It’s frantic, sometimes exhausting, and a whole lot of fun.
Las Vegas was made for the 48 hour trip, golf included.
If there is a place in this world where you can get almost a week’s worth of action into a two day period, the Nevada desert and the “Entertainment Capital of The World” is the place to be.
Sleep be damned. (Well, mostly)
If you’re up to the challenge then read on.
So here’s the strategy, as flawed as it may seem, to squeeze the most out of a place where clocks are as scarce as the Hope Diamond. Get in, get out, and ride the heck out of it in between.
You’ll book a room but I’ll suggest that in the end it may feel like nothing but a place to change clothes and get refreshed with a quick shower.
The starter is a morning flight into Vegas, usually arriving near lunch time. Bring your eye-mask and ear plugs; you’ll want to rest while you’re in the air. You’re not going to get much on the ground.
After wheels down at McCarron International (take a pass on the slot machines in the terminal) grab a car as quickly as possible out front. Better yet, arrange this in advance so there is no waiting around (with your carry-on of course; why waste time in baggage claim?). Talk to your driver and get their card – having a go-to driver while you are in town is the best way to roll. They’ll take care of you better and maybe even give you a few “insider” tips if they get familiar with you.
It’s just five minutes to The Strip (one of the many joys of the city) and I’d suggest setting up camp at a spot like the Aria Resort & Casino. Yes, there are plenty of hotels to choose from but I’ve yet to have bad service at this MLife (MGM Resorts) property so just roll with it. Among their 4004 rooms you can find a beauty, even if you spend a fraction of your time there.
Drop your carry on and get back to your car out front for your eight minute drive down the strip to Bali Hai Golf Club. Yes, I said less than ten minutes and you can be on the first tee. Hook up with some rentals (do you really want to haul your overpriced custom golf clubs to Vegas for this?) and smoke that first tee shot down the ribbon of a first fairway.
You’ll marvel at what you find at Bali Hai. You’re transported to a world that is in stark contrast to your surroundings. Fairways like green carpets are laid out in the desert surrounded by thousands of tropical trees (more than 2,500 tall palms) and some 100,000 exotic plants. Yes, airplanes will fly overhead and you’ll still be able to see a billboard or two but you are in midst of a city after all.
Bali Hai can play to 7,000 yards but give yourself a break – this is for fun after all. Consider a caddy from their solid program.
You’ll be prompted to play quickly here; not by the staff but by the gleaming casino towers of Mandalay Bay that you use as targets a few times during play. The temptations they represent should spur you on.
6:15 p.m. (or so they tell you)
You may not have exactly worked up a sweat thanks to your looper so no need to head back to the Aria. It’s time for some cocktails and an early dinner before heading out.
Where to? Within eyesight is the Delano Las Vegas and their recently renovated Skyfall Lounge and adjoining Rivea Restaurant. The bonus? They reside on the 64th floor of this MGM property. You’ll get a great 180-degree view of the city, the one that will absorb you for the next day and a half.
After cocktails at Skyfall, including some amazing whisky creations from their award-winning mixologist, you’ll be primed for your meal at Rivea. It blends in French and Italian influences but don’t let that scare you – their 18oz Angus bone-in ribeye is as succulent as they come.
Time for some action. It’s early so the hot spots have not fired up yet. That means it’s a good time to see if you can get an early win and get one up on Sin City. No matter your game of choice there is a casino to suit you. Since we’re thinking ahead the Bellagio will be a good spot; you’ll see why later.
The Bellagio offers up a nice combo – the Sports Book is right next to the famed “Bobby’s Room” where no-limit poker action often attracts the top pros. It may be too rich for your blood but it’s entertaining to watch unless you want to play a few hands on the smaller limit tables instead.
Burn a few hours here, maybe catch the fountain show out front and get ready to really get things going.
Things are finally starting to pop. This is when Las Vegas really starts to come alive. Since you are already at the Bellagio though, there is no need to wander very far.
After all, you can sleep on the plane ride home, right?
Slide into the line-up at the Hyde, one of the hottest dance clubs on the strip. Be sure to talk up the services manager who patrols the queue; rumour has it that he’s a big golf nut. Maybe he’ll be nice and let you in without dinging for the cover charge.
