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Recap Semi-Solo Golf, Grub & Gambling: 3 Hotels 8/16-8/19

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by M_ILIS, Aug 24, 2016.

  1. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Prelude: I’ve mentioned in the past my participation on a website called Greenskeeper.org, where golfers review golf courses after their rounds in order to provide valuable insight and information regarding course conditions to fellow golfers. (Basically Yelp for golf courses.) I’ve been loosely involved with the site since 2003, but began actively playing in their events in 2013 and have done so pretty regularly ever since. Recently the site founder introduced a program to reward those who contribute reviews to the site and is calling us the GK Review Gurus. Being a “GK Review Guru” gives you access to selected outings at nice courses at really great rates. Here’s why this is pertinent: Shortly after launching the program, Greenskeeper.org offered a GK Review Guru deal for August 17-18 that included a round at Rio Secco, a night at Bally’s and a round at Cascata, all for a truly unbelievable price. The resort fee was even included, so I jumped all over it as soon as my wife agreed that it was too good of a deal to pass up (just a few days prior to our July Vegas trip, in fact). My wife and daughter would’ve probably joined me for this trip, but my daughter’s school started on August 15 this year, so that was impossible.

    “So that’s two days and one night. Your TR title looks like you were there pretty much all week. What’s up?”

    Well, yeah. As typical of my recent trips, I enjoy looking for ways to extend the trip a little bit. Due to our July trip falling less than 30 days from this trip, I was unable to use any myVEGAS rewards at MGM properties, but I was able to snag free room nights at Green Valley Ranch and Palace Station. The first night was a no-brainer: Even though I’ve done it in the past, I didn’t want to have to leave home at 4:00 am for the 9:00 start at Rio Secco on Day One, so it only made sense to take advantage of a free room at GVR the night before. Especially seeing how GVR is only a few miles from Rio Secco. Of course, this also meant another available golf day prior to the GK event, and I ultimately grabbed the course I wanted – The Wolf Course at Paiute Golf Resort – for a great deal on GolfNow a couple days beforehand. Gotta love summer rates in the desert, if you can handle the heat.

    Staying one additional night after the GK event required a little more rationalization, but the way I presented it to my wife was that some guys from GK were staying an extra night and got a great deal at Conestoga Golf Club out in Mesquite for Friday, so as long as I’m already there, and I have a free night at Palace Station…why not stay an extra night and join them, right? Fortunately my wonderful wife agreed, so the plans were mostly set. I knew I wanted to try to play once more on the way home Friday afternoon, with my sights firmly targeted on the Desert Course at Primm Valley just across the California border. There were plenty of tee times available and no need to lock myself in at that point, so I played it by ear.

    No big food plans, no shows this trip. Just golf, hopefully some pool time and customary nickel DDB. Even though friends from GK would be there for most of the time, this was sort of my first solo Vegas trip (other than business trips in the past), as I typically share a room with a golf buddy or my family.

    So Tuesday morning off I went…
     
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  2. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Day One: Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    The plan was to hit the road around 6:45 for my 11:49 tee time at Paiute. But I woke up a little past 5:00 and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I got ready and pulled out of my driveway at 6:14. I listened to the two most recent episodes of Five Hundy by Midnight en route, prepping for my arrival. By 10:00 I was passing by Center Strip on the 15, and a quick McDonald’s drive-thru breakfast later and jaunt into the NW valley, I arrived at Paiute by about 10:40.

    I checked in, went downstairs to my cart, and the first guy I saw was a friend from GK who happened to also book Paiute for that morning. The course was pretty empty, so we had no problem convincing the starter to let us play together, and we hit the first tee a few minutes later.

    I’d never played any of the Paiute courses previously, and there’s a GK event scheduled for the Snow Mountain course in November, so Wolf was my choice due to it being the other consensus favorite at the resort. The course was in excellent condition and I enjoyed the layout quite a bit, but I’d heard so many raves about Paiute through the years, I sort of expected something more distinctive and memorable. It was really nice, but among Vegas/Nevada courses I’ve played, it probably ranks somewhere in the 8-10th favorite. Pauite is known for being windy in the afternoons, and it was blowing pretty good most of the day, but that also helped keep the scorching air temperature very tolerable. Never once all round was I uncomfortable due to heat. Here are some pics:

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    The par-3 8th was my favorite hole on the course, with a giant bunker sitting scarily below the right side of the green:

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    View from behind island green 15th:
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    With hardly anyone on the course, we played at our own pace and finished in about 3:20. I hit the road for Green Valley Ranch, but while on the 15 I had terrible flashbacks to a trip 13 months prior when I saw an electronic freeway sign reading something to the effect of: “TRAFFIC TO CALIFORNIA BLOCKED. I-15 CLOSED AT CAJON PASS.”

