Las Vegas Golf Review: Part One – Shadow Creek
There are some golf courses that are significant for their location. Others highlight the map because of their design or historical significance. And then there those spots that stand out because of their exclusivity and the men and women who play them.
Shadow Creek outside Las Vegas is the latter. It’s a lush, green oasis surrounded by stark desert. It exists to embrace both great golf and exclusivity. Most locals don’t realize it’s there, and tourists don’t have it on the radar. Shadow Creek likes it that way.
Originally built by Vegas legend Steve Wynn, the course is now an MGM property. That’s important because only visitors staying at an MGM Las Vegas hotel are allowed to play Shadow Creek. The stewards are deadly serious about that rule. Legend has it they once turned away former President Bill Clinton because he was stuck at the wrong hotel.
You don’t drive out and park at Shadow Creek. You are chauffeured. That’s useful because the entrance to the multi-million dollar course is very subtly marked along the roadside.
Once inside the gates, the grounds are immaculate, the food excellent and the service precise and refined. You quickly understand why Shadow Creek builds that atmosphere when you head to your personal space in the huge locker room. I changed and donned my spikes next to the locker of a former NBA player with more rings than he has fingers and a few down from a very recent president.
Shadow Creek includes a private driving range, chipping and putting area the esteemed linksters to warm up before a caddy leads the way to the first tee. From there, the course is an absolute please — a mix of stunning visuals and imminent playability.
Course officials on-hand told the story of Shadow Creek’s landscaping. During its creation, Wynn looked over his green kingdom in the midst of the wastelands and told the crew to find every tree on the course and plant two more to either side. However, for the most part, those trees simply line the holes and keep the barren desert out of your eye-line.
Course designer Tom Fazio has a reputation for building his golf holes as “bowls,” with roughs that slope upward toward the cart paths. Slightly errant shots often find pleasant bounces back to the first cut — making for a forgiving and pleasant round.
The signature hole might be the par three 17th — with tee box perched above the green and overlooking a rocky lake with waterfall. The hole requires an accurate tee shot just to reach the multitiered green. It cost me one golf ball, but I got down in four eventually.
Considering Shadow Creek asks for greens fees around $500, Shadow Creek could’ve chosen the path of extreme challenge — forging difficult holes that test a golfer’s mettle. But, the course is constructed for an approachable round so its luxury-accustomed players can relax.