Hidden Gems — 26 June 2012 by Jim Street
Golfing in Nevada with a Bro

BOULDER CITY, Nev. – There’s nothing quite like playing golf with a sibling, so anytime I can tee it up with my golf-nut brother is a pleasure, regardless of the scores we shoot.

Such was the case when my brother, four years younger, and I challenged two courses near his home in Boulder City, the only Nevada city that does not allow gambling. Although I am not sure that includes friendly bets on either of the two courses located inside the city limits – Boulder Creek and the Boulder City Golf Course– I did not want to take a chance of getting thrown in the poky for winning a bunch of money from Lary (yes, one ‘r”) and/or his longtime friend George, who introduced Lary to golf nearly 20 years ago.

Therefore, we had a friendly game at Boulder Creek, the newest and most challenging of the two courses in Boulder City, one day and played the spectacular and ultra-difficult Cascata Golf Club the following day.

When it comes to plush courses, it’s tough to beat Cascata, located between Las Vegas and Boulder City.
The clubhouse area is spectacular (pictured).

The 18-hole course is leased from land owned by the city and part of the deal is a one-day-per-year event open to Boulder City residents and a limited number of non-residents among the 128 golfers.

This was the second time I played on “Boulder City Day” and it was by far the best. The first time was on Nov. 30, 2010 and it was c-o-l-d! This time, the temp topped the 100-degree mark, although we had a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m., so it was pleasant.

Some might see triple-digits and say it’s too hot for golf. I say playing in 100-degree plus temps gives me a much better chance of shooting lower than the temperature — the “incentive” factor.

Day One: Boulder Creek is a well-manicured 27-hole layout. Only two of the nines were open for play – the Desert Hawk and El Dorado Valley – on the day we played.

Not that I am a low-handicap golfer in the first place (I’m not), but I am already 18 shots behind Lary BEFORE we hit out first tee shots. He carries (lugs?) a 36-handicap, which puts me behind the eight-ball before the round begins.

But he counts all of his shots, unlike another sibling we have. The three of us used to play the annual “Street Shootout”, in San Diego, Tucson or Boulder City.  The Shootouts lasted five years, ending when one brother wore out his foot wedge, or got tired of losing,  and decided golf wasn’t his forte. No argument here.

So now it’s just the two of us. It’s not quite a “Shootout” but a good-time on the links.

I have played Boulder Creek four times now and enjoy it more each time. But I am not alone. Oakland Athletics broadcaster Ken Korach, who lives in Las Vegas during the winter, recently told me Boulder Creek is one of his favorite courses.

According to the course’s website, Desert Hawk is designed and laid out through the natural rolling terrain, diverse and extremely beautiful. With a combination of oasis and desert themes, Desert Hawk allows golfers the chance to use all of the clubs in their golf bag off the tees and in the fairways. Providing opening and closing holes that have tremendous water features, this 9-hole layout presents excitement and challenges. Desert Hawk allows golfers to unleash monstrous drives and great golf shots on generous fairways. Desert Hawk will leave a lasting impression on golfers.

Amen to that.

I shot an 83 (39-44) and Lary shot…well, uhhh, errr, hmmm – he didn’t quite beat the temperature. But he did have the shot of the day.

On the par-4 second hole, his drive went a tad right. The ball hit the cart path, took a big bounce and came to rest in a big prickly bush (pictured). The good news: it was still inbounds.

Lary, decked out in a light tan outfit from safari hat to shoes, looked at the ball and decided to give it a go. I usually say, ‘Keep your head down and I’ll watch the ball.’ This time, I said, ‘Keep your head up – and I’ll laugh.’

After further review, Lary decided  to take a one-shot penalty, gingerly plucked the ball out of the bush, dropped it onto the fairway and proceeded to play the hole with ground-level lies.

We finished the first nine by playing the signature hole – the par-4 9th over a little pond. I challenged the pond, located about 220 yards away, and made it onto dry land, setting up a par to finish with a 39, the second time in the past two months I was in the 30s.

One of my goals for 2012 is to break 80 for the first time in my life.

A snowman on the par-4 No. 5, the toughest hole on the El Dorado Valley nine, ruined my chances of shooting in the 70s.

Day 2: A shotgun start at Cascata had us start on No. 18 – the signature hole of the course. I wanted to play the blue tees (6,664 yards) but was persuaded by our caddie, Mitch, to play the gold tees (6,206 yards). That was probably a wise choice.

So Lary, Dean, Bob and I started out with a par-5, 495-yard, dog-leg left with a creek about 150 yards from the green and a lake in the right-front of the green. Our scores: 7,9,9,7. Nice way to start, eh? Our caddie was in for a long day.

Mitch explained early on that he attended UNLV, played on the golf team, spent some time on a mini-tour and won one event. He also pointed out that he had played Cascata the previous day, had an eagle and seven birdies. He didn’t say what his score was, so I assumed there were some bogeys in there as well.

Mitch’s apparent forte was reading putts, although he was off-base several times with me. Not so with my brother.

His assistance enabled Lary to drain two 40-something foot putts that were things of beauty. Both disappeared into the bottom of the cup. If those didn’t make his day, the birdie putt he made on the par-3, 12th hole did.

The greens at Cascata are deceiving. You would read “downhill” when the putt actually was “uphill”. Spending $50 per player for Mitch was well worth it. If not, I’d still be putting. The bent grass greens were superb and the ball rolled true.

There were three birdies in our group. Lary had one and Dean had the other two en route to an 82.

The other scores: 93, 113, 118. I won’t say who shot what to protect the innocent. The round was followed with lunch and awards (men and women) for longest drives, and closest to the pins.

Our group didn’t win anything, but finished first in having a good time.

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Jim Street

Jim’s 40-year sportswriting career started with the San Jose Mercury-News in 1970 and ended on a full-time basis on October 31, 2010 following a 10-year stint with MLB.com. He grew up in Dorris, Calif., several long drives from the nearest golf course. His first tee shot was a week before being inducted into the Army in 1968. Upon his return from Vietnam, where he was a war correspondent for the 9th Infantry Division, Jim took up golf semi-seriously while working for the Mercury-News and covered numerous tournaments, including the U.S. Open in 1982, when Tom Watson made the shot of his life on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach. Jim also covered several Bing Crosby Pro-Am tournaments, the women’s U.S. Open, and other golfing events in the San Francisco area. He has a 17-handicap, never had a hole-in-one, although once he came within two inches of an ace, and witnessed the first round Ken Griffey Jr. ever played – at Arizona State during Spring Training in 1990. Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Kapalua Plantation Course, Pinehurst No. 2, Spyglass Hill, Winged Foot, Torrey Pines, Medinah, Chambers Bay, North Berwick in Scotland, and Princeville are among the courses he has had the pleasure of playing. Hitting the ball down the middle of the fairway is not a strong part of Jim’s game, but he is known (in his own mind) as the best putter not on tour. Most of Jim’s writing career was spent covering Major League baseball, a tenure that started with the Oakland Athletics, who won 101 games in 1971, and ended with the Seattle Mariners, who lost 101 games in 2010. Symmetry is a wonderful thing. He currently lives in Seattle and vacations in Arizona (and other warm climates) as much as possible.

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