    I immediately thought to myself, “Uh oh, another fire.” It was July 2015 when my wife, daughter and I dealt with this same exact issue and nearly derailed a trip that had me scheduled to play Southern Highlands with VegasBJ the next morning. Fortunately, that fire was contained rather quickly and we made it through later that night, but I knew this could cause serious havoc with people who didn’t come over a day early like I had.

    I reached GVR, where the lobby is being renovated, robbing me of arriving at their nice porte cochere, and I was directed to a temporary check-in desk near the convention space. I checked in and was given a room way at the end of the East Tower, with a view of nothing but the parking garage and the Henderson hills in the background. I turned on the TV and saw the fire seemed much more serious this year than what I encountered in 2015, and breathed a giant sigh of relief that I didn’t have to deal with that two years in a row. It definitely paid off to come to town early. Here are some pics of the room:

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    I poured myself a couple drinks in the room and then hit the pool, but it was closing at 5:00 for a special event that night, so my time was cut short a bit. (Normal closing time is 7:00.) The pool water must’ve been about 92 degrees, so it was hardly refreshing anyway. What did feel great was the ultra-comfortable loungers with misters in all of the palm trees. The cool water mist did a fantastic job of combating the dry, 100+ temps.

    I’m a fairly independent person and don’t mind traveling by myself, but it did feel a little strange to be all by myself for the evening. I weighed my dinner options – p i z z a slices at Tony’s Slice House in the food court, or take advantage of a deal scrolling on my TV for all you can eat tacos and all you can drink tequila for $24 at Borracha Mexican Restaurant. I decided all you can drink tequila might negate the reason I was here anyway – golf the next morning at 9:00 – so I went with my original plan for pizza from Tony Gemignani, the guy behind Pizza Rock.

    Oh wait, before I ate I began gambling, and it wasn’t good. I lost $20 playing single line DDB in a nickel Super Times Pay machine, with nothing positive to show for it.

    Here was dinner. Picante slice:
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    “Grandma” slice:
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    Meatball:
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    After dinner, I went back to that same machine and finagled three different ways to hit 250 credits, but none of them happened until I was well in the hole.

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    I lost $30 more, meaning I was already down $50 on the trip. Then I finally found a DDB machine that didn’t require 10 credits, so I played $25 more with nothing to show for it. Total for the night was a $75 loss with very few highlights, and a big hole before I had anything positive happen.

    Unfortunately, there’s not much more to report from Day One. I didn’t want to lose any more money and had to check out by 8:00 or so for golf the next morning, so I fell asleep around 11:30.
     
  3. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Day Two: Wednesday, August 17, 2017

    I checked out and dealt with a semi-surly valet attendant to retrieve my car, but then another really friendly valet gave me a sneak peek of what they’re doing with the lobby renovations. From a quick glimpse, it looked like they were giving that area a more modern feel in contrast to the former Hacienda-type feel in the lobby. And the beautiful porte cochere isn’t changing; it was just getting a deep cleaning to rid itself of built up dirt and grime on the ground.

    I arrived at Rio Secco a few minutes later and it was great to see a bunch of GK friends, many of whom had made the voyage over from SoCal and others who are Vegas locals. I’d never played Rio Secco before. They started us on the back nine and I enjoyed the course quite a bit, although it’s very reminiscent of other nearby courses such as the two courses at Revere. Unfortunately, the giant fire in the Cajon Pass concealed one of Rio Secco’s greatest features – plentiful views of The Strip from many holes. The air that morning was very smoky, blanketing any potential views in thick haze. Here are some pics:

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    After the round, a guy from the course came into the bar and thanked us all for playing and gave us vouchers for 25% off a return trip to either Rio Secco or Cascata for an entire foursome. Some of my friends were heading elsewhere for an afternoon round, but I was content heading to Bally’s.

    I’d never stayed at Bally’s before, and although I knew it wasn’t anything too special, I was eager to experience it and check out the pool. I checked in around 3:15 and was assigned to a room on the 22nd floor of the Indigo Tower. My key card wouldn’t work, although three different housekeepers tried to help me, and the third one was finally the charm. She demonstrated how you need to really JAM that card in the slot to make it work, and so it did.

    The room was a bit dated but quite large and had a very wide window looking out at Paris, and also a tiny slice of the Bellagio fountains through a couple towers.

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    After a couple drinks in my room, I hit the pool, which is much like the hotel itself – nothing glitzy but completely acceptable. I was surprised to find there are eight tennis courts out back that have somehow survived today’s trend of monetizing every square foot of a property. There were even signs saying there’s a tennis clinic with the pro every morning. What a cute throwback concept!

    I hung at the pool for an hour or so until the sun ducked behind the tower, and then did some souvenir shopping and retreated to my room to just relax and have a couple more drinks. Eventually my friends who had played afternoon rounds had returned and we got a group of four of us to walk over to Ellis Island Cafe for dinner. (Yes, my third trip in a row to eat here.)

