WOLF CREEK GOLF CLUB – Mesquite, NV
B+ – Playability & Challenge
A – Quality of Course
A+ – Memorability
A+ – Service Levels
A – Pro Shop
A – 19th Hole Experience
A – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
(Written by Jim Allen) … During the process of playing the Top 100 golf establishments in America, some venues have left a more lasting impression on me than others. In the case of Wolf Creek Golf Course, it even left some lifelong scars.
While most people are very familiar with Las Vegas golf, not all have been properly informed about a little town called Mesquite, located about 80 miles to the east on Highway 15. What started a couple of decades ago as a rest stop between Vegas and Salt Lake City has grown into a premium golf destination. The crown jewel would be the 27th ranked Wolf Creek Golf Course, also rated among the top 50 toughest courses in the U.S.
Not only is it a very challenging 7018-yard layout, but it possesses a special “awe-factor” that one would normally reserve for a place like say … Niagara Falls. The views are simply over the top. The contrasting green grass and reddish-colored canyon backdrops gives the appearance that this course was carved from a moonscape. The course fits very snuggly into the rugged high desert canyons that rollercoaster up, down, and around the steep local topography. Elevated tee boxes are the norm; bunkers are everywhere you shouldn’t be; and a lost ball search in the natural surroundings is commonly greeted with a spine-tingling rattle.
I have played this course three times. My inaugural trip was just six months after it opened in 2000, representing one of my first ventures into five-star course territory. It was at this event, that I truly began to understand the difference and nuances between a good course, and a great golf layout. I also learned that it hurts like heck when you flip a golf cart.
Two of the holes at Wolf Creek rate among my all-time favorites and another one is officially on my “how in the heck did that happen” list. Based on that, let’s start with good stuff first – the opening hole. The spectacular views from the elevated tee box showcase a 504-yard work of art; one that is well protected by 11-bunkers and a creek that runs along the right side of the last 200-yards. There is also a three-tiered green that screams “four-putt” to every misplaced iron shot. If one was choosing an all-time fantasy course, this hole gets in without a vote – even if par requires five perfect shots.
My other gem is the next to last hole, another par-5 adventure. This 527-yarder traverses down a canyon and ultimate tests my confidence and skill levels with a pair of forced water carries. The hang time on my drive is pretty cool from this elevated tee box, even when it only flew 230 yards. One bad shot here makes a desert snowman a reality and a short approach shot into the drink will have your blood pressure boiling as you scribble a double-digit on the scorecard.
Which leads me to the now famous “how in the heck did that happen” hole, one that literally scarred and battered me on my first trip. Those honors go to number 11, a somewhat generic 166-yard par-3 where you hit from yet another elevated tee box to a sunken green.
After teeing off with John Lundgren and Golfest member Rickey Berger, we hopped into our gas-golf carts and headed down the steep curving path to the green. Somewhere between point A and point B, the left rear wheel struck the curb and a speed bump at the same time and catapulted the cart sideways and over in a freakish accident. It was one of those strange moments when everything – including my life – began to flash by in super slow motion as it unfolded.
Sometime during my frantic effort to NOT get ejected from the cart and have it land on me, I was flung out of the cart and … of course … it landed on me. In slow-motion frame-by-frame action, I was smashed between the July-hot grooved cart path and our once-friendly course transportation vehicle. The cart flipped and bore down on my right hip, as my head struck the path along with my left elbow and shoulder. A split-second later, John Lundgren, no longer able to hold his weight from the roof handle of the cart, lost his death grip and landed on me. It all lasted just a couple of seconds, but it seemed to go on forever. John was fine, but all I saw was blood and stars. Unfortunately, both of them were mine.
While sitting on the concrete in total surprise and shock, and John scrambling to right himself, I began to feel liquid dripping down my back. Stars or no stars, my subconscious suddenly kicked into panic mode. Let’s do the math: A gasoline-powered golf cart, plus leaking fluids mean I am just one little spark away from being a marshmallow in search of a SMORE. I yelled “GGGAAAASSSSS!”and we both managed to frantically scramble from the wreckage.
