Vegas' best par-3s: An 18-hole tour

Under a normal sports calendar, the Par-3 Contest would be taking place Wednesday at Augusta National, the day before the beginning of the Masters. With that, the “Long Shots” crew decided to come up with some par-3s around Las Vegas that the “Wise-Golf Guys” around town and here at VSiN considered the very best. When making our choices, we used the following factors: design, aesthetics, level of difficulty, fairness, scenery, individuality and character. Par-3s offer several betting opportunities on any course: closest to the pin, greenies and hole-in-one contests. During SuperContest Weekend every August, we use Las Vegas Country Club Nos. 7 and 14 for a chance to win a free SuperContest entry and a car. In no particular order, VSiN presents the 18 best par-3s in Las Vegas.


1. Las Vegas Paiute Resort, Wolf Course, No. 15: World-renowned golf course architect Pete Dye lays claim to the only true island green in Nevada. Similar to the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, home to The Players Championship, the required do-or-die shot will make players of all skill levels a little nervous. The hole is not long, but the green is very large, so three-putts are not uncommon. Changes in wind direction can require a different club day to day.


2. DragonRidge Country Club, No. 2: This hole features the area’s greatest elevation change from tee box to green and makes the green appear relatively small from way up on the hill looking out across the Las Vegas skyline. The panoramic view is fantastic. The green is actually quite big, but the challenge here is club selection and judging the distance the ball will travel as it descends. Jay Kornegay, vice president of race and sports at Westgate Superbook, calls it “a steep downhiller that plays longer than you think. A visual stunner.”

3. Bear's Best, No. 4: This is a long par-3 at 229 yards from the tips, 195 from the blues and still a stout 175 from the white tees. It goes by the name “Old Works” and is a reproduction of Jack Nicklaus’ hole at Anaconda Hills Golf Course in Montana. The Bear even brought in the black sand from Montana for the bunkers surrounding this large, subtly undulating green, making for a beautiful, stark color contrast between the emerald-green grass and the ash-black sand. An appropriate hole to sip on a BookMaker Blonde, also from Montana.


4. Boulder Creek, Coyote Run Course, No. 8: This very scenic little par-3 is only 142 yards from the blue tees and just 123 yards from the whites, but it has all the teeth one wants as water spans all the way from the tee box to the green’s edge. Bunkers protect the left side of the green, which is tiered and sloped back toward the water. One of the prettiest shots on this beautiful course, it requires keen shot placement.


5. Las Vegas National, No. 8: From Vinny Magliulo of Gaughan Gaming and VSiN’s “My Guys in The Desert”: “One of five par-3s on this par-71 course, the three-tiered green is deceptive with the front edge of the green a little over 100 yards from the white tees. The hole plays twice as long from the tips when the pin is placed on the top tier. When the wind blows, I swear you can hear Louis Prima singing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ ”


6. Cascata, No. 12: Certainly one of the more scenic short holes in Nevada and a favorite of Matt Youmans, VSiN senior editor and host of “The Edge”: “With the creek in front of the tee box and running up the left side all the way up to and around the left edge of the green … the green tucked at the base of the mountain with the waterfall creeping down from above.” A vote from Jay Kornegay as well: “Short hole but an unforgettable view.” The hole can also be beautiful in the sense that it may allow one to record a par or even a birdie as it rates as the easiest hole on the course.

7. Shadow Creek, No. 5: Steve Wynn’s vision and Tom Fazio’s design are in full splendor here. A shorter hole, the tee box looks up to a slightly elevated green. A man-made canyon about 100 yards long and 100 yards deep between the tee and the green is filled densely with pine trees, requiring a shot over the tops of the trees. Stunningly, it looks like one is in the hills

of North Carolina.

8. Las Vegas Country Club, No. 17: A classic hole at a classic course, this is a tough one. Set in the shadow of the tower at Westgate Las Vegas Resort, a large pond sits between the tee box and the green and borders about half the putting surface. A well-placed bunker comes up from the water’s edge to the right-middle of the green. A bunker greenside left catches shots fearful of carrying the water. Playing between 175 and 200 yards, all over water, with the Strip as a backdrop ... it’s a keeper. You think Dino and Ol’ Blue Eyes had a wager or two on this hole back in the day? Jay Kornegay says: “Pin placement is everything here, and it’s usually a money hole.”


9. Spanish Trail Country Club, Lakes Course, No. 3: A Robert Trent Jones Jr. creation, this hole boasts what may be the most beautifully landscaped and uniquely designed water feature in town. Once one has cleared the lower lake, the shot must also make its way over a greenside lake barely visible from the tee. Large palms hang over the green, and a very popular bail-out bunker sits on the right. Short is not an option here (splash!), but one can get away with an acceptable bogey if the shot is long.


