Strip Golf. Golf course operators in Las Vegas regularly concede and admit that gambling is and always will be the main draw to the area. But that doesn't mean you can't combine the two during your stay. A few of the casinos have golf courses nearby; however, they come with a price. The new Wynn Golf Club and Bali Hai are both on the Las Vegas Strip, and both have relatively high green fees. The Wynn ($500/round) is Tom Fazio's follow-up to his Shadow Creek masterpiece (located off the strip about 15 minutes northward), this time with scores of trees, steep undulations and waterfalls. Bali Hai ($325/round) is a departure from the norm too, with a look and feel that's supposed to mimic the South Pacific. Hmmm, that might be a stretch for us, but the scenery is beautiful nonetheless, and the golf course is a solid test—with or without the tropical white sands. For more info, visit www.shadowcreek.com, www.balihaigolfclub.com and wynnlasvegas.com.
Hoover Dam. You'd have to be born yesterday to not at least have heard of the Hoover Dam. Yet, how many of you have actually seen it? The Hoover Dam is worth your while, and even better, it's within 30 minutes of The Strip. Few people realize the Hoover Dam helped lead the migration west across the United States by supplying power to the sprawling Los Angeles Basin. Another little-known fact is that none of the energy produced is used to charge Vegas' neon lights. For more info, visit www.usbr.gov/lc/hooverdam/.
Big Hitters. It's only fitting that a long drive contest occur in the dry, warm Nevada desert. Taking place an hour from Las Vegas, in Mesquite, in October, the RE/MAX Long Drive Championships feature not only some of the longest hitters in the world, but also a chance for golfers to test their own long-drive ability to win the $125,000 prize. Local qualifiers are spread throughout the country and are open to men, women, juniors and seniors. For the scoop on dates and qualifying, visit www.longdrivers.com.
Locals Only. The slots and blackjack tables have no guarantees, but when it comes to choosing the right "local friendly" golf course, there are a few sure bets. Courses like Angel Park GC, The Legacy Golf Club and Siena Golf Club all serve as more-affordable alternatives from the higher-priced (sometimes overdone) courses around The Strip. Angel Park is also a great place to brush up on a lesson with its huge learning center, putting course and lighted par-3 course. The Legacy is a solid test—it's often host to several marquee events and local qualifiers. As for Siena, it's a lovely stroll. For more information, visit www.angelpark.com, www.thelegacygc.com and www.sienagolfclub.com.
Paiute Golf. Yeah, we know it's hard to spell and pronounce, but the courses at Paiute (pie-oot) Golf Resort shouldn't be missed. There are three Pete Dye-designed courses to choose from: Sun Mountain, Snow Mountain and Wolf. Both Mountain courses are fun, but it's the Wolf Course that leaves golfers howling for more. Make no bones about it—this course is tough, but the sense of accomplishment after playing it makes it worth it. For more info, visit www.lvpaiutegolf.com.
Lake Las Vegas. A tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of The Strip, the Lake Las Vegas Resort is becoming more and more popular, thanks to a new Ritz Carlton, the spectacular Falls Golf Club and the popular Reflection Bay Golf Club. There's also a Hyatt Regency and Vacation Villas for rent, as well as the relaxing Montelago Village where guests can eat, drink and often attend one of many outdoor concerts. If you catch our drift, the Lake Las Vegas Resort is definitely classier than The Strip—and by the looks of things, it's going to stay that way. For more info, visit www.lakelasvegas.com.
Food Lines. Las Vegas was once known as the unofficial home of the food buffet line, with many hotels offering up the standard fare of 24-hour foods from morning until night. Nowadays, Las Vegas cuisine is anything but run-of-the-mill, as several of the world's leading chefs have relocated to the area. Eat in decadence at Emeril Lagasse's Delmonico Steakhouse in the Venetian or eat in style at Wolfgang Puck's Spago at Caesar's Palace. For a thorough listing of celebrity chef restaurants, visit the Dining section of www.visitlasvegas.com._Ê
Evening Entertainment. No other place on earth rivals the variety in evening entertainment that Las Vegas provides. Whether it's boxing, magic, music, theater, dance, acrobatic acts, comedy, live animals, marquee celebrities—if you can think of it, it's probably already there. Popular shows include Blue Man Group, Danny Gans, any Cirque du Soleil show, Elton John, Celine Dion and the new Phantom Spectacular. But, before you plunk down more than $100 for a ticket, check out Vegas' own version of New York's TKTS. Look for Tickets2Nite (located by the huge Coke bottle in the middle of The Strip) for discount show tickets, or visit one of many trusted ticket brokers online. (888) 4-TIX-2-NITE
Learn Something. Tiger won't be stopping by anytime soon, but that isn't to say a bunch of other professional golfers won't. The Butch Harmon School of Golf is located at the fabulous Rio Secco Golf Club—a great place to test your new skills after a session at the school. For more information on how to book an individual or group lesson, visit the Butch Harmon School of Golf online at www.butchharmongolfschools.com.
