With dozens of Southern Nevada golf courses vying for the business of today's cost-conscious players, it might seem like bare-bones facilities would have a distinct advantage. Silverstone Golf Club, however, has turned that notion on its ear, positioning itself as an affordable but all-inclusive golf outing.
Understanding that a round of golf requires more than an emerald expanse of grass, Silverstone incorporates a first-rate practice facility, a PGA-quality golf school, an opulent clubhouse and, of course, 27 Robert Cupp-designed holes into a package that will leave even the most discerning golf aficionados satisfied.
Nestled into an elegantly manicured residential community, Silverstone puts off an upscale vibe without being pretentious. To that point, its management seems to have a clear sense of what golfers want, offering monthly practice-and-play packages and quirky tournaments, such as the upcoming Survive the "Stone" II two-person scramble. Scheduled for Aug. 2, the 27-hole marathon is a greenskeeper's delight and a player's nightmare, with every pin tucked in an absurdly difficult position.
Beyond the unusual offerings, course conditions are also noteworthy. In addition to the extensive short-game area and partially shaded driving range, Silverstone is one of the few courses that don't overseed, meaning that it will be both open and pristine in September.
Of the three nine-hole combinations, the Mountain/Desert pairing plays the most difficult, stretching more than 7,150 yards from the tips. The Desert track opens with a 535-yard par 5 that doglegs right a full 90 degrees, making it reachable in two for big hitters who straddle the inside edge of the fairway. A large desert area is designed to dissuade the ambitious from cutting the corner.
The approach shot to a pear-shaped green is complicated by two small bunkers that sit in the fairway's center like a pair of shirt buttons. For most players, the prudent play is a drive to the fat part of the fairway, followed by a lay-up to wedge distance.
The par-4 fourth hole requires an intimidating drive but is in reality an excellent birdie opportunity. The fairway is wider than it appears from the tee box to forgive pulled drives resulting from the forced-carry adrenaline rush. From the short grass, the deep green is virtually defenseless save a pair of bunkers off the right side.
The second of the Desert nine's 200-plus-yard par 3s, the 201-yard No. 7 hole is easier than it looks. While a miss right will find a watery grave, the enormous putting surface provides an ample target. Two-putting Silverstone's true and manageably slow greens requires nothing more than a consistent stroke.
As though to squelch overconfidence, the Desert track closes with a difficult 404-yard par 4, the green of which is framed on the left by a large lake. To reduce the fear factor, most players seek out the right third of the fairway from the tee. Any approaches that land left or deep are punished severely.
The Mountain nine opens with a short par 4 that doglegs hard right and is driveable for long hitters, although the green is not visible from the tee. Those who choose the road more traveled should skirt the fairway bunker to set up a short pitch to the unprotected green. At only 343 yards and with no fortifications to speak of, this opening hole is a real confidence-builder.
Unfortunately, that swagger is short-lived, as the pushover is followed only two holes later by Nevada's longest par 5. Although it might seem masochistic, everyone should play this 653-yard monster from the back, just to check the box and get the T-shirt (no, they don't really hand out T-shirts). This ludicrously difficult hole isn't just long; it requires arguably the riskiest approach shot on the course, a long-distance call to a slender green wedged between water and sand.
Against a mountain backdrop, the par 3 202-yard sixth hole climbs uphill and looks as though it plays much longer, although the elevation change is only worth half a club. The triangular green is bordered by a trio of bunkers along the right, making any pin that side of center a hazardous proposal.
Like the Desert track, the Mountain nine tries to give golfers something to whine about with its closing hole, a 616-yard par 5 bounded tee-to-green on the left by water. To make matters worse, the grass slopes toward the lake, so even catching the left side of the fairway doesn't mean the ball will stay dry.
Anyone with a right-to-left ball flight should strongly consider clubbing down and hugging the fairway's right edge as though it were a cliff face. Although water wraps around the back of the putting surface, the throat is open for a long run-up approach.
A trip to Silverstone leaves most golfers breathless, owing both to the amenities and the course's demanding nature. However, those who appreciate a full day on the links will be hard-pressed to find a better package than this. The Silverstone Golf Club is only 15 minutes northwest of downtown Las Vegas at 8600 Cupp Drive. For more information, special offers or to reserve a tee time, call 562-3770 or go online to www.silverstonegolfclub.com.