Included with all the dirt I’m leaving behind from this journey to Las Vegas is what was posted on the scorecards during my four rounds of golf. Even if I wanted to divulge that information, by the time I finished my fourth and final round in four days, played at Desert Pines Golf Club, I had no recollection anyway of my numbers.
This amount of golf activity within a short duration is certainly nothing out of the ordinary on many of my golf adventures but when it happens in an alcohol-fueled partying town like Sin City, it’s tough for even a Golf Road Warrior to keep pace and appear as if they know how to swing a golf club. But since this was my initiation into the guts of a Golf Road Warriors’ trip, my only hope for a repeat invite was to suck it up and take one for the team. Even if the pick-up in front of our desert headquarters, Luxor Hotel, by a limo longer than any putt I’d ever sunk in my life was at 6:30AM!
Masquerading as high rollers for our quick ride to Desert Pines, the red-eyed Golf Road Warriors arrived to the welcoming arms of the Walters Golf team, led by their Director of Operations Joe Dahlstrom, who immediately graced us with good old-fashioned Vegas hospitality by leading us to the caffeine bar.
Once stepping onto the course, it’s not hard to realize Desert Pines exists in a world seemingly far removed from the flickering 24/7 brain-corrosive lights of the Strip. In fact, this environment provides just the calm needed to help settle the nerves and clear the mind for an enjoyable experience.
With more than 4,000 mature pines lining the well-groomed fairways, the layout provides the Vegas illusion of being at Pinehurst. Not to be confused with playing there. Don’t be mistaken, however, that imagination faded when I observed a couple ParMates prancing down the fairway with a foursome, who, from their apparent frolicking behavior, would have never been allowed off the first tee at Pinehurst. But hey, when in Vegas.
In conformance with the quality conditioning at the trio of Walters Golf courses (including Bali Hai and Royal Links), the bent grass greens at Desert Pines, rebuilt in 2008 and patterned after – okay, imagination time again – Augusta National – were immaculate. I have a feeling I’ll need a lot more than three cherries on a slot machine to test that comparison at The Masters’ venue but Desert Pines provided all the slickness my yippy putter could handle.
Just as challenging, yet forgiving, on this 6,810-yard Dye-designed course with water coming into play on nine of the 18 holes are a combination of tight fairways, wide fairways and risk-reward holes that play nicely into the hands of a “eh-hem” handicap player like myself. Also, since the white-sand bunkers, some lined by Dye’s trademarked railroad ties, looked so inviting, I mismanaged a little playtime in those, as well.
To bring focus on Desert Pines having entertained Golf Channel’s Big Break II, the day’s highlight, or rather, blooper’s reel came when the our hosts felt it would be good fun to challenge the skills and egos of the three male Golf Road Warriors against our female colleague, Big Break Atlantis contestant-turned-Golf Road Warrior, Aubrey McCormick.
After the scores were tabulated following our five-shot test from different bunkers surrounding the green at hole #12, I promised never to disclose whether Aubrey may have just succumbed to the male pressure or was merely planting the seed for another trip ticket when she bowed to our team captain, Jeff Wallach, the champion of Golf Road Warriors Big Break I. For myself, perhaps, it would have been wise to warm up a bit at Desert Pines’ two-tiered, climate controlled practice facility before my round. Not.
Assuredly, golf is a crap shoot from round to round but no matter what our skill level was, Desert Pines proved to be a perfect equalizer for all our talents. But when all was said and done, was there really any other way for four – make those three – hacks to leave the golf course and head back to the airport than in a stretch limo? That’s Vegas, baby!