High-rolling Boston Celtics owner developed original Vegas country club

Last Friday evening, Las Vegas Country Club members gathered 50 years to the day of when the late Marvin Kratter opened the Las Vegas International Country and Tennis club.

Kratter, a Brooklyn native and owner of the Boston Celtics from 1965-68, was the club’s original developer and a high-rolling baccarat player who saw a rewarding future in Las Vegas. He spared no expense and hired noted course architect Bob Ault to design the layout and high-end building architect Julius Gabrielle to design the clubhouse.

“It is one of the of the greatest courses I’ve seen in my lifetime and I just couldn’t find any flaw,” 7-time major champion and World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Gene Sarazen said in a 1968 Las Vegas Sun article.

Even before the course officially opened, Rat Pack member Dean Martin would play it daily, invited by Arthur Nightingale, the club’s first professional. Martin frequently was joined by Desert Inn Country Club professional Bo Wininger, casino executives Tony Frabbiele, Myron Friedman and Minnie Cardillo, and singer and noted amateur golfer Don Cherry.

“When we first opened the club, I received permission from Mr. Kratter to invite the stars out to play and he said ‘OK’ as long as it wasn’t for what he called ‘self gain’,” the late Nightingale said in 2011 during an interview for the book, “Las Vegas Country Club: Chronicle of an Icon.” “The name I gave my favorite group was the ‘gruesome sixsome’. They were a lot of fun, but I should have used the word ‘awesome’, not gruesome.

“How often do you get a group like that? They had the course to themselves for about six weeks. I probably let them overdo it a bit, but Marvin wasn’t there so I thought, ‘why not?’. I think they did more for the course than you could ever justify in a monetary amount.”

Kratter started to have financial difficulties almost immediately upon opening and in 1968 sold controlling interest to Levin-Townsend, a computer company that also purchased the Bonanza Hotel from Kirk Kerkorian. The club’s name was changed to Bonanza Country Club in 1969.

Shortly after those purchases, Levin-Townsend imploded internally following a coup led by James Townsend to oust his partner, Howard Levin. Townsend cited Levin’s questionable deals—including the reckless Las Vegas golf and hotel purchases — for his ouster.

In 1970, the club was sold to a group of 40 members, headed by legendary Las Vegans Irwin Molasky, Merv Adelson, Allard Roen and Moe Dalitz. The glory days of the New Las Vegas Country Club — the club’s name in official documents — were underway and it became the place to be and be seen.

The equity club has been owned and operated by members ever since, an era most likely coming to an end. In 2015, members voted to sell, but a purchase by Discovery Land fell through earlier this year. However, a deal with a new buyer is reportedly being negotiated and the club’s next chapter could begin to unfold soon.

Putt for dough

Tour player Brad Faxon hosts the all-pro putting championship Monday and Tuesday at the Major Series of Putting Stadium adjacent to Planet Hollywood. Also, there is still time to qualify for MSOP events. Visit MSOP.com for details.

Deal of the week

UNLV students, alumni, faculty and staff plus police, fire, EMT and military personnel will receive free entry to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Stars on, off course

Dr. Harry Schroeder won the Make-A-Wish Lakeshore Open held at the home of Philip Tom. The unique course is situated in Tom’s front, back and side yards, and is officially trademarked as golf’s fifth major.

The golf notebook appears each Thursday. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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