6,722 yards from the Black tees
Right on the strip, in the casino, past the tables and through the hallway, you take a left and find yourself in the locker room. Wynn Golf Club is just outside, an oasis if there ever was one.
Only a few hours before, a cocktail waitress brings our craps table an entire platter of Red Bull & Vodkas because everyone kept ordering them so quickly. One guy at the table kept joking he was betting with his family’s money for heat, trying to guilt the dealer into giving us the “good” dice. Another guy I’m pretty sure was homeless stumbled to the table, most certainly drunk, spilled a bunch of casino chips on to the table and kept shouting he was a millionaire. The dealers pointed out he only had one sock and one shoe on, each on different feet. Just another night in Vegas. The dice were fickle and as we were walking to another casino, another table, we finally caught the time. “We tee off in like, a few hours.” Walking back to the room, I stopped at one last craps table. This looked like the one. Um, nope. It wasn’t. Time for a power nap. It was good to be back in Vegas.
The course is on rolling terrain defined with well placed pines and evergreen. There is a creek that cuts in nicely to the terrain every now and then and timely ponds that don’t overwhelm. There’s a feng shui that resonates throughout. A tranquil almost wooded mountainous setting, where even hawks were seen flying about. Yet just beyond and above are the titanic hotels and digital billboards, enormous with their flashing colors emblazoned in the desert sun, rising above. Construction is always going on some where and this time it was the Wynn, building some sort of concert hall that’ll have LCD lighting covering the entire structure. Some may be put off by this contrast between nature and hammer but I found it fascinating. The serenity of a creek babbling among the grassy hills one minute; giant Resorts World ads or views of the Linq Ferris wheel the next. It’s the power of Vegas succinctly. Mainly, the ability to create atmosphere no matter what.
I wasn’t staying at the Wynn so my plan was to walk there with my golf bag. It looked close enough. 20 minutes later, the bag getting heavy, I walked through the casino doors. Early morning and things were popping. These craps tables looked promising but no matter. I was on a mission. I found the locker room. An oasis indeed.
And that seems to be the point of the Wynn golf course. There is no slope rating and you won’t be able to record a score. You can always get a match going but enjoying the game and surroundings is the mission of the design. Of course I scored well. But mentioning it here is all it’s good for. Being able to golf right on the strip was an experience unto itself and much more enjoyable than what ended up on my scorecard. In fact, the exclamation point on the Vegas experience is at the Eighteenth. Now a par 3 even though it was originally a par 4, a hole in one means you win a ton of money depending on the tee you hit from. You’re allowed to change tees if you’d like as well. Just a little on the line at the last, making sure it’s clear where you are.
The course was designed in 2005 by Tom Fazio, with Steve Wynn heavily involved. Along with Shadow Creek, it became one of the famous, more sought after Vegas courses for the high rollers. Stories of big money matches, showing up in movies (I’m looking at you, “The Squeeze”), it was almost shocking when it closed altogether in 2017. Looking to use the highly valuable land for other purposes, the course re-opened in late 2019, albeit re-designed to accommodate some new buildings put in. Now things are in full swing.
I liked the course a lot more than I was expecting. As I wrote in the Rio Secco review, Vegas courses have dual interests to serve that make them a bit unique but the Wynn is an anomaly based on its entire purpose of being. The routing is solid based on the small property it is on, as it never feels confined. In fact, most holes manage to insulate themselves from the other yet wayward balls were never lost. There are six par 3’s, which is one of the ways the course deals with the smaller acreage. They all stick out in my mind as I sit here today. There is terrain movement, greens vary in size but they all undulate fiercely with their multiple tiers and tilt. The shaping extends to the fairways, which also have tiers, tilt and twist. They’re inviting from the tee while off fairway is manageable and easy to find those shots. Whether you have a shot all depends but it’s not an overly penal in that regard. The greens are the equalizer and show off fantastic movement throughout. Rewarding shotmaking and a deft short game, those with brute distance will only get so far. In all, I found it a substantially engaging course in a sublimely unique setting. All while the one-armed bandits make their noises and shine their lights a few steps away.
