Shadow Creek has been ranked as one of the top courses in the U.S. by Golf Magazine's panel of experts.
Shadow Creek is golf's Brigadoon -- a mythical place that precious few have actually laid eyes on. There are two reasons for this: For years it was open only to high rollers at Steve Wynn's Mirage casino, and even now -- when the course is open to guests at all MGM Mirage properties -- the fee is a high-rollin' $500. But despite its infamous $40 million price tag -- in 1989 dollars -- Shadow Creek is no typically gaudy totem of Synthetic City.
True, the course offers not a hint of the surrounding desert. (The only sand you'll see is in the bunkers.) Instead, Tom Fazio's design conjures a Carolinas feel with treelined corridors and more rises and falls than a novice's chip stack. But what you get for your five notes is one fine hole built upon another until you reach a show-stopping finale at Nos. 17 and 18.
The strong holes actually begin at the fourth, an eye-catching par 5 that curls around a lake, followed by a 206-yard par 3 at which your tee shot is played across the roof of a mini-forest. One interesting quirk here: The course has no UGSA handicap or slope rating because it's designed to be a match-play track. This is Vegas, after all, home of the $1 million Nassau.
It's easy to dismiss Shadow Creek as a mere feat of engineering, a symbol of what you can do with flat desert if you have an unlimited bankroll. It's surely that, but much more as well. Perhaps the best tribute to Shadow Creek is that the finest course in Las Vegas -- one designed as a playground for the town's biggest bettors and still the pinnacle of glitter-speckled golf -- makes you forget where you are. It's simply great golf. Nothing more, and certainly nothing less. -- Eamon Lynch