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Resortlike Rhodes Ranch is great springtime walk in park

There are times when golfers seek out a daunting challenge that will test their focus and stretch the limits of their capabilities. On these days, they look for a course that offers little margin of error, where every shot holds the potential for disaster. Then again, there are times when a relaxing weekend round at the country club is preferable.

While the 6,909-yard Rhodes Ranch Golf Club is no pushover, it may accurately be described as a walk in the park. With manicured landscaping reminiscent of a Disney resort and broad, lush fairways, Rhodes Ranch is the kind of course that won’t hand-deliver a low score but will forgive the occasional awkward swing. From its friendly staff — and members — to the expansive practice facilities, this golf club has all the ingredients for a serene spring round.

Case in point is the par-4 first hole, which plays only 379 yards from the tips. While bunkers pinch the landing zone, bombers will have no problem carrying the sand. Those who opt for a less aggressive opening shot can play the tee shot just short of the trouble, setting up a midiron approach to a relatively open green.

Two holes later arrives the first tense swing of the day, a 227-yard par 3 bordered along the right by water. While the three small bunkers behind the green help frame this scenic hole, the steep back-to-front slope toward the lake makes any blast from the sand a treacherous proposition. The only safe bailout is left, but that leaves a chip that will break sharply toward the front edge once it starts rolling.

The toughest challenge at Rhodes Ranch, however, is the par-4 sixth hole, which stretches 435 yards from the back. While there are no forced carries or tricks, a bunker awaits wayward drives to the right, while the left edge of the fairway is constricted by a hill that can result in a very awkward stance.

Favoring the right side off the tee provides the best look at a long approach to the well-bunkered green.

Heading into the turn, the front side closes with a long par 5 that bends gently to the right around a lake. This is a legitimate three-shot hole for most players, so there isn’t much point to getting frisky from the tee box. Favoring the left-center portion of the fairway sets up a comfortable long iron or fairway metal second shot. While the slender, deep green is fortified on both sides by traps, they really shouldn’t come into play on such a short approach.

The back side begins as the front had before it, with a relatively easy par opportunity. No. 11, on the other hand, is a quirky, drivable par 4 that plays only 321 yards but is skirted by water from tee to green along the right side.

Those who are willing to lay up along the left edge are rewarded with an easy wedge approach with no real fear factor. Those who aren’t, well, they either putt for eagle or drop another ball.

A few holes later, a vexing par 3 rears its head on No. 16. This visually stunning hole should not be difficult enough to be rated the second most difficult on the course, but perhaps the cascading waterfall left of the massive green or the mountains in the background are distractions. In any event, those who record a par on this 212-yard hole should consider themselves fortunate.

The meticulously maintained track closes with a very long par 4 that is no place to lose concentration. While the lake deep in the landing zone shouldn’t be in play even for monstrous hitters, avoiding the right-side fairway bunkers is essential. The long approach to the deep, two-tiered putting surface is one of the few shots where precision is absolutely mandatory, because the green’s front edge is pinched between a creek and a bunker.

While Rhodes Ranch isn’t likely to give up a season-best round, those who stay within their game and make prudent decisions will find far more relaxation than frustration. Rhodes Ranch Golf Club is located at 20 Rhodes Ranch Parkway, approximately a mile south of the Las Vegas Beltway off Durango Avenue. For more information or to reserve a tee time, call 740-4114 or visit www.rhodesranchgolf.com.

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