Invigorated from the transition to serenity as I stepped into the locker room and then outside to the quiet abode, I was ready for this side of Vegas. Time to replenish and go after that white ball before another night of steakhouses and craps tables and yeah, even Basil Hayden made an appearance.
The First is a 394 yard par 4 (from the Golds). The course doesn’t skip a beat in getting you right to work. A dog leg right where the lone bunker on the inside menaces more than it should. The contours of the fairway lead right into the sand on the right side but there’s plenty of room on the left and the longer hitters can go over it, although there’s limited room before the fairway runs out on the left. After the turn, the green is on the left side, above the fairway, moving quickly from left to right. A bunker guards the front right side and there’s room to the right for those that bail out over there. The green movement is strong and should be accounted for on the approach, definitely one of those where below the hole is much much better.
The casinos and hotels look on. There could be thousands, or a handful, or zero, onlookers watching but who’s to say. Their structures and colors and how they contrast with the course were a source of ongoing interest for me during the round.
You play with a forecaddie. They give you distances and reads and track your ball down. Mine made the round. He was on point, knew the greens and was able to wire in my game pretty quickly.
The Second is a 180 yard par 3. The terrain movement once again makes this hole. Pulling through the front left of the green, the back right corner is a decent play and anything away from the bunker on the left is needed. The contours of the green are evident and figuring out movement from one quadrant to another is a fun exercise. The hole allows great opportunities for recovery shots; there simply aren’t too many places you can miss without a nice shot at getting it close.
The Third is a 493 yard par 5. It’s an “S” shaped hole near the green but the heads straight out from the tee. The bunkering is sparse yet effective out here and the single fairway bunker on the left achieves its desired effect of suggesting a tee shot more towards the right, which can work out well. The left side, however, is better for approaching the green, so whether you end up on that side off the tee or the second shot, it should be in the cards. The green hangs out to the right and there’s a creek that runs on its right side. In fact, the creek and tightening of the fairway make the approach shot a little harrowing than we’ve come across at this point, which again emphasizes the importance of approach angles into it.
Despite the whiskey and coke sloshing around approximately 60% of my body and memories of a terrible craps dealer mistaking my chip for a bet when I wanted change, then taking it all on the next roll to my dismay, it all washed away as I ended up getting up and down for par here. My discussion with the pit boss was not to my satisfaction, so I made a note to prepare a letter to the GM of said casino about the proper training of their craps dealers and ideals of gaming standards and integrity but my motivation for drafting the letter waned with each next shot.
The Fourth is a 384 yard par 4. While the holes have essentially switched back and forth, the dog legs, as well as placement of the tees and greens (and trees), all keep things well varied and the switching back un-noticed. The creek follows us to the next tee, where we must easily carry it to the fairway, which angles a bit to the left. A fairway bunker on either side greet us, which pinch the fairway before widening again towards the green. The rumpled fairway keeps things popping to the green, with the entry point on the left and the green angled away from the fairway.
We learned the fourth playing with us is a former college and NFL player. Oklahoma and then Atlanta. He fits in perfectly with our group, immediately busting chops and getting in one-liners. I once again attribute this to Vegas doing what Vegas does and with our fore caddie, we have a loose group set for the day.
The Fifth is a 130 yard par 3. Things have been moving a bit fast since the opener and this hole gives everyone a chance to get their bearings. A nice short one-shotter where avoiding the water on the left is the only real trouble to deal with. Of course the green and slope on the right all move towards it, yet opting for short of the green is a nice strategy of taking it all out of play and relying on the flat stick from there.
The Sixth is a 350 yard par 4. A dog leg right, we have traversed the property diagonally the last couple holes and this brings us to one of the boundaries as we turn to one of its corners. Water is before us off the tee but not seriously in play while the fairway beyond turns around a fairway bunker on the right. The green waits for us after the turn, above the fairway, a couple bunkers guarding the right side from below. There’s lots of room to play with on the left as the fairway feeds in to the green from that side while the green does it best to throw your ball into the bunkers. The left side of the green on all approach counters a lot of this aggressive movement.
