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Las Vegas: The Right Way

Your complete guide to the most entertaining—and, at times, most vexing—golf destination in America

Las Vegas: The Right Way

Best Of Butch Harmon's Vegas

RESTAURANT
I'm a steak guy, so I go to The Palm, in the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. Best steak in town, good wine list. I've got my TV booth there that I use all the time when games are on. I just think it's a fun spot.

PUBLIC COURSES
Rio Secco, where I have my school, is one of the most difficult courses in town, and it's always in great shape. Another one I like is Bali Hai, down by the airport. It's like you're not in Vegas.

Also, Cascata. It's the finest experience you can have in this town, if money is no object.

MONTH TO VISIT
I don't have a favorite month, but I love the spring and fall in Vegas because every day is another beautiful one during those seasons.

Based in Henderson, Nev., Harmon is ranked by his peers as Golf Digest's No. 1 golf instructor in America.
Las Vegas: When to visit

When To Visit

Winter can be chilly and summer can be broiling, but the fact is, golf is a year-round sport in Las Vegas. Rather than obsessing about the weather, you might do well to think about what else is going on in town. The Las Vegas visitors bureau has a website (vegasmeansbusiness.com/planning-tools) that allows you to look up conventions by week. An average week brings about 85,000 conventioneers. If you see many more than that on the schedule, it might give you pause. The biggest events can raise demand for hotel rooms and tee times at popular courses.

A midweek trip will usually save you a lot on lodging; rooms are often twice as expensive on the weekend. The price break on weekday green fees isn't quite as dramatic, but most courses do charge a little less Monday through Thursday.

One final note: Many courses shut down for a few days to over-seed their fairways in late August to mid-September. Avoid these weeks and you'll be able to pick from more courses. -- Peter Finch

The Top 25 Golf Courses in Las Vegas
Course ranking

The Top 25 Golf Courses

Sin City is home to 52 golf courses. We polled the Golf Digest Panelists, more than 1,000 avid golfers who create our rankings, and here are their 25 favorites.
The best pool scene
Wet + Wild

The Best Pool Scene

A pool in Las Vegas is like a flame, and the hottest moths aren't wearing much. Almost every casino has a pool scene. My favorite is the Red Rock Casino, about 30 minutes from the Strip. Its Backyard is three acres of beach area, cabanas, wading pools and out-door gaming. Even if you're losing at the tables, take a few minutes to look around. You'll feel like you won something. —Matt Ginella
A stylish send-off
A stylish send-off

'Bring A Lot Of Cash'

'When you go on a bachelor party, you want some beautiful women around," says Alex Leeshue, brother of the groom. "And in Vegas, there are tons of them."

Leeshue and company did Vegas like most avid-golfer males wish they could do Vegas: "We played 36 a day for the first three days and left the weekend for the other stuff," Leeshue says. They hit Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort's Sun Mountain and Snow Mountain courses the first day. (Wolf was closed for maintenance.)

In-N-Out Burger
Jackpot Burger

A Wait That's Worth It

The first In-N-Out Burger opened in Baldwin Park, Calif., in 1948. Now there are 263 in five states: California, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Nevada. There are nine in Las Vegas. One of the busiest in the country is on Dean Martin Drive, just west of the Strip. Store No. 86 is open until 1 a.m. during the week and 1:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The lines can be long, inside and at the drive-through, but the wait of 15-20 minutes, even at the busiest times, is worth it. If you want to get in and out fast, manager Jack Vozzola suggests the drive-through between 3-5 p.m. -- Matt Ginella
Wake up, it's Twilight!
Wake Up, It's Twilight!

Sleep In For Savings

"We plan our trip around the NCAA Tournament, but none of us are big basketball fans," says trip planner Don Anderson. "It makes for a better scene, bigger crowd and a lot more excitement." Although the trip moves around the country, Anderson says his group likes Vegas because "no matter where you're coming from, everyone can arrive at 10 a.m." The buddies stay at Mandalay Bay because it's at the end of the Strip and is easier to set up transportation. They stay up late—gambling and visiting the occasional gentlemen's club—then sleep in and play one round per day. "We always do twilight rates, which start early in March," Anderson says. "You save a lot of money that way."
Las Vegas: sports betting
sports betting

Book 'em

Take an annual buddies trip to Las Vegas during the first week of college basketball's March Madness, and of the 61 sports books to pick from, I like the space and the scene at Mandalay Bay best. It has 17 large-screen TVs and more than 100 individual seats. Even when the game isn't won or lost on a buzzer-beater, point-spread betting ensures excitement is high. The crowd reaction when Duke is routing Hampton in the first round can have the same energy as if the national championship were at stake. Lines can be long, so be sure to get to the windows well in advance of the tip, kickoff or first pitch of big events. -- Matt Ginella
Casino Card Tricks
Casino Card Tricks

Rewarding Loyalty

The last time Ed Mobley went to Vegas with his Knoxville, Tenn., golf buddies, he got a pleasant surprise when checking out: The Encore at Wynn Las Vegas wasn't charging him for one night's stay, saving him $350.

Mobley earned the freebie because he'd signed up for a "player's card" when checking in. Presenting the card each time he gambled, he accumulated enough points over four days for one free night. "We were gambling for maybe three hours a day," he says. "We weren't going crazy--we were at the $25 blackjack table and $10 craps."

Opposites Attract
High end vs. low end

Opposites Attract

On the list of golf's great same-day double plays, you'll find Shinnecock-National, Pebble-Cypress and Winged Foot East-West. You won't find the double I played in Vegas--Shadow Creek-North Las Vegas Golf Course--but it was a day I'll never forget.

When Steve Wynn hired Tom Fazio to build a desert golf oasis for the highest of rollers, Wynn spent a ton of green, Fazio moved a ton of sand, and to be honest, I was sure I'd hate it. A round costs $500, for one. With lakes, waterfalls, palm trees and streams in the desert, it had to feel contrived. Rolling up in a stretch limo, I knew I was going to feel obnoxious. Yet, as the same limo dropped me off at the hotel afterward, I was savoring one of the most unusual and enjoyable golf experiences of my life.

Par Mate, Anyone?
Par Mate, Anyone?

Old Tom Never Had A Caddie Like This

Monica Echazabal, 32, has been a Par Mate since 2009.

For $225 per Par Mate plus tip (generally another $100), the caddie promises to shave five strokes off your usual score. "But only if you listen to me," Echazabal says. "And sometimes it's difficult for men to listen to women."

Echazabal is one of 50 Par Mates working at Royal Links, Bali Hai and Desert Pines, all owned by Walters Golf. "We're your ambassadors of fun," she says, "and we take that seriously." Which is what you'd expect for almost $100 an hour. (The nearby Rio Secco Golf Club offers a similar service. Its T-Mates charge $200 per caddie, plus tip.)

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