It is 39o at 5:00 a.m. on a dark, but clear early November morning in Las Vegas. Loading a golf bag in the car and heading 77 miles on I-15 North to Mesquite, Nevada (a town named for its hardwood Mesquite groves when settled By Mormon families in 1880).
On the agenda for the day is the "crown jewel" of the Mesquite master-planned community, the Oasis Golf Course. The rear view mirror provides a picture of the island (they call Las Vegas), rich in resource and life with all its glimmering lights. As the speed limit is increased to 75 m.p.h., and abandoning other headlights from behind while passing the last bastions of the outer Twilight Zone (Nellis AFB), the glimpse of sunrise in the high eastern sky is apparent. Ambivalence is experienced during the get away from the vexation of the city to sense the race against sunlight, and the feeling of being the first golfer to tee off and touch the virginity of the unwielded golf course. Going forth to hear a new story and experience in yet another new golf adventure
A little over an hour later, as daybreak just occurred, the Arnold Palmer-designed Oasis Golf Course, which is recognized as one of the top 5 best new resort golf courses in North America and is rated among the "top 10 you can play" by Golf Digest is evident. Immediately greeted graciously by Randy (the Director of Golf) and his staff, the golf cart is loaded with a brief set of course facts and nuances and onto tee #1.
The first thing that strikes an avid golfer about the Arnold Palmer design is the hilly terrain with meandering fairways. This requires concentration to perfectly position the drive, otherwise the second shot will be in the thicker rough, and out of position to reach the green in regulation since there are many blind shots over rolling mounds and into gullies. This provides the golfer with plenty of course management options, including the use of the draw and fade. The course starts out and finishes as a typical master-planned golf course community with new, upper-scale homes and commercial space trimming its desert target course layout. Beautiful man-made creeks and landscaping lace the first four holes, and lakes and cascading water fountains mask the most of the latter back nine
After the first few holes, a golfer can't help but notice the scorecard is colored yellow, starting on hole #5 thru #8. As one marks their score and proceeds to #5, they are greeted with a majestic view of one of the prettiest holes a golfer can be bestowed with! Just in the few moments it takes to travel in the cart from holes #4 to #5, you are perched some 75 feet above the carpet-like fairway which looks as if it was cut into the rugged sandstone canyon and the grass poured by a helicopter with "liquid seed." The golfer is truly presented with the next golf challenge, a par 5, 512-yard downhill and narrow hole with reachable sand traps, utilizing the natural features of the canyon it was placed in. No more signs of man, just a poster sign indicating you are entering an environmentally sensitive area and entry to these domains are prohibited (oh, yes, this is where I first linked-up with Wayne, my amiable Quasi Guide and Course Ambassador who stood on the meticulous-contoured green some aloofness away and graciously escorted me later throughout the back nine). Also, these holes are a reptile sanctuary, so hit your ball straight, or forever lose it, and remember why there is yellow coloring on your scorecard
Holes #6, #7 and #8 all meet similar standards of its predecessor, utilizing the natural surroundings to enhance the game itself, and yes, they are unique in their own way. Although #6 gives the golfer a quick breather for its shorter distance and lack of elevation change, it is well deserved. Of these four canyon holes, it is the only one without a vista view but compensates for its lack of visage as you are embraced by its walls of tranquility, built by immense boulder formations while wandering through its fairway. Hole #7 is a par 3, 151-yarder over a 75-foot canyon, which funnels even the slightest wind through the venturi. This hole must be played wisely; as it can play anywhere from two to five clubs longer because of the moment of flight time a ball takes to travel across the mystical gorge. Hole #8 elevates the golfer while driving up to it, some 100 feet above the fairway floor. What a great view and what a way to make an average golfer feel like a Golf God! As if #5 was there to prepare you for this hole, #8 is a par 5, 519-yard test with just a petite target for your cliff drive. As the golfer hits their ball, it seems like eternity while watching the drive take off and waiting for it to land, that is, if you can follow it to terminus
Although the back nine revisits the man-made structures of communities and beautifully landscaped homes, it maintains many of the cliff shots, rustic canyons and twisting fairways as the front nine. In particular, hole numbers 11 and 16 are stationed as high as some of the holes on the front nine. Hole #11 can be driven rather safely, but do not pull it or the water-saving sand traps comes into play. Also, the golfer discovers on hole #16, a par 3, 166-yarder, that calculation for the wind and loft before clubbing-down is a prerequisite. In other words, the combination of high tee off elevation with its proximity to higher head winds aloft makes for extended flight time. The longer the ball is head-on in the jet stream, the more it loses its forward distance. Hence, so even if you hit a low shot for the wind, this hole will play up to three clubs longer, as it did for me.
My guide Wayne was so informative, allowing me to play my game and experience the accolades and abasing encounters one has with this course. He pointed out facts and trivia of the course, including the day Big Cat Williams and two other of his long drive buddies teed-off and all drove the green (and over) from high above on Hole #18, a par 4, 392 (from the black). Today, I was playing from the blue tee off boxes although there is white and gold too.
The elegant clubhouse at the Oasis is attached to the Pro Shop with locker rooms, restaurant and formal dining facilities, ornamented in a Nevada desert decor. Dining Room guests are able to view golfers starting out their humbling experience on Hole #1, preparing for the ultimate Desert target golf experience.
As I head back to Las Vegas and pass some of the casinos and hotels of Mesquite, I am reminded why its growing popularity (now the fastest growing city in Nevada) is becoming an authentic desert getaway for thrill seekers of all kinds. Just like with its four-star award by Golf Digest, the property sets a standard for all others to live up to.
By Mel Barosay, Jetsetters Magazine Golf Correspondent.