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Desert Pines Golf Club is unique among Las Vegas golf experiences

LAS VEGAS -- There are a lot of reasons to like Desert Pines Golf Club -- location, great greens, a nice clubhouse and a fun Dye Designs golf course. But perhaps the best reason is that it's unlike anything else in Las Vegas.

Located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, Desert Pines Golf Club is anything but a typical desert course. It opened in 1996 to much fanfare as designer Perry Dye brought in thousands of tall Carolina pines to line the fairways. Add to that a few railroad ties, plenty of water, white sand bunkers and excellent bentgrass greens, and golfers experience something that more akin to the Sandhills of North Carolina than the desert landscape of southern Nevada.

There's no mistaking you're still in Las Vegas, but as golfers work their way to the interior of the course, they get lost in the wooded, water environment.

The course measures 6,810 yards, so it's no pushover, but there are several par 4s -- nos. 1, 4 and 14 come to mind -- that are drivable by long hitters. Those opportunities are risk-reward to be sure, but the prudent plays, most of the time, are to use discretion off the tees and set up short approaches for birdie opportunities.

Water from four lakes comes into play on half the holes, and the large, undulating greens are usually protected by bunkers. Once you get on those greens, you have to pay attention to avoid the dreaded three-putt. But the greens putt true, and birdie opportunities are there.

And while some of Desert Pines' par 4s are short, the par-4 fifth, for example, can play as long as 489 yards. The par 3s range from 158 yards to 252 yards from the tips. The shortest, No. 11, is called "Reese's Landing" and is far from easy, with water looming front-right of the green. The longest is called "Great Britain," and has a look reminiscent of the links courses across the pond.

One of the best holes is the finishing 18th, a 466-yard par 4 that features water down the left side off the tee and on the approach shot, and two large bunkers protecting the green.

The experience at Desert Pines extends beyond the course, though. Perhaps one its best amenities is the lighted Desert Pines Practice Center, which opens at 6 a.m., has 58 covered stations with a computerized, automated ball-delivery system that allows players to practice without having to bend over to tee up a ball. There's also a separate snack bar that just serves the practice facility, which is heated in the winter and cooled in the summer.

Duffers full-service grill and bar inside the clubhouse is also a great place to get a meal, a beer and watch a ballgame.

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