Many years ago, some thought the Mesquite, Nevada, course only existed in a video game. But to alter a famous line from the sitcom Seinfeld, “It’s real, and it’s spectacular.”
In recent decades, the Olympics have integrated an “X Games” feel more and more into its competitive landscape. For those unfamiliar, the “X Games” is a separate annual competition of both summer and winter “extreme” sports that attracts athletes from all over the world and also awards gold, silver and bronze medals.
In this delayed Olympics year, viewers saw a variation of some of those crossover sports including BMX and skateboarding events and new events like sport climbing and surfing. The winter games coming up in January 2022 will follow script with snowboarding events.
Though golf is a relatively new (but returning) sport to the Olympics, many would consider it a traditional sport. But it just so happens there is a course not too far from Las Vegas that makes chasing a little white ball around FEEL like an extreme sport.
Wolf Creek in Mesquite, Nevada, pretty much stands in its own class by pictures, videos or first-hand experience. In a relatively short timeline, it has grown into somewhat of a global destination, attracting visitors from pretty much every continent, save Antarctica. Its appeal visually compares to that of Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand, Old Head in Ireland or Whistling Straits and Arcadia Bluffs here in the Midwest.
All of those aforementioned courses exist by large bodies of water, however. What makes Wolf Creek different is its combination of natural forces. The confluence of mountain backdrops, red rock canyons and the desert makes it feel more at times like fictitious Tatooine than earth.
While social media platforms ceased to exist when Wolf Creek opened two decades ago, its story seemed destined to be told on Instagram or Facebook. Interestingly enough, it gained a mythical fame initially through video games when it was selected by EA Sports in 2008 to be featured as one of the courses on the Tiger Woods game version.
“Some people get to Vegas and find out Wolf Creek is actually a place and not just one they’ve played on the video games,” said Trent Chapman, general manager and director of golf at Wolf Creek.
Las Vegas to the southwest is just over an hour’s drive away. Saint George, Utah, a budding golf destination in itself, is about the same drive but to the northeast. And two wonders of the world are also short drives away – the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Zion National Park in Utah – which are even bigger draws than Wolf Creek itself.
Many visitors make Wolf Creek a must stop to play, even if they may not be on a golf-centric trip. “The views are unlike any other in the United States, I believe,” said Chapman, who has a history going back 15 years at Wolf Creek including his time as an assistant professional. “(Our vision is) to create the absolute ultimate experience for all of our players and guests that come out to see us from all over the world. And hopefully get people that come from all over the world to come back here.
“We want to make sure everybody is welcome. Make sure that they come out here to have fun. People are not just paying a green fee to come out here. They have to pay for flights, cars and hotel rooms. The cost is just not only our green fees so we want to give them that experience. Make sure it was worth it from the second they walk on the place to the second they walk off.”
Believe it or not, people are actually surprised Wolf Creek is more “mountainous” than what it looks like in pictures. The cliff-like back tee on No. 1 gives a good feel for what lies ahead. Or traverse the over 100 stairs to get up to the perched tee box at No. 2, some 11 stories up from the fairway landing. Among the many amazing construction feats at Wolf Creek were helicopters being used to bring in the staircases as well as sand and rocks to difficult to reach areas. The ground staff stores mowers up by the tee box on No. 2 because it is so difficult to get anything with wheels up there.
There is about a 1,600-foot change in elevation on the course. The most engaging parts are navigating shots over the canyons and valleys and through the chutes created by the rock formations. Most of these shots present themselves off the tee but a few challenge approaches to the green, too. It plays as much as a position course than anything. Few courses offer as many exhilarating shots from Point A to Point B during a given round.
The back tees (6,939 yards) – with a rating of 75.4 and a slope of 154 (the maximum USGA slope rating, which is a measure of difficulty for a bogey golfer, is 155) – are truly meant for elite players only. The Masters tees (or middle tees) are tough enough with a slope rating of 137 for men and 140 for ladies, even at just 5,798 yards.
“The most challenging part is to play the right tee boxes,” said Chapman. “That’s one of the biggest issues out here. Also, to play the golf course how it was basically meant to be played is from 150 yards in. Once you start going for shots, trying to cut angles that if you’re not exact, you’re out in the desert.”
That rocky desert landscape particularly pops when contrasted against emerald green rye grass during the winter months. In the summer months, when the temperature sizzles (with highs routinely over 100 degrees), the Bermuda grass takes over and the fairways tint a much lighter green. The course also has several water features and rocky falls, too, which give off a Shadow Creek feel in spots. The setting at sunrise and sunset gets a bit more magical with the long shadows casted by rocky terrain.
Several major companies have used Wolf Creek for promotional shoots including Buick, Ogio and Under Armour, the last prompting visits by Jordan Spieth and Gary Woodland. Wolf Creek also won a “fans choice” award by Golf Digest over a decade ago out-voting such heavyweights as Bandon Dunes, Chambers Bay, Kiawah Island and Pebble Beach. And the Wall Street Journal Europe once named it as one of its 10 best places in the world to play.
Such praise is not taken lightly by Wolf Creek. And neither is driving a golf cart on the grounds there. Golfers might be asked to sign a waiver before they play because the winding, perilous cart paths require attentive driving with such distracting views – which may include a skydiver or two as well. Adjacent to the course and the municipal airport is a skydiving outpost for those so inclined to ramp up the “extreme” Mesquite experience.
Of course for most golfers, Wolf Creek should have that covered.
For more information on Wolf Creek and bookings, visit www.golfwolfcreek.com. Wolf Creek also does stay and play packages with Eureka Casino Resort (www.eurekamesquite.com) which is less than a five-minute drive away.