Now that you are are danced out, had a few beverages (head to the back left bar with the view of the Bellagio fountains, it’s usually less crowded than the main bar), and met some new people, it’s time to wander by foot a few blocks back to your home base.
To get your blood pressure back down after the myriad of light and sound at Hyde have a seat in the ARIA lobby bar or play a couple quiet hands of Blackjack. The tables are normally wide open at this time so you can sit in where you like.
Yes, this is where you get a little nap. But emphasize the little part. Breakfast is waiting downstairs at the ARIA Cafe or The Buffet At Aria. Want to relax in your room? Choose room service but be wise and order this when you first come back to the hotel. That will save you an hour wait when you REALLY need that coffee.
Fresh air. You need some. This is the time of day to get it. A quick walk along the North Strip will perk you up and unlike a dozen hours prior, the streets are a lot more deserted. Take in the lights of the casinos and hotels without having to avoid a collision with other tourists on the barren sidewalks.
That driver whose card you grabbed at the airport? Grab it now and book your wheels. You’re headed for round two. This time the Bear’s Best Golf Club is your destination. It’s a little bit of a drive out to the golf course so bring your sleep mask and sneak in some z’s on the 27 minute trip.
Ready for some golf but maybe your swing needs a little help before you tackle a Jack Nicklaus design that consolidates many of his best golf holes around the world? Believe it or not you have time to work in a quick lesson. Paul Wilson, a Canadian, runs his golf academy at Bear’s Best. He’ll give you that valuable advice to boost your tired confidence and power you through eighteen holes. Or more.
You’re on the tee. Be sure to ask the marshall to point out the houses along the fairways owned by the famous folks – Carlos Santana included.
The course climbs to high above the valley, providing as much scenery as you could hope for as you play 18 of the most famous Jack Nicklaus designs from the hundreds of holes he has built around the world. From holes 14 onward you work your way back down to the comfortable clubhouse.
Home of the Bear’s Den BBQ, after your round stick around for some eats at the club. Get a made-to-order burger, grab a seat on the patio and enjoy the views of Rock Canyon.
Two rounds down but they’re still plenty of time. Yes, daylight is getting short but you don’t have far to go to more golf holes in this end of town.
TPC Las Vegas is a solid choice but also consider Angel Park. That’s where we’re headed. You’ll understand why when the sun goes down.
At Angel Park, all at 3000 feet of elevation, you’ll have a choice of 36 holes of Arnold Palmer designed golf. Play the shorter Palm Course to conserve a little energy or tackle the slightly longer Mountain course if you dare. Both will not disappoint as they are among the most regarded in the valley.
Must be time to head back to hotel, right? Guess again.
Angel Park has something a little extra for the avid player, the Cloud course. Previously named the best par 3 course in America, nine of the twelve holes on this short course are illuminated for night play. If you can’t handle more full swings then play the all-grass miniature golf course instead, deep into the night.
Time to fuel up a bit before some rest.
You have just enough time to make it to The Venetian Las Vegas, back on The Strip. Sit back and relax at the Yardbird Southern Table and Bar. I’d suggest a Yardbird Old Fashioned made with bacon-infused Wild Turkey 81 Bourbon and the “Chicken ’n’ Watermelon ’n’ Waffles”. You won’t regret it.
Back down the road to The Aria for some sleep. It’s been a busy trip so far and there is still one big stop before the flight home.
If you didn’t sneak back out of your room to go play the tables or spend a little time at the dance clubs, then you are more than rested.
At this point you have a choice, squeeze in one more round (I’d recommend the Rio Secco Golf Club in Henderson) or if you want to relax a bit but still be around your golf clubs then TopGolf is the answer.
Recently opened you’ll find this four-level golf entertainment complex set on eight acres behind the MGM Grand. From one of their 108 hitting bays you can enjoy a variety of point-based range games, all while getting first class food and beverage service. You can even take a dip in one of their two pools.
Semi-exhausted but with a lot of fun in the rear view mirror it’s time to head for home.
While you wait in the airport, now is the time to drop those last few dollars in their slot machines.
One more chance to get lucky in Las Vegas, and your last chance to squeeze the most out of an amazing forty-eight hours.
And maybe time to start dreaming about your return visit.
/ Scott MacLeod @Flagstick