The Seventh is a 150 yard par 3. We now turn in another direction from this corner of the property and this hole is one of the most easily recognizable of the course. In its own little recess with no signs of the city in sight, it’s not hard to imagine oneself in the mountains before a lake among the pines. The green is on the other side and expectantly, moves abruptly to the water, which makes the back left corner a good landing point for those not bent on going straight for the pin. It’s a nice moment and when considering where you are, I’m not sure there’s any where else like it. The ball eventually goes in the hole, you move on and are glad to have been there.
The Eighth is a 525 yard par 5. Moving along the perimeter, the tee shot is wide with trees looming on both sides. We keep heading straight where we finally encounter the green, with its entourage of bunkers all over. It’s decidedly an aerial approach over them, with the green more subdued than we’ve seen thus far. Bear in mind that too far left is OB because you’ll be on Paradise Road while the tree line on the right means shots over in that direction will have their own issues, so managing to keep it straight by any means is a good mission here. Then one needs to negotiate the contours and bunkers of the green to finish things off.
The Ninth is a 443 yard par 4. Straight out with water on the left, there’s plenty of room to work with off the tee. This space continues up to the green, where it really widens out and there really is nothing obstructing our way to the hole other than a bunker that hugs the left side of the green. After sticking my approach rather close to the pin, my buddy hits me with the backhanded “you’re not playing your usual crap.” Always nice when a friend is there to notice.
The front nine kind of takes a “Z” across the property and has a nice rhythm that it sets very early on. Lots of ways to go about it but whatever the game plan, it needs to be executed competently or strokes have a way of multiplying quickly. I would rank them 3, 6, 4, 7, 1, 8, 9, 2, 5.
There’s a halfway house and yes the short rib sandwich is a must.
The back nine starts with the 213 yard par 3 Tenth. The tee is fairly level with the green even if there’s a creek in between but it all rises back up and with the deep green continuing to rise throughout he green, gets pretty level to the tee area. The green is in fact large and deep, receiving those longer shots without a problem. Now actively wanting to show this guy what my “usually crap” actually is, I went ahead and landed at the pin with about ten feet roll out. The day was in full swing and I had steaks and dice to look forward to later on so was starting to feel bullet proof. Putting this green pulled me back to down to mortality.
The Eleventh is a 573 yard par 5. As if the course sensed my confidence surging, it decided to present one of the tougher holes on the course. A longer par 5 with the creek running along the left side the entire way and the fairway with substantial tilt towards it, hedging up the right side allows for the ball to roll down to the left a bit with each shot. Rarely are there fairway bunkers on each side of the fairway but they are here, which tightens up the tee shot landing area considerably. The aesthetics are great at this hole with the creek and spacing of trees among the canted fairway while the green awaits with water off to the left and rear. The entry point is at the front right and continuing to visit that right side for the roll down left remains in play. It’s a great looking hole and of course I played it poorly.
The Twelfth is a 175 yard par 3. With the first kind of adjustment of any kind for the green to tee transition (which is impressive considering the minimal square acreage), we simply have to move the length of the hole to reach the tee. An elevated tee shot, water is again at the left and very much in play while the right side continues to be the reprieve for those who’d like to feed the ball in. A par for me and I’m feeling once again like I’m winning a car that night.
The Thirteenth is a 494 yard par 5. Running parallel with the Eleventh but in the opposition direction, trees are now the prominent features to the sides while the rumpled contours tilt the fairways in several different directions. There’s a ridge running through the hole we encounter at the second shot where the fairway moves downhill to the green after it. This gives the golfer a terrific look at the green and fairway before it, yet bear in mind there is a creek just in front of the green that is difficult to see. Not only that, but the fairway descends sharply to it, so one must either carry it altogether or lay up well short to avoid the ball from rolling in. Another very good par 5 on the back.
The Fourteenth is a 418 yard par 4. Remaining within the interior, the tee shot has an interesting angle into the fairway in that it runs from our left to right and it is up to the golfer to decide how much he would like to take on to get to the fairway. A lone fairway bunker on the right signals what happens with shots too far straight and that we must go left eventually. The ridge we encountered at the last is here once again, pushing the fairway down and to the left, which then narrows and seems to duck down into the trees where the wide, punch bowl-esque green awaits. The green is good fun yet those not paying attention to speed will find an unexpected flurry of strokes.
