cliffs and canyons are used to perfection. (And don't mind the golf balls at the bottom of a few of the ravines -- remember, those are the people who didn't think their way around the course).

One final tip: Driver isn't always the right club at Badlands. Keep it in the fairway. Play it once and think you're way around, and you'll go back and tell your friends they need to play the course again.

Bill BowmanBill Bowman, Contributor

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.

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