An introduction to Las Vegas
This is the series of blog posts looking at the best public golf courses to play in each state or golf destination. And Las Vegas is one which comes up time and time again to look into.
Clearly Vegas is a hugely popular holiday destination. And inevitably, 99.9% of these holiday makers won’t be a member of a golf club in Vegas. Yes there are some great golf courses in Las Vegas, but a lot are private.
See also: What are the best golf courses in Las Vegas?
Therefore the demand for a decent public golf course is huge. There are many who want to squeeze a quick 18 holes in before hitting the Strip and gambling the night away.
Therefore find below a collection of the best public golf courses in Las Vegas.
The best public golf courses in Las Vegas
Primm Valley Golf Club – Lakes Course & Desert Course
The first golf club on our list is technically not in Nevada. It is just over the State border in California. But just a 45 minute drive from the Strip, I’m going to count this awesome club as being a Vegas course!
Primm Valley has two championship 18-hole layouts, the Lakes and the Desert courses, both designed by the iconic Tom Fazio. This is a wonderful location overlooked by the omnipresent Mojave Mountains. And here Fazio has created a lush golfer’s paradise, surrounded by a verdant landscape.
The Lakes course was the first to open in 1997, and despite its desert location, it is almost tropical. As the name suggests, there is dense greenery and an abundance of water. Shortly after opening, the Lakes course was considered one of the Top 10 Best New Golf Courses by Golf Digest. An unambiguous seal of approval of the work Fazio did.
Fairways are generous but with huge amounts of water as well as a plethora of other hazards, don’t get too complacent!
The Desert course opened a year later in 1998 and provides a stark contrast to the Lakes course. Waste bunkers border most holes with barren desert terrain a constant reminder of exactly where you are. Desert wildflowers and mesquite trees line a number of holes.
All in all, this is well worth the trip from Vegas. With the two courses on offer it might even be worth spending the day here.
Desert Pines Golf Club
Right in the heart of Vegas, just minutes away from the Strip off the Great Basin Highway, is the superb Desert Pines golf club.
The course was designed by Pete Dye, a man whose architectural career has taken him all over the world. Yet here at Desert Pines, he’s clearly been inspired by the North Carolina sandhills.
There are over 3,500 mature pine trees lining the fairways. As do large white sand bunkers lined with timber sleepers, a design feature of Dye’s. The greens are larger than average, featuring bent grass just like those at Augusta National Golf Club.
From the back tees the course measures over 6,200 yards. In an era of new courses constantly measuring over 7,000 yards, this makes a nice change. There are four large lakes which come into play on more than half the holes on the course.
This really is a fun course to play. And with an average round taking around 4 hours, this is a great diversion without taking the whole day.
Angel Park Golf Club
Another golf club in the Vegas area with two 18-hole championship courses, Angel Park is incredibly popular with the locals. Yet with the two courses, there is always ample space to receive nomadic golfers looking for a quick 18-holes.
Both courses, The Palm and The Mountain, were designed by the legendary Arnold Palmer. The Palm opened in 1989 and The Mountain in 1990.
At just over 6,400 yards, The Palm is the slightly less physically demanding of the two. But with plenty of hazards and rapid greens, this is definitely no push over. The Mountain course is definitely more challenging, measuring over 6,700 yards and featuring slightly tighter fairways and similar hazards.
Both courses have a wonderful backdrop looking over the Red Rock Mountain range. And yet you’re just 15 minutes drive from the Strip. Over the years, the club has received numerous accolades and is highly rated amongst the public golf courses in Las Vegas.
Rio Secco Golf Club
A 20 minute drive south of Vegas towards the neighborhood of Anthem is the wonderful Rio Secco Golf Club. This is a Rees Jones design, the man known as the ‘US Open Doctor’ for all of his work renovating US Open venues.
The course opened in 1997 and is positioned on a high plateau. The layout is routed through the surrounding canyon and within the desert washes. There are some magnificent views over the Vegas skyline from many holes.
The condition is more often than not exemplary, impressive considering its popularity. The course is widely lauded for its playability, both for leisure golfers and lower handicappers, something Jones improved in 2017.
Accuracy from the tee is essential if you’re going to have the right approach to the green. Therefore scoring well at Rio Secco is challenging, but nor will you walk off completely beaten up.
Coyote Springs Golf Club
Some might argue Coyote Springs is closer to Mesquite, but I’m adding it to this list. Coyote Springs is without doubt one of the best public golf courses in Las Vegas, and arguably the country.
This is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course which opened for play in 2008. Immediately after it received immense praise and acclaim from all the major golf publications. This included the likes ofGolf Digest and Golf Magazine & Golf Week.
Despite only opening for play after the turn of the century, Coyote Springs is widely considered one of Jack Nicklaus’ best desert courses. It is also one of the toughest, with the course measuring over 7,500 yards from the back tee markers.
Despite being surrounded by barren desert, there are eleven lakes which come into play. Vast swathes of sandy run-offs line most holes with many other hazards on offer.
Yes it’s a 45 minute drive from downtown Vegas, but I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Las Vegas Paiute Resort – Sun Mountain, Snow Mountain and The Wolf
Las Vegas Paiute Resort is an awesome venue northwest of Las Vegas. It is without doubt one of the finest public golf courses in Las Vegas.
