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Las Vegas Oasis

Mesquite, Nevada is a laid back "Mini Vegas" that showcases spectacular Golf

By Dan Gleason

This resort community 80 miles north up the Interstate from Vegas is becoming increasingly fashionable for Arizonans
who want to mix golf, gaming and recreation in a laid back and beautiful setting. This scenic resort community, hugging the Arizona- Utah border, showcases the same kind of small-town flavor and big-city fun that has made Laughlin a popular Vegas alternative. The half-dozen resort hotels in Mesquite—there are also several smaller motels—include a handful of golf resorts that include full-service casinos. You can enjoy big time entertainment in a small town atmosphere that is also ideal for meetings and corporate retreats, and is an easy drive up I-15 to scenic wonders like Bryce Canyon Zion National Park and Cathedral Gorge.

Yet for us golfers the main attraction is golf, golf and moregolf, and there are some dandy courses in and around Mesquite. The Oasis Resort and Casino has two of them— CasaBlanca Golf Club (www.casablancaresort.com) and The Palm Golf Club (www.oasisresort.com). You can build your own packages with several courses in and around Mesquite at www.golfmesquitenevada.com CasaBlanca Golf Club zigzags along the Virgin River and might knock you for a loop from the back tees, but there are four more sets of kinder tees to make it enjoyable for every level of player. “Fairways here are generous,” says Gary Moore, manager of golf shop operations for both courses, “but if you spray the ball you will either be fishing it out of a water hazard or you’ll be in jail in the desert.” An average of three to four bunkers a hole and water on 12 holes definitely favors the shot-maker over the slugger. The bentgrass greens are big, smooth and undulating, and usually kept at a reasonable pace of 9 on the Stimpmeter. The river coils through this scenic layout where the Virgin Mountains provide icing for the eye candy. The Palms isn’t quite as long as Casablanca, but it can get pretty grouchy from the back tees at 6,800 yards. “The front side is fairly flat and wide open,” Moore explains, pointing out that while there are several bunkers there isn’t much water. However, the back side plays up into the hills and includes several elevated tee shots, including the signature hole, No. 15, which drops 114 feet from the tee down to the fairway.

 
Then there’s Wolf Creek Golf Club (www.golfwolfcreek.com), perhaps unlike anything you have ever seen or played. For those who have experienced The Boulders in Carefree, it may bring that facility to mind, but Wolf Creek is even more dramatic, carved through desert rock like it was done with a giant chisel. It is one of the most visually spectacular courses in America, and one of the most exciting to play. In fact, Golf Digest rates Wolf Creek number 25 among the top 100 public golf courses and number 31 among the toughest 50 courses in America. The emerald green, rolling fairways dart in and out of the white rocks and along lakes and ponds. Another dazzling layout and a really enjoyable course, is Falcon Ridge Golf Club (www.golffalcon.com), located just off I-15. While it is truly fun to play for the average and higher handicap players, it is deceptively tough at par 71 at 6,550 yards from the tips. Golfers experience elevated tee shots from high plateaus, especially on the back nine. Besides the beauty of the high mesa views, there are plenty of water hazards that enhance the scenery and also come into play along the lush, rolling fairways and multi-tiered greens. The front nine is relatively tame, but the back nine will bowl you over with its beauty and keep you on your toes plotting your shots. The Oasis Golf Club (www.oasisresort.com). , not affiliated with the Oasis Resort, is Mesquite’s only 36-hole golf facility. Both courses are available for play on a package with most area resort hotels. The Palmer was designed by Arnold Palmer and is another scenic challenge in Mesquite’s rugged desert panorama. At par 71, with five sets of tees, the fairways work their way through desert canyons to contoured greens. Golf Digest has ranked this one among the “Top Ten You Can Play.” The aesthetic experience is enhanced by several elevation changes of tee-to-fairway plateaus that drop well over 100 feet.
To fashion The Canyons 18 at the Oasis, the existing Vistas course was redesigned and a second nine called “the Arroyo” nine was added. The Canyons course is no less spectacular than The Palmer, but compliments The Palmer with its natural beauty. With large, Bermuda grass greens and wide fairways, The Canyons makes for an enjoyable, yet more player-friendly experience. Through the www.golfmesquitenevada.com web site, there are also two golfing partners in nearby St. George, Utah—Coral Canyon Golf Club and The Ledges are a scenic, 30-minute drive north through the Virgin River Gorge. Coral Canyon is a rugged, spectacular layout carved through red rock outcroppings that may remind you of Sedona, and winding along dry washes and lakes. The Ledges, designed by Matt Dye—of the famous Pete Dye design clan—is equally scenic and challenging. It is also home to the Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy. And speaking of Jack Nicklaus, about 30 minutes south of Mesquite is another wonderful course available through the Mesquite package, the brand new PGA West course called Chase Golf Club at Coyote Springs. This Jack Nicklaus signature course is inundated with sugar-white sandy bunkers and a dozen lakes. From the back tees, it’s a monster at more than 7,400 yards, and like all PGA courses, if you take it on from the tips, you had better be able to really play the game, unless you are a masochist and like to be bruised and beaten. With multiple elevation changes and desert mountains on all sides, this layout provides an eye-catching backdrop on all 18 holes.

For those of you who want to experience the course the way the tour pros do, and they way your grandfathers might have, the course has a year-round caddie program. Another new course will be added to the Mesquite lineup at the end of 2009. Conestoga Golf Club, now under development from noted designer Gary Panks, will be a public/resort course that will add to the variety of local courses. Okay, so after a great day of golf, perhaps a soak in a mineral pool, a rubdown at a spa, a big dinner and a night of fun, where do you rest your head?
Pick and choose from several resort hotels, all of which have golf packages through the website, and several that offer gaming among their wide assortment of amenities. The Oasis Resort and Casa Blanca Resort both have full service spas, fine dining, live entertainment and their own golf courses. If you get a little trigger happy, the Oasis has a full-service gun club with target, trap and skeet shooting. After a day on the course, you can hit the spa or relax your golf muscles in the mineral soaking pools outside either hotel. You can take treatments at the spa, but you can also pay for having access to it without paying for treatments. The 210-room Eureka Hotel-Casino offers rooms with refrigerators and private spas while the Virgin River Hotel- Casino features a 24-hour casino and a 21-lane bowling center. If you prefer to be away from the casinos, you can also build your golf package with The Highlands Estate Resort’s condominiums and studios, or the nearby Falcon Ridge Hotel, which is situated at the cliffs and showcases wide, beautiful vistas. Although many people understandably love the excitement and glitz of the Las Vegas Strip, others may go for a less hectic, relaxed atmosphere that is far from the maddening crowd— but smack dab in the middle of the fun. Mesquite, surrounded by rugged desert mountains in the Virgin River Valley, showcases all of the exciting stuff that has made the word “Vegas” is synonymous with a good time.