Mesquite Flavored Fairways

Tony Roberts is a bona fide golf expert. An award-winning photographer who has documented champion golfers and courses since 1971, Roberts is regarded among the world’s elite. His images have embellished the pages of dozens of major publications, including Golf Digest, Golf and Golf World UK, and his eye-candy imagery hangs among the revered corridors of the USGA Museum and the World Golf Hall of Fame.

So when he remarked a few years ago that Mesquite, Nev., and nearby St. George, Utah, are among the more head-turning golf destinations this side of St. Andrews, I did my own double take and paid close attention.
“If there was golf on the moon, it would look very much like Mesquite,” says Roberts, a 17-handicapper who seldom travels without his trusty Nikon camera and Cleveland clubs. “The landscape is so stark, so astonishingly barren, you’d never believe golf could exist. And yet, there it is.”
Indeed. Situated about one hour northeast of Las Vegas via Interstate 15—St. George is another 40 minutes east, or about nine hours west of Denver—the region is an ethereal canvas of gaping desert arroyos, sandstone outcroppings, rain- and wind-carved mesas, and boulder-encrusted canyons. All the more remarkable is the Crayola box of supernatural colors: Gleaming hues of ocher, coral, hazel and gold paint the desert in broad strokes, especially when the light dances at sunrise and sunset.

Amid it all is an ever-expanding parade of shamrock-green golf properties that inspire a chilling, Twilight Zone eeriness. Add to it the peerless side-trip excursions (see St. George sidebar), cloudless blue skies, sumptuous fall-through-spring temperatures and premier casino resorts (in Nevada, of course), and you have a splendid and surprisingly affordable playground that in the last 10 years has established itself among the game’s can’t-miss experiences.
It was the semi-private Oasis Golf Club that kick-started Mesquite’s growing golf celebrity. In 1995, Arnold Palmer and Ed Seay transformed a handful of gnarly box canyons into a 6,631-yard, risk-reward collection of blind tee shots, forced canyon carries, towering bluffs and intimidating shot lines. The par-71 Palmer Course, once ranked by Golf Digest among Nevada’s top public layouts, continues to impress with top-notch conditioning and multiple tees—several of which are perched atop towering red-rock bluffs.

Last year’s remodeling and nine-hole addition to its older Vistas track has added further luster to Oasis. The renamed Canyons layout is a 6,408-yard, David Druzisky-designed par-71 course that presents a kinder, slightly gentler option to the spike-shredding Palmer routing. In addition, golfers enjoy superb customer service, fabulous mountain views, an expansive golf academy and a 29,000-square-foot clubhouse.

Wolf Creek Golf Resort is a dyed-in-the-wool beast. Just ask Golf Digest, which ranks the layout at No. 27 on its America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses ranking, or the USGA, which pegged the routing with a snarling 154-slope rating (155 is as high as you can go). Still, few will argue that the homespun, par-72 layout is an outright stunner that cascades and claws through sandstone canyons, boulders and arroyos.

But be sure to check that Big Bertha ego at Wolf Creek’s pro shop: Unless you have a Tiger-esque tee ball that is both long and accurate, the routing will devour your prized cache of Pro V1s if played from the wrong tees. For instance, those playing from the 7,018-yard tips will be looking at a 248-yard par three (the eighth) and a 350-yard carry (the 16th) just to reach the first cut. Sure, both shots are downhill, but the intimidation factor alone is insidiously cruel.

Players can later lick their wounds at the nearby Eureka Casino Hotel, which offers stay-and-play packages to several area courses, including Wolf Creek and Oasis, and 24-hour access to its slots and gaming tables. Another recommendation is the HawkRidge Condominiums, where frequent visitors to the Virgin River Valley can purchase two- and three-bedroom luxury units that start in the $170,000s.

Ready for something with a wee less bite? Head to Mesquite’s east side and test drive the CasaBlanca Golf Club. Generous fairways, lush landscaping, natural wetlands, ball-collecting mounding and unhindered views of the Virgin River Mountains are hallmarks of the parkland-style routing crafted a decade ago by Cal Olson, an early proponent of computer-assisted course designs.

Nearby is Mesquite’s oldest course, the 7,008-yard Palms Golf Club, designed by William Hull and opened in 1990. Fast greens, cliff-side tees, breathtaking elevation changes, towering palm trees and a respectable 137 slope characterize this imaginative and playable routing.

The Palms is an anchor amenity of the Oasis Resort Hotel & Casino (not to be confused with the Oasis Golf Club). More notably, it’s the longtime venue of the RE/MAX World Long Drive Championship. Held every year in October, the RE/MAX is the premier event in power golf, attracting an international field looking to grab a share of the $500,000 cash purse. Last year’s Open Division champion, Sean Fister of Little Rock, Ark., cannoned an ear-piercing drive just over 377 yards.

Inspired by such prowess, it’s fitting to want to assess Mesquite’s newest and final challenge—Falcon Ridge Golf Course. The Kelby Hughes design opened in 2004 with dramatic elevation changes, high-plateau tees and swift, multi-tiered bent-grass greens. Measuring 6,550 yards from the tips, the par-71 course has gained an avid following due in large part to consummate customer service and persnickety turf conditioning.

Which leaves only one pertinent question: When we finally get to watch the Neil Armstrong Open played at the Sea of Tranquility Resort, will some erudite golf photographer quip the landscape has an eerie resemblance to Mesquite, Nevada? 
Contributing editor Chris Duthie lives in Durango.For more information, go online to or call 866-720-7111; or to or 877-637-7848.

Where to Play

CasaBlanca Golf Club; 888-711-GOLF
Falcon Ridge Golf Course; 877-270-4653
Oasis Golf Club; 888-367-3386
Palms Golf Club; 888-711-4653
Wolf Creek Golf Resort; 866-252-4653

Where to Stay

Eureka Casino Hotel; 800-346-4611
HawkRidge Condominiums; 877-411-HAWK
Oasis Resort Hotel; 800-21-OASIS