I remember it like it was yesterday. Fifteen years ago, I moved to Las Vegas for a job transfer. Two weeks in, my new boss said, “Let’s go play golf. I have a favorite course.” That was my introduction to Desert Pines Golf Club. Since then, I have played Desert Pines many times and always enjoyed the experience.
The golf landscape in Vegas has changed a lot in the past year. One of those changes was that Desert Pines was sold to Arcis Equity Partners, a leading private equity firm specializing in the real estate and leisure sectors. During the past couple of years, Arcis has been accumulating golf courses and now has 54 courses under its umbrella and manages another 18 courses. Arcis Golf is now one of the top 10 golf management companies in the world.
So I ventured out to play Desert Pines and see what was happening. One thing went wrong: The skies opened up and dumped half an inch of rain all over the valley.
Greg Kinney, regional manager for Arcis Golf, and Ryan Rocha, head golf professional, were kind enough to sit down with me that day to get an update on Desert Pines.
“We’re in the planning stages for a lot of the improvements yet to be implemented. Right now we’re working on the capital budgets,” Greg said. Since acquiring Desert Pines a year ago last August, Arcis has also purchased Painted Desert Golf Club and Las Vegas Golf Club. “Some of the improvements planned will be to add some trees that we’ve lost over the years. We’ll be leveling some tee boxes that have become mounded over time. Improving several cart paths is also planned. And the maintenance department will be getting new equipment.”
I asked about the challenges of promoting the golf course. “Our marketing consists of being online, our website, email blasts, Facebook and other social media. Fifty percent of our play is booked online. We get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals. But the most important criteria is the quality of the golf course and keeping it in top shape.”
During tourist season, about 75 percent of play is by tourists. “Our proximity to the Strip and being located close to downtown make it attractive. We also offer limo transportation to the course, rental clubs and shoes. We can offer the Desert Pines BirdieMates to both locals and tourists. BirdieMates are knowledgeable and attractive female caddies that help you negotiate the course. Locals make up over 50 percent of play at other times.”
Desert Pines also had one of the more creative promotions I have encountered. “All-inclusive golf is still available as an add-on fee,” Greg said. For an additional $30 to green fees, you get the green fees, cart fees, driving range, meal service and non-alcoholic beverages all included.
The course itself is in great shape. Overseeding went well, and the course couldn’t be better. Designed by Pete Dye and opened in 1996, from the tips, the course reaches to a playable 6,222 yards, par 71. It rates at 71.1 with a slope of 137, giving the golfer plenty of trials. Adding to these tests are more than 3,500 trees, 66 bunkers, and nine holes with water hazards.
Some of these challenges come at the end of each nine. Holes No. 9 and 18 both finish on opposite sides of a large water hazard. Keep your drive to the left on No. 9 and to the right on 18. Two accurate approach shots will keep you dry on the green. They both happen to be the toughest holes on the course, hole 9 in the No. 1 handicap with 18 being the second toughest test of the course.
Locals will really appreciate Desert Pines, too. Greg added, “For locals, it’s a real fun course to play; it’s not long and offers a real test of ability. The course is always in great condition and maintained in top condition. The pace of play is quick. The driving range is climate controlled, heated or cooled by misters. And don’t forget Duffers. The restaurant uses top quality ingredients; everything is homemade.”
Arcis Golf also offers a Rewards Card. For $79, you receive a free round at each Arcis Golf course with preferred green fee rates, discounts on merchandise, 10-day reservation privileges and every 10th round free.
Try not to hit a tree.
— John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer.