If they gave awards for golf courses with personalities that fit their communities, Badlands Golf Club would certainly garner a nomination. Las Vegas attracts gamblers, and in places, Badlands is to golf balls what crap tables are to dice.

Johnny Miller's designs always to inspire emotional reactions. When playing his Metropolitan in Oakland is fun, intellectual, and inspiring. By contrast, his initial work at Novato's Stonetree left golfers seeing red, which explains why management, there, too the edge off it.

Much of Badlands rolls though a barren, concrete-hard, rocky desert wash. You'll find transition areas between grass and waste areas to be mostly non-existent. Any time a first-timer hits balls farther than he or she can see, take your chances. Consider bringing a rock club.

My shots (including some good ones) landed in the rocks three different times, but I found them, miraculously using just one ball all day. My partners did not fare as well. Some of them were rank beginners. By an unofficial count, they lost at least eighteen balls.

Badlands has three different nines, and they reward conservatism. First-timers might want to move up by one tee-box, just to keep themselves from forcing shots. Unless you do not care about score, a good rule of thumb would be, "If you're tempted to go for it, don't." The course has several par 5's that a long hitter can reach in two, and par 4's they might drive, but they demand near-perfect shots. By playing the odds and avoiding risks, you will reap greater rewards.

Consider the 234>290 yard, par four, 5th on the Outlaw Course. This hole plays slightly uphill to a deep, ample green. Bunkers flank its left side, while a lake guards the right back to 120 yards. Yes, a perfect shot could provide a chance at eagle, but a slice or cut brings the lake into play, and a hook leaves players with an uneven lie, or worse, deep, difficult sand. I played the hole with a six iron to a flat lie, and controlled a pitching wedge from 110 yards.

I also liked the Outlaw's 386>511 yard, par five, 9th. Talk about temptation---a good drive leaves less than 200 yards to the green, but it's all carry over water that squeezes the fairway back to 165 yards. I did not feel confident, so played safe, again, using a driver, a nine iron, and a lob wedge to controllable distance.

Miller's best holes at Badlands are the finishers on his three nines. Much as I enjoyed the Outlaw 9th, its opposite number on Diablo confronts players with a do-or-die scenario. It stretches from 318>473 yards down a narrow, right-canting island fairway, across a wash, to a snug green. Par dictates nerve and two perfect shots.

Badlands is a Troon Golf property, which pretty much guarantees good conditions and excellent service. We played in January in weather so cold that ice covered some of the lakes. Even in such a challenging climate, the fairways provided good lies with plenty of roll. The greens, while severe in places, putted fast and true.

Fortunately, we played on a calm day. I cannot imagine how difficult this course would be in strong winds.

Should your travels take you to Las Vegas, give Badlands a try. Just check the weather forecast, first.

Badlands Golf Club
Las Vegas, Nevada
www.badlandsgc.com

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