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The Best Bets in Vegas

Shadow Creek

As sheer spectacle, it's in a class by itself. Is it worth the famous $1,000?It certainly comesclose, and it probably makes as much or more sense than sitting down with that much money at one of the tables. About the seventeenth hole, Wynn writes in his book, "I'm not sure people will believe that Mother Nature created something this nice. Had we delivered this kind of treatment too often, it might have been excessive. But it was irresistible to do it once." He thus nails one key fact about Shadow Creek: It's incredible but not too incredible. And it is a perfectly "playable" golf course, with few forced carries anywhere and generous landing areas. The 1998 NCAA cham-pion University of Nevada-Las Vegas men's golf team plays its home matches here. The coffee-table book about the course, available at the pro shop, is highly recommended.

Par & Yardage:72, 7,239
Greens Fees:$1,000, including the suite for the night at the Mirage. Rates differ somewhat for the other hotels in the group: Treasure Island, the Golden Nugget, the Bellagio.

Tournament Players Club At The Canyons

Wonderful, creative use of the canyon terrain here, which, naturally, creates a downside: The course is difficult if you're not hitting the ball fairly straight--or if you're not playing the right tees. Like all the TPC courses, it's a full-out challenge but a fair one. And it has as many intriguing holes as any of the other layouts in the Las Vegas area and perhaps the most intriguing one of all, the par-three second with the island green down in the canyon itself. The club has taken extraordinary measures to protect the offi-cially "threatened" desert tortoise. The Paiute Resort has an exceptional record in this regard as well, but TPC Canyons and the adjacent private club, TPC Summerlin, are the only courses in Nevada certified by the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program.

Par & Yardage:71, 7,063
Greens Fees:$140 weekdays, $170 weekends

What About All That Water?

The thirty-plus golf courses in and near Las Vegas use "only" 4.5 percent of the valley's total consumption, according to Vince Alberta of the local water district. This water is expensive, costing some venues well over half a million dollars annually, pushing one million in certain cases, even though the turf-per-hole average for the area is 6.5 acres versus the national average of 8.3 acres. In fact, water costs here are seven to eight times those in Palm Springs, which is also a desert, and that cost premium is often cited as one reason for the high average greens fee. Owners are now under a mandate to switch in the next few years to the use of effluent water, which is better for the environment. The bad news is effluent water is harsh on equipment, and maintenance costs will go up. Bottom line: Golf is expensive in Vegas.


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