Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock an affordable luxury

At the height of Southern Nevada's housing boom, Red Rock Country Club established itself as a premier upscale community while the first house was still being framed. Nestled into the foothills adjacent to Red Rock Canyon, this posh gated retreat exudes refinement. Its twin centerpieces are the members-only Mountain course and the public Arroyo course, both designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer.

Driving past the manicured streetscape toward the clubhouse, Red Rock's allure is obvious. In this case, however, the joy is in the destination rather than the journey.

Beginning with its attentive yet unpretentious staff, Red Rock Country Club makes a concerted effort to make daily-play golfers feel like members. Unlike most courses, the driving range isn't near the clubhouse, so players are whisked away in carts to an ample practice area. With a prompt pick-up just prior to tee time, it's off to enjoy a day on one of the valley's best-maintained and fairest tracks.

The Arroyo plays only 6,883 yards from the tips and features five sets of tees, so this is not a course that will overwhelm even midhandicappers with its length. Like many Palmer designs, it features more brains than brawn -- ironic, considering the King's propensity for swinging out of his shoes -- and offers some of the most generous landing areas to be found. However, the sprawling Arroyo course features more sand than Copacabana Beach, relentlessly testing players' accuracy and patience.

The Arroyo opens with a long but wide-open par 5 stretching 580 yards. Any drive that avoids the bunkers framing both edges will set up a perfect second shot lay-up. Even for the longest hitters, this hole is not realistically reachable in two, thanks to a cavernous bunker that fronts the putting surface. Played sensibly, this is an easy opening hole.

Two tees later, Palmer's artistic flair reveals itself on a beautiful 186-yard par 3 framed exquisitely by a trio of massive bunkers and, in the foreground, dense vegetation. The contouring of this hole gives it a decidedly isolated feel, an effect Palmer repeats throughout the course. Those who find the sand will be pleasantly surprised at its light texture, which allows players to take precise aim.

After a dangerous par 4 at No. 6, the front nine's other par 3 comes into view, and it is a sight to behold. The most alluring hole on the course, this 215-yard vision descends steeply from tee to green and offers a view of the Strip over the rooftops of estate homes. Don't be tempted by any pin tucked near the right edge; the water off that side is definitely in play, as is the front greenside bunker. However, hitting from the sand is far preferable to attempting a flop shot from the deep rough fronting the green.

Heading into the turn, Arroyo offers up the golf equivalent of a neck rub, a short par 4 seemingly designed to relieve all tension. Although the right edge offers the best angle to the green, any reasonable drive will set up a wedge approach. Longer drivers may actually need to club down to avoid the front left bunker.

After opening the back side with another tranquil isolation hole set into a shallow valley, it's off to a 497-yard par 5 that gives even bogey golfers a chance to go for the green in two. From the tee box, aim just inside the first left fairway bunker. From that angle, it's a straight shot to a deep, narrow green bordered on both sides by bunkers. All that remains is a magical eagle putt across Arroyo's ice rink-fast greens.

No. 16, however, reminds players that par 5s aren't intended to be pushovers. Arroyo's second most difficult offering (the seemingly innocuous No. 4 has the honor) gets into players' heads with not one but two desert bands that cross the fairway. While they aren't reachable from the tee, the second shot requires some ciphering.

Those who hit a strong drive can clear all of the trouble with relative ease. Those who don't, however, must decide between a precise lay-up that finds the narrow patch of grass between them or risking a fairway metal. For those whose first two shots find grass, the short approach is a breeze.

Arroyo's closing hole is a testy offering as well, because it requires precision on both shots. The drive must either skirt or carry the right fairway bunker, which juts well into the landing zone. The second shot, conversely, must clear a bunker that juts in from the front left side of the green, effectively fortifying it from a run-up approach. While it is tempting to club up and carry to the back of the putting surface, the steep backstop features thick rough, making for a treacherous downhill chip.

There is little doubt that, in addition to being one of Southern Nevada's most attractive communities, Red Rock Country Club is home to one of the valley's best golf courses. While scratch golfers may get bored hitting wedge approaches hole after hole, the rest of us relish the opportunity to hone our skills on a course that challenges without intimidating.

The Arroyo Golf Club at Red Rock is located at 2250 Red Springs Drive, just off Sahara Avenue and the Las Vegas Beltway. For more information or to reserve a tee time, visit or call 258-2300.