    I lost $20 more playing 9:6 DDB nickels before our table was ready. For dinner, I chose the chicken fried chicken this go-round, which hit the spot and filled me up. I also had a couple of Hefeweizens. Considering the proximity to Bally’s, I decided to stay behind and play more 9:6 DDB rather than whatever lesser paytables were offered at Bally’s. Again, I was down a lot before I finally hit anything noteworthy. I then went on a minor hot streak and got within $10 of being even on the night, but eventually I lost $50 at Ellis Island before departing for Bally’s.

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    Then I did a dumb thing when I got back to Bally’s, and played $20 more playing single line on an STP triple play machine. Again, nothing doing and $20 more down the drain. Total for the night was down $70, and total for the trip was down $145. I’ve really noticed my disclipline to stop at my desired loss limits has been lacking on my last few trips. I think I’m rationalizing the “gotta have the bullets in the gun” analogy but then seemingly shooting blanks. Or maybe my discipline is the same and it’s my luck that’s lacking, failing to get those “savoir” hands that re-coup all my losses or put me in the black.

    Anyway, it was late by this time and I wanted to soak in the whole Cascata experience in the morning, so I was ready for bed. As usual, I kept the drapes open to awake to the Vegas views in the morning.
     
  4. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Day Three: Thursday, August 18, 2016

    Fetched my car from the Bally’s valet around 7:25 and hit the road for our 9:00 start time at Cascata. The wow factor of the whole experience is toned down some when you’ve been there before, but it’s still awfully fun to arrive at the gate, announce your presence, and then get met by several attendants at the clubhouse. One guy takes your clubs, another parks your car, and another escorts you inside to show you around, offer you complimentary muffins and lead you to your locker, complete with a personalized keepsake nameplate. I imagine the only place that out-performs Cascata from a service standpoint is Shadow Creek.

    I hit some balls on the beautiful range, stroked some putts on the ultra-pure practice putting green and caught up with some friends. The groupings were rather loose, so my group ended up bringing up the rear of the four GK groups, and we teed off around 9:30. One of the main reasons we were able to get such a steal of a deal was that Cascata and Rio Secco were both nearing the end of their summer seasons in advance of closing for overseeding. This meant Cascata wasn’t in its typical pristine condition, but it was still very, very nice.

    I still have mixed feelings about the layout. To me it’s a course that has more stunning tee views than approach shots, which is a bit unusual. The vistas from nearly every tee box are great, with a beautiful hole laid out in front of you. The green sites at the second hole and seventh hole are truly awesome, butted up against mountainous rock walls with nothing but raw desert beyond. I did gain a greater appreciation for the 18th hole this time, which last time I thought was a bad hole. Now I see it actually presents lots of options and different strategies to the player, which is great. The knock on the layout is that it’s somewhat repetitive, with all holes going up or down the mountain, and because of that, a lot of holes sort of blend together. Don’t get me wrong: It’s definitely a fantastic experience, though.

    Here are some pictures:

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    Toward the middle of the back nine, a giant thunderstorm that had been out in the distance on the valley floor blew closer and closer to us, and eventually electricity was growling loudly in the clouds above. We only felt a few rain drops, but the potential for a total downpour was there for the remainder of our round. (Which was kinda fun, kinda scary, and certainly a bummer for taking good pictures.)

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    Again many of my fellow golf fanatics were off to second destinations on this afternoon, and I had considered it as well. But the weather and the group in front of us extended Cascata into nearly a five-hour round, so all the good tee times I had considered earlier were already gone. So after hanging around a bit to say some goodbyes to friends heading back home, I made my way to Palace Station.

    I checked in around 4:00 and was given a room on the 8th floor. It was very basic and unquestionably a step down from (fellow Stations property) Green Valley Ranch, but the room was clean and totally sufficient for my needs.

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    I poured myself a drink and set out in search of the pool. It turns out it’s over in the “Courtyard” section of the hotel, which is more like a motel. Hence, the pool is much like a motel pool. Still, the sun was shining, a hot wind was blowing and the cool pool water offered a nice respite for an hour or so.

    My friend who typically goes on Vegas golf trips with me decided to also stay at Palace Station, so after he finished his afternoon round, we connected and hit the Grand Cafe for dinner, each using a myVEGAS reward. I had their New York Steak that was accompanied by green beans, a baked potato and a heaping pile onion straws on the steak. Overall it was more quantity than quality, but it wasn’t bad and I was stuffed by the time I finished. Better yet, with the myVEGAS reward, each of our dinners were like $11 each.

    Now it was my last chance for glory, one final attempt to gain some gambling traction on this trip. I found an triple play STP nickel machine and played one line and opted to not play the sixth STP credit, either. I found myself $30 in before I hit quad 10s, which brought me almost back to even. Never got there, though, and lost some more before hitting Jacks.

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    I played for quite a long time, but never caught the big hand (premium quad, etc.) I needed to get into positive territory. In fact, that was the theme for the whole trip. I was always way down before anything positive happened, which led to very little fun from gambling. I ended up losing $50 more on this night, putting my total trip loss at $195. Worse than the money was just the feeling of not really having had much fun gambling at all. It just felt like a slog the whole time. Oh well, I guess that’s just how some trips go.

    I needed something in which I could drown my sorrows. Something sultry, seductive, maybe a little naughty, behind glass and forbidden. Turned out I was in the right neighborhood. And then, there it was:

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    And then I finally hit the jackpot! All day, the elevator bank I’d used to go up and down from my room had selected the ordinary elevators. But finally, on my last trip up, the outdoor glass elevator opened and I got to use it before I hit the sack.

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    My busiest golf day of the trip awaited me in the morning, which meant a very early start. I returned to my room around 11:30, devoured my donut, packed up my suitcase and fell asleep.
     
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  5. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Day Four: Friday, August 19, 2016

    I checked out around 5:30 am and a GK friend who’d stayed downtown picked me up at Palace Station at 5:45. We hit the road 80 miles up the 15 to Mesquite for our 7:30 tee time at Conestoga Golf Club. For some reason they’re selling discount vouchers directly on the course website for a round of golf plus lunch for just $39. We both did that deal and arrived at the course around 7:00.

    We were sent out by ourselves following a foursome of locals who played very quickly. We soaked in the sights a little more but eventually caught them by the 17th tee. Conestoga is a great course highlighted by holes 2-8, which play through red sandstone desert much like the acclaimed Wolf Creek nearby. The 14th and 17th are also great holes at Conestoga. The rest of the course is a little more benign, but I thoroughly enjoyed the whole course. It was also in fantastic condition with excellent fairways and rough…amazing grass coverage out there for mid-August. Here are some pics:

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    Afterward, we ordered lunch from a small menu they had for the $39 deal, and I chose a delicious cheeseburger, fries and an iced tea. It was great and I highly recommend Conestoga as a fun course and a really good value.

    My friend had a Vdara corner suite awaiting him for the weekend, so we raced back into town and he dropped me off at Palace Station. I scanned GolfNow on my phone and ultimately booked a 2:50 tee time at Primm Valley’s Desert Course out at state line. I played Lakes a few years ago and had been anxious to play its counterpart ever since. Things couldn’t have turned out much more perfectly.

    I was able to play by myself, which allowed me to take lots of pictures and play at my own pace, which was quick. Better yet, the course was in surprisingly good condition overall. There were some scruffy areas here and there, but some of the rough was the lushest rye rough I’ve ever seen, especially for the dead of summer. I was playing okay but then made a mess of the last three holes on the front nine, going quad-double-triple. Then the reason we all play golf came next, when I hit driver-4 iron to about a foot on the 473-yard par-4 10th hole for a kick-in birdie.

    Here are some pics of Primm (Desert):

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    I finished around 5:00 and at that point, I was having a blast taking pictures with the course just bathed in late afternoon sunlight. I inquired about a replay rate for the Lakes course, but they wanted practically the same rate I paid for the first round, so I decided to hit the road for home.

    The Cajon Pass had finally reopened a day earlier, and thankfully the ride home was uneventful. Except there was one highlight. For dinner, I finally stopped at The Outpost Cafe, whose billboards touting the “Best Half Pound Burgers You’ll Ever Eat” have always enticed me. I ordered a Peppercorn Burger with Home Fries, and this giant plate was all delicious:

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  6. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Epilogue: The golf was great and I checked off four new courses on the first tier of my Vegas Golf Wish List. The gambling was not fun and made me feel like after three trips in three months, maybe it’s time for a break from Vegas for a while, or at least from gambling. Getting away on a semi-solo trip was a lot of fun and very relaxing. It was also fun to experience two new hotels and to revisit the fantastic Green Valley Ranch.

    Can’t think of anything else so I’ll just say thanks for reading!

    Random “out the window” picture from the way home:
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    • Like Like x 1
  7. VEGASBJ

    VEGASBJ
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    great recap and I love the golf pics. I'm jealous of all the golf you are able to get in..................
     
  8. M_ILIS

    M_ILIS
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    Thanks VBJ. If it's any consolation, I'm jealous of the golf you're about to play in the next couple days as well. :)
     
  9. VEGASBJ

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    golf is like women - variety is the spice of life! Oops, did I just say that out loud, lol.
     
    • Haha Haha x 1
  10. rockwallroses

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    Great review of all the courses. I truly love playing golf in Vegas. It is always so much fun and different than the Dallas courses. Great job !!
     

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