Travel: Desert Inn, Las Vegas
By Terry Jacoby
From presidents to high rollers. From movie stars to the game's greatest players. The Desert Inn has played host them all. Tucked in behind the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino, the Desert Inn Golf Club first opened in 1952. Rated one of the top-75 golf resorts by Golf Digest, the course has played host to presidents, including John Kennedy and Gerald Ford, and celebrities such as Robert Redford, John Elway, George Cloony and Bob Hope.
Address: 3145 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas, NV 89109
Phone: (702) 733-4299.
Course information: Located right off the Las Vegas strip, the Desert Inn Golf Club is an 18-hole championship, par-72 course covering 130 acres. From the gold tees, the course covers 7,193 yards with a 73.9 rating and a 124 slope. The white tees cover 5,884 yards (72.7/121). Opened in 1952, the course was redesigned by Dave Johnson in 1994. The course, always in excellent condition, features a nice mixture of trees, sand traps and water, including waterfalls and lakes.
Cost for 18: $225 / $160 guests.
Directions from the strip/airport: Located directly behind the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino, at the north end of the Vegas strip. From the airport, take Las Vegas Blvd. to the Desert Inn entrance, just past Desert Inn Blvd. on the right side.
Other amenities: Everything you would expect from a Vegas resort, including driving range, practice green, carts, locker rooms, golf shop, spa, pool.
The PGA Tour also has visited The Desert Inn. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, Greg Norman, Nancy Lopez and Laura Davies have all won tournaments at the only course located on the Las Vegas strip. In fact, Nicklaus shared the pre-1994 renovation course record with a 62 in 1963.
Last year, both the Golf Digest Collegiate Invitational and the ITT LPGA Tour Championship were held at The Desert Inn. In all, they have hosted 52 Tour events and from 1986-1993 hosted an event for each of the three major tours.
The course has gone through some major changes since it first opened.
"It really needed some work," said Dave Johnson, the club's director of golf.
"A lot of improvements were done in 1994. We enlarged some of the lakes and really gave the course a good upgrade. In 1997, we replaced the clubhouse and added a new golf shop and conference rooms." And what a job they did. The clubhouse is exactly what you would expect from a major player in Vegas - first class. It was named one of the Top 100 by Golf Shop Operations Magazine.
From the practice facilities to the pro shop to the playing conditions of the course to the service, guests are treated like celebrities from the moment they arrive until that final putt on No. 18.
"We take a lot of pride in our golf course but also they way we run our operation," Johnson said.
The course can be tough to play. The professionals don't find the Desert Inn a walk in the park and neither will you. The seventh hole, a 214-yard par-3 from the tips, is consistently rated as one of the toughest holes on the PGA Tour. A large pond covers the front and left side of the green with a bunker to the right.
Other memorable holes include No. 5 (a narrow, straight par-5 covering 587 yards from the gold tees), No. 10 (a challenging par-5 dog-leg with water along the right) and No. 16 (another fun, water-filled par-3).
Although the course is in the desert, water comes into play on nine of the holes. And the fairways are long and very narrow.
"We are unique because we are right here on the strip," Johnson said. "We have kept the feel of the original course and kept what was good. But we greatly improved the conditions. It's a challenging course, too. It's 7,200 yards from the back with a lot of trees and 100 bunkers."
So if you aren't having any luck inside, maybe you can roll a few birdies on the links. Of course if you play well and are feeling lucky...
Terry Jacob has co-authored the "Business Traveler's Guide to Golf" now on sale.
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