PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 14, 2013

West on golf: Mesquite terrific destination for buddy trip

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

MESQUITE, Nev. —  Looking to take a buddy-type golf trip that features memorable playing options, is reasonable in cost, features blow-your-mind vistas and offers whatever type casino action you like? Based on my personal experience, it would be hard to top this popular destination in northeast Nevada.

Only 75 miles from Las Vegas, but light years away in lifestyle, this ambitious little town of maybe 15,000 has emerged from a sleepy, well-kept secret to a place that’s becoming increasingly attractive because of its golf.  

It’s where the Golf Channel’s Big Break was born, where the game’s biggest hitters gather every October for the Re-Max World Long Drive Championship and it’s host to the ever popular Mesquite Amateur that annually attracts 500 to 600 golfers from all over the United States.

After visits to Mesquite the past two winters led to playing each of the courses in what has been labeled “The Magnificent Seven,” I’m hooked. The golf experience was terrific, the hospitality exceptional and the scenery provided by a Mojave Desert setting absolutely stunning.

Adding an “amen, brother,” to all that is Nederlander David Arnaud, one of a handful of Southeast Texans who play in the Mesquite Amateur each May. Arnaud and friends had been going to the World Amateur in Myrtle Beach, but grew weary of the traffic and crowds.

“Some guys at Myrtle Beach told us about the tournament in Mesquite and said we ought to check it out,” Arnaud said. “We did and we love it. This will be our third year. Most of the courses are within five to ten minutes of where you stay, and the town is so easy to get around in. It’s just so laid back and so different from Las Vegas.”

Another area golfer who recently discovered the allure of Mesquite is Jerry Boehm. Boehm and some of his buddies went online to purchase a Golf Mesquite package (www.golfmesquitenev.com), took their trip in March and came back thinking about when they could make a return.

“It’s a beautiful place,” Boehm said. “Wolf Creek is the best desert course I’ve ever played. The views everywhere you go are unbelievable. I would go back in a heartbeat. We had golf, gambling and great food and it was very reasonable. Wolf Creek was expensive, but it was separate from our package.”

Wolf Creek, in fact, tops the list of reasons why I intend to make a third trip to Mesquite. Yes, this course is that special. Golf Magazine, in its 2013 list of America’s top 100 public courses, has it No. 37, with the intriguing notation that it’s a “fantasy calendar come to life.”

Indeed, the vistas at Wolf Creek are so spectacular, and the course so unique, so different and so much fun to play, it finished No. 1 in a Golf Digest reader poll to pick the best public course. All the big names — Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, the Bandon Dunes quartet, the Ocean Course at Kiawah, Whistling Straits and others — were put into an NCAA-type 64-team bracket, and Wolf Creek emerged as the voter champion.

Mesquite Golf, meanwhile, offers a smorgasbord of delicious options from Jack Nicklaus’ challenging and spectacular Coyote Springs, to Arnold Palmer’s seriously undulating Oasis, to Gary Panks’ robust Connestoga to a couple of gorgeous, red-rock laden gems across the Utah border — Coral Canyon and Sand Hollow. Falcon Ridge and the Oasis Canyons are pretty nifty also.

That wasn’t a misprint about Utah. Two courses from the Beehive state are included in the Mesquite package and both are dazzling. Plus getting there is half the fun, as the 45-minute drive from Mesquite through the Virgin River Gorge into St. George is like something out of a movie scene. You start in Nevada, cross into Arizona, weave through steep, scary canyons and emerge in Utah.

Back in Mesquite, where it’s just about impossible to get lost, it’s clear the folks are proud of what they have and relish being the anti-Vegas.

“There’s no other place on the planet where you can play golf on such a colorful, lunar-like landscape,” Connestoga general manager Ray Metz told Bill Huffman of AZ Golf Insider. “And one other thing. Mesquite is small-town America, where people actually try to get to know you and remember your name. Your won’t get that in Vegas.”

Indeed you won’t. That’s why any golfer headed toward Sin City might want to just rent a car at McCarron International Airport and point it toward Mesquite. You could well discover it’s the difference between making birdie and bogey.

Sports editor Bob West can be e-mailed at rdwest@usa.net