10. Red Rock Country Club, Mountain Course, No. 7: My guess is this is the highest-elevated tee box in the valley. It sits at the highest point of Red Rock Country Club, nearly 3,000 feet above sea level. The view is unobstructed and incredibly vast both far and wide. You can even see South Point from here! The green is somewhat narrow, running horizontally, making club selection the real test. One must judge the breeze and the elevation drop to avoid bunkers that occupy three of the green’s four sides.


11. Bali Hai, No. 9: Getting votes from Wes Reynolds of VSiN’s golf betting show, “Long Shots,” and Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading at William Hill U.S., this hole brings the whole tropical Indonesian theme of the property into full effect. Various species of palm trees, the grandiose clubhouse and white sand bunkers provide the backdrop while a glistening pond separates the tee box from the hole. Depending on which set of tees is used, it stretches anywhere from a 100-yard flip shot to a staunch 200-yard long iron. A very soothing, serene hole shows its teeth with a significant ridge in the green that runs from back to front. Says Bogdanovich: “There is a phone at the tee box to order food, which is really good at Bali Hai, and all the while, you are right on the Strip. It’s rare that a ninth hole is a par-3. It’s almost always a press hole to decide the front-nine winner.”   


12. Rhodes Ranch, No. 3: After two relatively tame par-4s, Ted Robinson puts players of all skill levels to the test with this beautiful hole that measures 227 yards from the back tees, 189 from the blues and 167 from the white tees, over and around water on a hole that from tee to green is shaped like a banana. A lefty must hit a draw and a right-handed player must hit a very difficult cut shot to get the ball close to the hole. Players will be very pleased with a par on this hole.


13. Rio Secco, No. 6: Another terrific visual is this desert-style par-3 by another world-class designer in Rees Jones. The hole is set down in elevation from the tee box into a little cove with canyon walls on the right side, protecting entry to the putting surface. In addition, the green has a tier and is slanted from back to front. One can make a 2 or a 6 here very easily.


14. TPC Summerlin, No. 17: A Wes Reynolds favorite, this hole is regularly seen on TV down the stretch at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open. It is shaped like a tadpole, with a straightforward tee shot (the tail) to a circular green complex (the head), with water in play all along the left side and bordering the left edge of the green. Playing from 160 to 195 yards, it’s a pressure-cooker even for the pros, often with the tournament on the line. As it was in 2010, Reynolds recalls: “There was barely enough daylight to keep playing, and the Shriners Open was about to be called for darkness. After tying the first three playoff holes, they decided to go to the par-3 17th for one more hole. Jonathan Byrd makes an ace on the fourth playoff hole to win the tournament. It is the only hole-in-one to ever decide a playoff in PGA Tour history.”


15. SouthShore Country Club, No. 16: Depending on which tees one is playing from, this shot is about 200 yards. The tee box is a small outcropping from the canyon wall and requires walking up a set of stairs. It is an intimidating shot as you basically stand on the edge of a cliff, looking over a natural arroyo that falls about 75 yards to the canyon floor. But its scenery is stunning. A waterfall cascades down from the left through towering palm trees and into the canyon. Just getting the ball onto the green here feels like you’ve made it back to safety.


16. Reflection Bay, No. 8: Maybe a little Pebble Beach No. 7 influence here for course designer Jack Nicklaus. The massive man-made Lake Las Vegas borders the entire right side of the hole and wraps around nearly three-quarters of the green, much like Carmel Bay at Pebble No. 7. It’s a gorgeous shot visually, as the bulk of the lake is visible from start to finish. The lake and the mountains make up most of the horizon. Interestingly enough, Tom Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach, made a hole-in-one on this hole at the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge eight years later.


17. Painted Desert, No. 11: A very straightforward hole, but the length makes it harder than it appears. It usually plays a club longer than one would think due to the slightest bit of rise in elevation from tee to green. Vinny Magliulo explains: “When the pin is in the front, you have a good chance of putting down that rare ‘1’ on the scorecard. Straight shot to a fast and narrow green. Plus my buddy lives just off the green, so his fridge is a lifesaver in the summertime!” 


18. Primm Valley, Desert Course, No. 9: This world-class Tom Fazio design has no homes on the course, making for vast desert and mountain views. Matt Youmans describes his favorite par-3 at one of his favorite courses: “From the elevated tee box, the view is excellent with a wall of palm trees behind the green. One must avoid the pond on the left side of the green, which sits in a valley, along with the deep sand bunker between the water and the putting surface. The safest play is a slightly right-to-left shot, taking the water out of play. This is the hole we plan on using for the JVT (Jonathan Von Tobel) Ace-In-The-Hole Challenge — but he gets to use the forward tees at 127 yards.”


Honorable-mention par-3s: Southern Highlands, No. 17; Highland Falls, No. 14; Las Vegas Golf Club, No. 3; Las Vegas Country Club, No. 14; Las Vegas Paiute Resort, Wolf Course, No. 8.


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