Themed Golf. Las Vegas is the most artificial city in the United States. (We'd say "planet," but it seems Dubai now has that distinction.) At least Las Vegas takes pride in its showmanship, and its faux reproductions of varying terrain, landscapes and plant life are done so well that you can't help but marvel at the achievements in architecture and design. Among the favorites are the aforementioned Bali Hai Golf Club, the UK-inspired Royal Links, Bear's Best (a collection of Jack Nicklaus-designed holes) and The Revere at Anthem (a Revolutionary experience). For a review of the above, check out www.lasvegasgolf.com.
For a comprehensive overview on what to do in Las Vegas, how to get there and where to book a room, check out the Web's best resource for Sin City at www.visitlasvegas.com.
5 Best Stay And Plays
1. Lake Las Vegas Resort
Even though it's only 20 minutes from The Strip, this place feels worlds away. Decadent is a good word to describe it.
2. Mandalay Bay/Bali Hai GC_Ê
Enjoy the view no matter where you are at The Strip's most tranquil resort. The golf, accommodations and cuisine are all worth the few extra bucks.
3. Wynn Las Vegas Resort
The new Wynn course is so exclusive, we haven't even played it. Beat us, and you'll be in "the know." The hotel, however, has some of the best rooms on The Strip.
4. The Rio Secco Golf Club
The Rees Jones-designed Rio Secco track is an absolute thrill ride. The hotel and casino aren't too shabby, either. Just remember, the course is a short drive from the hotel.
5. Primm Valley Resort
Check out 36 holes designed by Tom Fazio, and don't miss the 22-acre ESPN Learning Center. Everything you need is here.
5 Most Challenging Courses
1. Badlands Golf Club
With three nines designed by the diabolical Johnny Miller, you can expect a serious challenge with demanding greens.
2. TPC At The Canyons
Arguably the toughest layout in Las Vegas, the TPC forces golfers to negotiate over and around natural arroyos and barrancas. Even Tour pros sometimes struggle here.
3. The Wolf At Paiute Golf Resort
Pete Dye did just about all he could to make the Wolf a stiff challenge, especially from the back tee markers. You think you can tame all 7,604 yards of it? Yeah right.
4. Bear's Best
This replica course of Nicklaus-designed holes is no gimmick. The course is tough, varied and usually maintained to exceptional standards. (They have caddies to help you.)
5. The Falls At Lake Las Vegas
Holy schnikes! This course has some insane elevation changes, making it even more critical that you hit the fairway off the tee._Ê_Ê
How To Do Vegas Right
1. Set Your Limits
Gambling can be enticing, but nobody wants to spend the weekend in Vegas with a buddy who has lost all his cash on the first night. Pace yourself for the entire trip.
2. Dress Well
Sure, there will be some folks in really bad T-shirts and cheap sandals, but that doesn't give you the right to join them. Look nice, act nice and you'll reap the rewards.
3. Use A Casino Card
There's a little hassle in getting one, but it's worth it. Often, hotels send free room vouchers to cardholders during off-season months.
4. Visit On The Weekdays
You'll save a bundle by avoiding the overpriced weekend room rates. Sometimes by as much as 50 percent.
5. Play Golf In The Morning
It can get windy in the afternoons, so book your tee time early for a more relaxing day. You'll be glad you did.
6. See At Least One Marquee Show
They're expensive, but they're also out of this world when it comes to special effects, music and magic.
7. Learn To Play Craps
Statistically, craps has the best bets in the casino. The game looks complicated, but in reality, it's not. Learn it and win some cash.