The Fifteenth is a 340 yard par 4. Now on another permitter where a lot of new construction is going on at the time of this round, a hillside on the left moves towards the fairway, which is straight out to the green. A well bunkered and fairly level green awaits that demands an accurate approach to avoid all the sand.
The Sixteenth is a 440 yard par 4. The creek mills about in front of the tee and must be carried to get to the fairway, which narrows after the fairway bunker on the left. The narrow fairway continues to the green, which is likewise narrow yet deep. A little bit more intolerant of sideways shots than other holes, staying straight here is the key. I ended up well off line on my approach, blasted it out of the right green side bunker 50 yards left of the green, then chipped in from there. A ho-hum par but I wouldn’t recommend it.
The Seventeenth is a 370 yard par 4. I must have been keyed up from that chip in and forgot to take a photo of the tee shot, which is a shame since it’s the most undulating of the course. The valley that leads to the creek climbs back up steeply to the fairway before the green is off to the right. Water hugs the right and far side of the green and a lot of approaches will be over it unless the tee shot is far enough to take it out of play.
The Eighteenth is a 200 yard par 3. Water, waterfalls, casinos and a green in there some where are all in view of the final hole. I forget the amounts, but a hole in one means a pretty nice pay out, which is probably one of the many reasons each group has a forecaddie. You can select your tee for the shot and while we wavered from going all in from the tips to the forward tees to play the odds, we decided on the same tees we had been playing. I ended up pin high but well right of the hole, so I’ll have to keep grinding at those craps tables. The green runs towards the water while the right side can be used to feather the ball down to the hole. There are villas off to the left with their own patios overlooking the course. I’ll have to look into snagging one of those on the next trip here.
The back nine ramps top the challenge a bit more and finishes with a nice closing sequence. The dynamics of the final hole were a nice touch, sending you out in proper Vegas fashion. I would rank them 11, 13, 10, 17, 14, 18, 16, 12, 15.
Generally, Wynn Golf Club is a more refined golf experience than I was expecting. The shaping of the greens and fairways, as well as the hazard placements, are well done and the setting is unique in its character that can’t be found any where else. Being able to find one’s ball, the opportunity at recovery and the decisions that need to be made while considering the undulations provide the right type of round for the discerning golfer looking for a substantial round while considering the demands Vegas places on the golfer elsewhere. Out of the courses I played while I was in town, this is the one I look forward to returning to most.
In fact, I will likely end up staying at this hotel next time I visit as well. It was the first time seeing the grounds and while it wasn’t all that much work to arrive from another hotel, it would be a lot more relaxing being able to finish the round and send the clubs up to the room to enjoy the Nineteenth hole a bit more.
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Other than the locker room and a separate pro shop set up to pay for the round and grab a shirt or hat, there isn’t a set aside clubhouse. There’s an area where the carts are parked and then you’re able to use the putting green or hitting nets. Or you can lounge in the locker room, which is pretty comfy in its own right.
Practice Area: The hitting area is nicer than I was expecting with a good amount of room to properly warm up. The putting green is likewise worth spending time on.
It was kind of fun walking through the casino with the forecaddie walking our clubs to the taxi stand. The casino in full swing, there were a lot of stares wondering if we actually were anyone worth staring at and again, the transition of settings was pretty unique. Another power nap and another night out in the wild. I told the guys the story about Tobacco Road and Basil Hayden so many of them were ordered for me wherever we were. A hot run at a craps table at the Bellagio by yours truly apparently won a lot of money for a lot of people, as they all told me about it as it was happening and more Basil Hayden appeared from the ether. I started to be known as Rain Man at some point for the rolls I was getting (I eventually cooled waaaayyyy off). I finally found a poker table and didn’t last long as I realized how out of practice I was. One of the guys went back to the Wynn and met the football guy in our foursome for Roulette. Through it all, the painting of Chris Farley below may have been the most interesting and bizarre thing I saw that night. A much earlier bed time, there was more golf to be played and another night to survive, so I needed to get my rest at some point.