Player-friendly design draws golfers to Boulder City

On a recent Monday holiday, Boulder City Golf Course Head Golf Professional Tony Fiorentini politely informed a caller that the first available tee time was well after noon, evoking an extended pause. Another hopeful single ambled into the club’s small golf shop to receive the same news.

It is telling, given the impact the nation’s lingering economic woes have had on the business of golf, that players still drive into Boulder City from the Las Vegas Valley to play a municipal course. Boulder City Golf Course has long been recognized as one of the region’s best values, but it isn’t as though other clubs haven’t adjusted their prices to be more competitive. There’s just something a little different about this place.

To call the Boulder City Golf Course forgiving would be accurate to a degree, but an oversimplification. Most of the front nine — the course was constructed in the 1970s as a nine-hole track — features side-by-side fairways, so especially wayward drives have a way of working out. Although the course has undergone a little turf removal in recent years, it remains largely wall-to-wall grass, making scarred irons are a rarity.

On the other hand, Boulder City presents a challenge to which few players weaned on desert golf are accustomed — tree trouble. Sprawling pines and massive cottonwoods line many of the fairways, greatly contributing to the course’s pleasing aesthetic and adding a degree of complexity to the otherwise straightforward Billy Casper design. Beyond that, water comes into play on more than a few holes, although not in a penal island-green fashion.

Playing a few strides over 6,600 yards from the back, Boulder City opens gently with a short but slightly uphill par 5. Those who avoid the bunkers bracketing the fairway of this 490-yard hole are rewarded by a clear look at the green, the right side of which is capably defended by a steeply lipped bunker. Firmly packed sand makes accurate blasts a tricky proposition. Although Boulder City’s greens are relatively slow, the slope from behind most holes makes braking difficult on down-hillers.

After a bit of marching band practice around the rectangular collection of early holes that culminates in a long trip back toward the clubhouse, golfers face the course’s most daunting challenge, a 416-yard par 4 that is exceptionally demanding from the tee box. A lake guards the right edge of No. 6’s fairway, while a pair of bunkers and a thick line of trees punish any drives that stray left. Those who have difficulty controlling the big dog should seriously consider clubbing down off the tee. While doing so makes for a long approach, the green is relatively open, and this strategy takes double-bogey out of play.

This tough hole is followed by a short but vexingly difficult par 3. Although it plays only 170 yards, the green is backed by water, and any tee shots that hop over the back fringe are likely to find the pond. A birdie opportunity for accurate iron players, this hole can be frustrating for those who tend to hit their mid irons thin.

The front nine closes with a 400-yard par 4 that shares a lake — and more than a few balls — with No. 6. While the tendency to steer away from the watery right edge is almost irresistible, doing so lengthens the hole and, depending upon how far left the drive wanders, can obscure the line to the green with overhanging tree branches. A bunker guards the putting surface’s right edge, while the slope falls away quickly from the green’s left side.

After a couple of short, easy par 4s to start the return trip, a feast-or-famine hole arrives in the form of the 481-yard par 5 12th. The fairway is bordered on both sides by mature cottonwoods and, farther askew, residential backyards. However, the test on this hole is the second shot, which longer hitters can send all the way to the green. Be warned: a thin creek fronts the putting surface about 20 yards out, so a run-up requires more luck than skill. Additionally, bunkers await on both sides, while a pond lurks off the left edge. All but the big bombers should lay up to wedge distance.

At 452 yards, No. 15 is by far Boulder City’s longest par 4, earning it honors as the course’s second most difficult hole. Although it plays slightly downhill, two solid shots are required to reach the two-tiered green. The key to making par is the approach, which under no circumstances should carry past the pin. From above the hole, it is possible to run a putt not just past the cup, but off the front of the green entirely.

A round at the Boulder City Golf Course ends, as it began, with a good scoring opportunity. The 384-yard par 4 bends ever so slightly to the left around a small bunker, but the landing zone is generous. While the green is well-protected by bunkers, one-putts are not uncommon on its flat surface.

With its combination of low greens fees, solid conditions and playability, it is no wonder that Boulder City continues to draw players from throughout Southern Nevada. Boulder City Golf Course is located at 1 Clubhouse Drive in Boulder City, 15 minutes south of Henderson via U.S. Highway 95.

To make a tee time, call 293-9236 or visit www.bouldercitygolf.com.

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