A Roller Coaster Ride - Wolf Creek Golf Club

Wolf Creek Golf Club
Mesquite, Nevada

Architect: Dennis Rider, John Rider
Par 72, 7018 yards
Date Played: Nov 13th
Peak Rate $145-195

On a recent trip to Mesquite, Nevada, I stumbled on an absolute gem of a course, the Wolf Creek Golf Club. Located approximately ninety minutes north east of Las Vegas, Wolf Creek is an opulent roller coaster of a golfing ride, one you will find immensely enjoyable.

I was in Mesquite to play a three day tournament but had alas my tournament ended a day early with a missed cut and although frustrating at the time, my poor play, somewhat turned into a blessing in disguise. Early the next morning I and two other trunk slammers, snuck up to play Wolf Creek, a course with a far reaching reputation and one I was quite curious to see. I soon forgot about my recent play, and was instantly enamored with the stunning visuals which are Wolf Creek.

Opening in 2001, the course was designed by Dennis and John Rider, although an early routing was laid out by Jim Engh, a well known Colorado based golf course architect. When it opened, Golf Digest ranked Wolf Creek 3rd on their Best New Upscale Public Golf Course category, and in 2013, it was still 38th on their Top 100 Public Courses. It is easy to see why.

The clubhouse is perched high up on a ridge and you can stare out towards the Nevada desert in all directions. It is a raw, rugged, beautiful landscape, one filled with rich oranges and browns offset by a deep blue sky. The course stretches out below you, and winds between steep canyons and jagged hillsides. The deep greens of the fairway grass, provide a striking contrast to the rusty ochre browns of sandy canyon walls. You say to yourself, this is going to be fun.

The opening tee is perched on the hillside next to the clubhouse. You hit downhill towards a fairway filled with rolls, flanked by bunkers and desert on both sides.  The wide fairway of this downhill then uphill par-5 is an inviting yet intimidating first swing of the day. We drive down to find our shots safely in the fairway and proceed to layup between a few well placed bunkers before hitting approaches into a small tiered green tucked between some canyons walls. Not an especially difficult par-5, the first hole eases you into the round, helps to awaken your senses and sets you up for the roller coaster ride to follow.

Wolf Creek is a carts only course. Usually, this is a bit of a sore point for me, as I much prefer to walk but given the extreme nature of the terrain, you’ll be glad you have one.  Driving uphill to the second tee, we park halfway up the ridge, and proceed to a set of stairs heading steeply up. If, like us you choose to play the back tees, make sure to take a few deep breaths as the 100 plus steps will test your fitness.  It is a shorter journey to the forward tees. From the top, we were rewarded by breathtaking views, a soaring tee shot, and fairway angled through the desert. You must pick a target, trust it and swing away on this dog leg left par-4.  The carry over the knob is longer than it looks, so it is wise to aim for the fairway you can see. Twice I tried to take on more than I could chew, and twice I came up short.

The course unfolds in a series of spectacular holes, many of which play downhill to wide landing areas flanked by the rugged desert. I especially like how the turf grass seems to blanket the rolls and undulations of the terrain before wrapping up and into the base of desert. Greens are often set into hillsides or tucked between canyon walls, and many of the approach shots play slightly uphill. It is in this manner the course traverses some steep and extreme terrain, yet manages to keep the holes and corridors of play more subtle than they first appear.

Some of my favourite holes include the drivable par-4 seventh, where you can choose to take on a steep ravine short of the green or lay back for a really fun wedge shot over water. The par-3 eighth is a tough, downhill mid iron to a small green wrapped by a shallow stream and adjacent steep canyon wall but the peacefulness you will feel standing on the green is pretty cool.  The uphill 10th is a testing par-4, requiring two of your best strikes and the dog leg left 14th is an inspiring par-4 which wraps around an entire hill side.  Here the corner of the dogleg is flanked by a series of large fairway bunkers, which extend all the way to the green. If you get a little greedy and try to cut the corner, cross your fingers you catch one of these bunkers, otherwise your ball will bounce down and into the steep valley far below.  It is a spectacular hole, requiring a strong drive and well played second shot. My par was quite rewarding.

Wolf Creek is one of the more visually stunning golf courses I have played. The majority of the holes are spectacular yet maintain a fairness of play.  They might look intimidating at first but the actual shots required to score are not as difficult as you’d expect. Good shots are rewarded, poor shots punished and the course seemed to play a little easier than expected.  

I wouldn’t choose to play Wolf Creek every day, as I much prefer courses of a more subtle nature, but I will happily admit this was a really fun golf experience.  We enjoyed it so much, after lunch, we went straight back out to play another round. Next time you are in the Las Vegas area, considering driving out to Wolf Creek for the day. It is a golf experience completely unique and one you will be glad to add to your course resume.