Vegas style over-the-top please
In the late 80’s and 90’s, Vegas grew quickly and so did the number of golf courses. The hills around the city literally exploded with golf developments, and every major golf architect on the planet was crafting courses in the area. With the city of Las Vegas booming and gaming popular as ever, a fortunate scenario presented for one virtually bankrupt poker player from Kentucky named Billy Walters.
Walters came to Las Vegas basically broke, but used his best poker face and a keen business sense into becoming one of the most successful professional gamblers ever, and a true modern day Vegas icon, and did I mention he loved to play golf?
Walters took his personal flair and passion for the game of golf, and broke ground on Desert Pines Golf Club with a wild idea based around the theme of a course from the Carolina Sand Hills. It was a perfect “Only in Vegas” idea, especially since it was located on a barren 80 acre parcel only a mile from downtown Las Vegas.
In 1996, Desert Pines Golf Club opened to rave reviews, despite the extremely limited space they had to work with. A masterful job was done by the Dye Designs creating the Carolina Sand Hills look, and creating fun, interesting holes which flow nicely without feeling cramped. They used a combination of massive amounts of dirt to shape the holes, and planted thousands of tall pines to line each fairway, providing excellent separation from the other holes. Of course, the work also included a few railroad tie bunkers to put a signature Dye family stamp on the golf course.
Walters apparently was not finished with themed golf ideas for the Vegas golf scene. In 1997, construction began on Royal Links Golf Club, again with Dye Designs at the helm for the construction and design. This time however, the theme called for “Famous holes from British Open venues” to be created on another completely flat, barren piece of Vegas land. “Only in Vegas”, is what I can imagine the architects may have said, when Billy told him what he wanted to do with this time.
The links-style course features cool golf holes “inspired” by eleven different British Open rotation courses, including the “Road Hole” and famous features like “Hell Bunker” from the old course at St. Andrews. Once again, the talented sons of legendary architect Pete Dye were able to create phenomenal features and landforms reminiscent of those in the British Isles. One hole in particular is quite similar to the original, the simple 123 yard par 3 named “Postage Stamp” from Royal Troon, is complete with the 15 yard wide green you need to land on, and also the 5 coffin-like pot bunkers which been measured at almost 7 feet deep on the front left bunker. You go in that sucker, and you’re dead.
In 2000, Walters was back at it with yet another idea for a themed course, but this one was bigger and better of course, and this time brought in golf architects Lee Schmidt and Brian Curly to create a lavish top notch golf experience located right on the Strip themed like a South Pacific Resort, named after famous the Indonesian land of enchantment called Bali Hai. This is a perfect time for a “Only in Vegas” mention, as the incredibly lush grounds of the property include seven-acres of water features, a total of 4,000 trees including 2,500 towering palms and 100,000 tropical plants, and on top of all of that, the transition areas are accented with bright white sand and black volcanic rock outcroppings.