Wolf Creek Revisited
By Paul Laubach
Every time I pull out of the Las Vegas strip on my way to Mesquite, Nevada I worry that this will be the time Wolf Creek fails to live up to expectations. I am always concerned that I may have “oversold” the property to my playing partners. For years I have been touting Wolf Creek as one of the best kept secrets in golf, with the course easily being one of the most underrated by the various golf magazines. To me, this is a borderline top 10 golf experience.
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Every time I pull out of the Las Vegas strip on my way to Mesquite, Nevada I worry that this will be the time Wolf Creek fails to live up to expectations.
I am always concerned that I may have “oversold” the property to my playing partners. For years I have been touting Wolf Creek as one of the best kept secrets in golf, with the course easily being one of the most underrated by the various golf magazines. To me, this is a borderline top 10 golf experience.
Image by Wolf Creek
I am sure Tom Doak can explain why it is so lightly regarded (generally somewhere in the middle of the list), but there have been few rounds in my life where a course can get me so excited. Though not quite the transcendent Pebble Beach, Wolf Creek is, nevertheless, a very special place.
Two weeks ago I decided to bail my recently engaged daughter out of the freezing Northeast and give her a few days to thaw out in Las Vegas.
Although Nevada can be iffy weather-wise in February, we had nothing but sunny days and mid 70’s temperatures. When she left Boston it was -8, meaning an 80 degree swing when she disembarked in Sin City.
My son had previously joined me at Wolf Creek, and, although he seldom has strong opinions on golf courses, he often cites Wolf Creek as a special place. Therefore, he was willing to join us as well…so long as I picked up the tab.
The drive into Mesquite is uninspired, but quick.
The town, itself, has little to offer. Even pulling into the parking lot at Wolf Creek there is little to suggest you are about to embark on one of the exceptional golf experiences. The first thing you see is the limited distance driving range, which is always a downer. However, after dropping off the clubs with some of the friendliest folks around, you wander into a well above average pro shop, with plenty of reasonably priced golf gear.
Wolf Creek Putting
A quick trip to the driving range to stretch, should be followed up with some quality time on the putting green. You will find the greens to be some of the slowest among the top 100 golf courses, so it is time well spent working on pace.
Once you begin the round, Wolf Creek wastes little time in creating a great impression.
Number 1 is probably my favorite starting hole in golf. This challenging par 5 sets the stage for a terrific 18 holes of golf. An elevated tee shot to an emerald fairway, bordered by stark “native” areas, with plenty of well-placed bunkers, quickly gets the juices flowing.
A smart lay-up shot to the wider fairway 100 yards short of the green is recommended over the risk/reward of going for this narrow, three tiered green in two. Number 1 can be an easy par, but more often than not, takes its toll on the aggressive player.
Number 2 is my favorite second hole in golf.
A terrific panorama awaits those who ascend to the Champions tee box, with a dramatic elevated tee shot to a severe dog leg left. Do not try to take too much off the corner. Number 3 may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but the tee shot to an elevated, blind green is a lot of fun.
You have no idea if you are on the green until you work your way up the slope. It is hard to imagine a better three holes to start a golf round.
Nearly all of the remaining holes are fun, with tons of elevation change.
The par 5 fifth is a terrific hole, with the par 3, eighth being on my top 10 list of par 3’s. This long hole is played from a dramatic elevated tee, with the pristine green surrounded by a small creek.
The front nine is easily one of the most entertaining you will ever play. The back nine is no slouch either, with the par 5, 17th being particularly memorable.
Wolf Creek is not an easy course. The Champions tees, 138 slope, are recommended for single digit handicaps. Even if you are going to play the more accessible Masters tees (134) you should wander up to the higher tee boxes with your camera.
As a testament to the excitement created by Wolf Creek my entire family shot lights out.
I broke 80 from Champions, my son shot a personal best 40 on the front 9, and my daughter obliterated her all-time low score with an 88. To be fair, given her distance she probably should have played back a set of tees. As an example she drove the 18th green with a six hybrid, just lipping out the eagle putt.
Absolutely Must Play? Definitely!
We paid $180 per person, which is cheap by high end Vegas standards. The drive is easy, if not exciting. Wolf Creek is absolutely a bucket list course. You might shoot for 36 holes in one day, as the features of this layout are so unique you are bound to miss something the first time through.
My Rating: 9, for the great start, amazing topography, and challenging design. Might be ten except for the access, driving range and slowish greens.
Cheap golfer alert!
Check out Jason Deegan’s excellent article about playing the most expensive courses on a budget.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.