Adding insult to injury was Mr. Berger, who had a front row seat of the melee from his cart behind us. I glanced up to see him running down the cart path with a lit cigarette in his hand to rescue us. Thankfully, I discovered later that the leaking gas was actually dirty water from the displaced ball washer. Otherwise, Rickey would have rapidly enhanced my ignition process.
The strange thing about this whole ordeal was that, like many golfers, I’ve screwed around and deserved to flip a golf cart 50 or so times before this day. But on this day, odds must have caught up with me! There was no alcohol involved and nobody was even screwing around to prompt it to happen in the first place. I guess that is why they call it an accident?
At this point, I have blood gushing out of my left elbow and knee, and my hip is killing me. Should someone call 911? Not if you are an avid golfer playing a great course. After a few minutes of inspecting for broken bones and shaking the cob webs, we righted the cart and nursed it over to the snack shack. Once there, I was cleaned and bandaged by course officials. A danger dog, four Tylenols and a cocktail chaser made it possible to finish the round, much to the amazement of the course marshals who wanted to revisit their head trauma theory with me.
By the time we got to the aforementioned favorite 17th hole, my left side was absolutely killing me. I dropped my shorts to investigate the source of the pain and found myself staring at four-foot-long grooves on my left buttock and hip. Coincidentally, they matched up perfectly with the grooves in the concrete cart path; grooves that were branded into the skin from the force of the cart landing on me. It looked like I was clawed by a bear and in typical fashion, both John and Rickey were laughing at what they were witnessing. John joked that he was going to tell my wife Carol that I had a skirmish with a Vegas stripper and she scratched me. Thanks John. What are friends for?
So where does the scarred for life thing come in? No …, it wasn’t from John’s comment! Upon returning to my Las Vegas hotel room to take a much-needed shower, I was shocked when I walked by the mirror. In the time it took to drive back to Las Vegas, the blood had pooled in my left side. The grooves were gone, only to be replaced with a massive grape jam colored bruise that covered me completely from my waist down to my left knee. I ended up at the medical center trying to explain what happened. The doctor doubted the part about NOT drinking. A medical examination and X-Rays showed that my L4 and L5 vertebrae in my lower back were severely compressed, something that still bothers me to this day. And there is still some stuff still floating around in my left elbow that feel like popcorn kernels. Who said golf is a non-contact sport?
I discovered on a return visit to Wolf Creek that one of the potential causes of the crash was that the cart path was reversed cambered. To simplify, rather than being banked into the turn, it was banked the other way, causing the cart to lean to the wrong side. I think a light dusting of desert sand also influenced the spill, causing us to skid. On the third visit, I noticed that the path had been completely rerouted to improve safety. As it turned out, I was the sixth golfer to flip a cart on Wolf Creek’s steep paths in the first six-months the course was opened.
Now that I am totally sidetracked with this course review, let’s get back to the reason why you are reading this. The simple fact that I got up after the accident and WANTED to play the rest of this course serves as a true testament and endorsement of the facility. (No …, I’m not crazy!) That statement is made in spite of the fact that most golfers will not score well here – including myself. Trouble lurks at every corner and it’s very easy to lose focus and get caught up in the surroundings. My advice is to add 10 strokes to your handicap at Wolf Creek and I will still guarantee that you’ll walk away with a great experience. Flipping a golf cart is optional.
EDITOR NOTE: For those of you that don’t have the luxury to play Wolf Creek in person, you can now do it from the comforts of your own living room. The course is included in EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09.
ANOTHER EDITOR NOTE: According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, golf cart related injuries have spiked more than 132 percent since 1990. That works out to 9,000 people injured every year. Trust me, it’s not fun being a statistic.
Golfest visited Wolf Creek during Golfest 2015-Mesquite and our members voted the venue to be our Golfest Course of the Year. Congratulations.