Monday, June 26, 2006

Wolf Creek

Golf Vacation, Part Two - Mesquite, NV. First course: Wolf Creek.

Before Dennis and John Rider filled it with their architecture, the area where the Wolf Creek Golf Course lives and breathes was probably pretty nice to look at. Now, it's so beautiful, it's a distraction to the golfers trying to play there. I could practically hear it mocking me.

The view from the clubhouse.

There's no question that Wolf Creek is one of the most gorgeous courses I've ever played. I expected it to be and it didn't let me down. I have always had a soft spot for the types of rock formations and terrain found in that region, and to combine that with my green addiction, well, I started drooling in anticipation before we even turned onto "Paradise Parkway." What did let me down was my game.

Paradise Fairway?

Tee Selection

Okay, it's a difficult course - I'll give it that. However, I should still be able to break 100 when "playing a realistic set of tees for my ability," as it recommends on the score card. I guess the trouble is my "ability" still changes from round to round. There are five sets of tees from which to select, which is nice. For men, they even have recommended handicaps for each set. I highly recommend following those recommendations, especially if you're just visiting and only get to experience this course one time. You'll want a fond memory, not a day of struggles.

Speaking of driving responsibly

Yes, Wolf Creek boasts dramatic and picturesque elevation changes. But this truly three-dimensional aspect means more than just challenge and photo ops. In fact, you even have to sign your life away on their liability release for driving (or riding in) the golf cart - no, you will NOT be walking this course. The waiver is not just for damages to the cart, like many courses have. I wonder if anyone has actually been killed or maimed while maneuvering on those cart paths. When you turn in your signed release to the starter, you are rewarded with his gift of the yardage book. And if it's your first time there, he'll give you the spiel about the course before sending you on your way.

A Manly Course

I don't think this course was necessarily designed for men. I mean, there are five sets of tees, like I mentioned. I do think that it is definitely managed for men. When they put the tee selections on the card, they decided to only show two sets on the ladies side and those are the only two with ratings for women. They also don't show the recommended handicaps for them like they do for the men. And while the yardage book is a very slick piece, it gives nicely worded tips for landing areas and club selections... from the "men's" tees.

The landing area might appear obvious from here, but when I got down to the "signature" tees, I wanted to cut off some of that corner. Hmm... let me consult my yardage book.

Of course, I was playing with two men, who had each other for discussion on these matters as well as the yardage book and time on the tee. Then we would drive to my tees, and they weren't always where they said they'd be, so I was left to make a quick calculation and decision on my own. Math is not among my strengths. Also, the rocks with the directional arrows to guide you up stairs and whatnot to find your tees were occasionally mis-marked for the tees I chose. Hike up one set of stairs with one or two clubs only to see my tees on an entirely different cliff across the way. Hike back and recalculate!

Worth the hike!

I hereby offer my services as a consultant to Wolf Creek. I'd be happy to have them bring me out for a week or two to write a female friendly yardage book and make recommendations for changes to the card and the markings to help attract more female players.

Every rose has its thorns

The male-centric management might be a frustration just from my perspective. There were a couple of factual snags as well.
One - Choose your tee spot carefully. Due to the nature of the terrain, the tee areas aren't always flat. You don't want to give yourself a sidehill lie for a teeshot.
Two - The greens are hammered. There was damage from unrepaired ball marks everywhere. I asked about this after the round, and apparently they have a lot of foreign tourists come through who are accustomed to caddies following them around and cleaning up after them. Consequently, the marks don't get repaired and the damage has been done. They said they have hired a new greens-repair service to fix them up and keep them maintained.
Three - The practice range is irons-only. Hmm, I guess this is more of an opinion than a factual flaw. I don't mind irons-only on a course I play frequently or even one I don't that isn't so difficult, but for me, I want a few swings to get my driver in shape before tackling a course like this.

The practice range, bunker and chipping area.

Cool stuff

A lot has been said about the design and beauty of this course and it's all true. The scenery is breathtaking, and notwithstanding the stunning views from the higher-up holes and dramatic par-5s, the par-3 8th hole is probably my favorite. There's a creek on this hole that snakes around in front of and behind the green that epitomizes the use of the natural landscape in the smart architecture of the entire course.