Taking the Oran K Gragson Freeway north west out of downtown Vegas for about 25 minutes, and shortly after leaving the suburbs, you’ll arrive outside the Las Vegas Paiute Resort. You’re in the heart of the Las Vegas Indian Colony and surrounded by nothing but barren desert.
The club has an impressive three 18-hole championship golf courses, each designed by Pete Dye and various members of his family. Snow Mountain and Sun Mountain were both led by Pete Dye, with the most recent layout The Wolf, having been led by Pete’s son Perry Dye.
All three courses stretch over 7,000 yards, with The Wolf well over 7,600 yards being the most challenging of the three. In fact it is The Wolf which is the signature course, and officially (at the time of writing) the longest golf course in Nevada. Fear not though, this length is tempered by the five sets of tees on each hole.
The desert landscape is a constant background as are the imposing mountain ranges which essentially flank the resort on two sides. Regardless of which course you are playing, loose shots will hit sandy waste run-offs as well as thick desert vegetation.
Water comes into play on each of the three courses, with the iconic island green the photo frame opportunity on the Wolf course. As with many of Dye’s courses, risk/reward is a constant challenge and something that will keep you on your toes throughout. Do you take the risk and attempt the birdie, or play safe and look for a par.
Regardless of what you choose, this is great fun golf, uninterrupted by housing and on the doorstep of Vegas.
TPC Las Vegas
Another course part of the TPC chain, TPC Las Vegas is one of the few open to the public.
TPC Las Vegas is located in the Summerlin neighborhood west of the city. This is just 15 minutes drive away so easily accessible for people visiting the Strip. The 18-holes here were designed by the acclaimed Bobby Weed with support from Raymond Floyd. For many years it has been a mainstay in public courses around Vegas.
The track itself is fantastic, with plenty of carries over arroyos and lush green fairways flanked by the desert landscape. Granted housing is visible from most fairways, but the layout itself is top class.
From the back tees it measures just over 7,100 yards. There are some fantastic signature holes including the 14th hole known as the ‘steeple hole’. Aim for the church steeple in the distance to avoid a longer approach shot over a large ridge. Without doubt one of the best par 4s in Vegas.
And that professional layout is one of the reasons TPC Las Vegas has been ranked as one of the best public golf courses in the U.S.
Painted Desert Golf Club
Painted Desert is located a 20 minute drive from the Strip up in the northern suburbs towards the Centennial Hills neighborhood and is another course which continues to punch above its weight.
The Jay Morrish design is desert golf at its best, with a wonderful backdrop to add. The course appears surrounded by housing, but due to the verdant greenery framing each hole and the clever mounding lining many fairways, this doesn’t infringe as much as you fear it could.
As a previous host venue to the Nevada Open, one consistent piece of feedback is how well conditioned the course is. Along this theme, the course is consistently rated as one of the best maintained courses in Nevada.
Las Vegas National Golf Club
This 18-hole championship layout is a par 71 and was designed by the golf course architect Bert Stamps. It is one of the closest layouts to the Strip as well as one of the oldest in Vegas.
In fact the history of Las Vegas National Golf Club, known as ‘The National’, stretches way back to the early 60s, when the course first opened for play.
Over the years it has hosted many prestigious PGA and LPGA tournaments including the Las Vegas Invitational, the Sahara Invitational and the Tournament of Champions. It was actually here at The National where Tiger Woods won his first PGA Tour victory back in 1996.
As for the course itself, it is a carpet of green, oasis-like with thousands of trees dotted throughout the site. There is water which comes into play on a handful of holes and the well positioned bunkers are used sparingly, but mostly to protect greens.
Cascata Golf Club
Slightly further out of Vegas towards Boulder City and the Hoover Dam, is the immense Cascata Golf Club, another Rees Jones designed layout in the city.
This golf course is without doubt one of the finest in Las Vegas, regardless of public or private. No expense has been spared in the build, maintenance and special touches here.
From a build perspective, Rees Jones is known worldwide for his work on some of the finest golf courses, many of which have hosted U.S. Opens. Here at Cascata, the course is challenging, with nearly every hole either ascending or descending the hillside with few running longitudinally. Shot-making is central to being successful.
From a maintenance perspective, the conditioning is second to none. Fairways are carpet like and greens are lightening fast.
And the special touches. The centrepiece of the club is a stunning 418 foot waterfall which cascades down the hillside and even runs beneath the imposing and impressive Tuscan style clubhouse. This is impressive stuff. Just be prepared to pay royally for the privilege.
The last course on this list is the immaculate Reflection Bay, located on the shore of Las Vegas Lake. This is a good half hour’s drive from the Strip and is an immensely idyllic spot.
Reflection Bay is another Jack Nicklaus signature creation, with the layout running from the banks of the lake up into the higher ground where luxury properties also enjoy the magnificent views.
Despite being a resort course, there is plenty of space provided off the tee and each of the holes has enough character not to be undermined by surrounding housing.
The most appealing section of the course comes in the holes running alongside Lake Las Vegas, the 320-acre man-made creation. Lush green grass, brilliant white bunkers and palm trees embellish what are some of the finest holes on the course.
Recognition has not been shy, with a whole host of awards coming its way and rightly so. It is really refreshing to see public courses hold their own amongst some of the finest private ones and Reflection Bay is the perfect example of this.
What is the best public golf course in Las Vegas?
The best public golf course in Las Vegas is the desert-style Coyote Springs Golf Club. It was designed by the legendary Jack Nicklaus and is located a 45 minute drive from the Las Vegas strip.