Par-3 8th.
Compared to the other photos with the majestic views, this may not look like much from here. I should have taken a shot from closer to the green. Click on the photo for a larger view. Or even save the picture and zoom in on it to see what I'm talking about.

There is a drive-through snack shack for your convenience once you're out in the middle of the course. It was my first drive-through in a golf cart, which I thought was cool all by itself. In addition to that, there are chipmunks and a family of birds (they're called chuckers) that come around and get fed by the snack-shack attendant. They even have their own wading pool behind the shack. Sure, the plastic kiddie pool looks out of place, but come on, it gets hot up there!

The pro-shop and the clubhouse are really nice, too. They certainly didn't forget anything in their branding campaign. Even the dinner plates are emblazoned with the Wolf Creek logo. The food was good, the wine list is comprehensive, and there's even something on the dessert menu called a "spider shake." I didn't go there - anything to do with spiders, count me out.

The professionals were... professional. The service was efficient and, in cases, ultra-friendly. Charlie, one of the starters, was particularly likable and open. I'll end this with a quote from him, which, rather than being indicatave of the predominance of men there, sums up the beauty and challenge of the course: "Don't come here to score."

Go back to Golf Vacation, Part One - Primm Valley.

Go to the Next post.

Skip to the next course: The Ledges.


Anonymous said...

Great post and pix, that is an awesome course! Can't wait to see where you go next! I hope you visited some of the great courses in my backyard of St. George!

Cal said...

I think your next job should be as a writer for a golf magazine.

Have you tried to freelance some of your work to them? There should be a whole new market opening up - golf course reviews for women by women.

mediaguru said...

Nice review. I'm bummed you played golf a mere 3.5 hour drive from me and didn't invite me though...

Here's a related article:


JFB said...

Wow! What a unbelievably beautiful course! Hard to take a bad picture!


Golfchick said...

Anonymous - stay tuned! Next stop - Ledges. :)

Cal, thanks for the great feedback. I think I might like a job like that. I will definitely give that some thought.

It was supposed to be a much needed "romantic getaway." Nothing personal.

You're exactly right. Every shot is like a postcard. You should really go see it!


Luke Swilor said...

I heard somebody did die on those paths when they first opened. I think it was a maintenence guy.

mediaguru said...

I hope everything was to your satisfaction.... hehe

Greg said...

Wow, what a great looking course and a great write up. Looks like the price wasn't too bad either.


Willa Holland said...

This makes me re-think about my dad's ideas on golfing..

Hayden Panettiere said...

Fantastic, thanks so much for the stunning work.

Golfchick said...

Hi Ladies (Willa and Hayden),

Thanks for stopping by and posting your comments. I have to ask, though: is that really you two or are you folks the people who run their fan sites?


Anonymous said...

Ms, Williams- Having only heard about your site through Shaq's, I must acknowledge that someday I hope you realize the error of your ways in regards to this golf course.

While it may elicit the types of responses you have made you should be faced with the reality that WC is an abomination to quality golf course architecture.

I'll leave you with this truth.

Wolf Creek is a fine collection of 18 holes. Itis however, not a great golf course.

This may seem semantical, but in reality it is the antithesis of quality.

Golfchick said...


Thanks for taking the time to click through and read this post.

I am still relatively new to golf (less than 3 years - less than 2 when I wrote this),my knowledge of golf architecture is growing and I'm looking at golf courses in new ways. However, aren't golf course reviews essentially opinion pieces?

In my opinion, that fine collection of 18 holes is a beautiful place to play golf. I assume when you talk about "realizing the error of my ways" you're talking about my comments about the architecture. Because - and this may seem semantical - even if I someday "face reality" or the "truth," I'm still going to have the opinion that Wolf Creek is a beautiful golf course I would play again.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Anonymous said...

With no attempt to blend the golf course into it's natural surrounds, Wolf Creek is the Thomas Kincaid version of golf course art.