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Community-maintained Spanish Trails looking mighty fine

Ah, a day playing golf at one of the valley’s premier courses. It doesn’t get much better than that. Spanish Trail Country Club beckons, offering history, luxury and a great playing experience.

We all noticed it right after teeing off on hole No. 1 at Spanish Trail’s Canyon nine.

“The course is kinda rough,” one said.

“Do they water this course?” another asked.

Me? I was a little surprised.

The big news, the reason I was here: Spanish Trail Country Club recently was purchased by an investment group made up of community residents. Bringing the golf operation in-house would be great for the community with improvements planned to upgrade the course. I was here to check them out. But I was sidetracked.

“Whoa,” I thought standing on the tee box of hole No. 2. “They have a lot of work to do.” What I learned will surprise you.

Spanish Trail opened in 1984. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and is considered a traditional layout. The course has hosted the PGA’s Tour Las Vegas Invitational several times. Many celebrities call the community home. The clubhouse ambiance is elegant, perfect for the special occasions in life.

Spanish Trail is a 27-hole layout with three autonomous nines. They consist of the Canyon nine, the Sunrise nine and the Lakes nine. According to the combination played, the Canyon/Lakes plays the toughest, playing more than 7,100 yards at a par 72. Rating is 74.4 with a difficult slope of 144. That’s the one we tackled.

The Canyon nine’s condition was the topic of conversation. Fairways were rough, off-color and not too pretty. It was challenging, however. The highlight of the layout was the finishing holes: the seventh, a 215-yard par 3, the eighth; a 567-yard par 5; and the ninth, a 421-yard par 4. This threesome will test the best of golfers.

The Lakes nine was a totally different story. It was in immaculate shape and is one the most visually attractive nines I have played. This nine features a pair of beautiful and challenging signature holes. No. 2 is a 601-yard par 5 with water on the right that extends all the way to the green. Hole No. 3 is breathtaking. A 180-yard par 3 with two waterfalls, a ravine, colorful foliage, flowers and a surprise. There’s an unseen extension of the water hazard that completely guards the front of the green. Talk about a false front; to reach the green, you’ll need to carry the water hazard to reach the green. Great hole!

Water comes into play on six holes for this nine, and rolling undulating fairways and greens add to its difficulty. With great visual aesthetics, bring your A game.

Bill Rowden is the general manager of Spanish Trail Country Club. I asked about the sale of the club to a resident investor group. “Cyrus Tang and a group of residents combined to pay off the bank note of over $6 million to buy the course. The group also set aside $500,000 for immediate course improvements. About $250,000 will be spent on greenside bunker upgrades. In addition to the course improvements, I’ve also noticed an increase in camaraderie in the community since the purchase; memberships have grown.”

“What’s happening with the Canyon nine?” was my next question.

Bill smiled. “It’s a trial. Last year in July or August, the board approved not overseeding the Canyon nine with winter rye grass. We wanted to see what would happen. The Canyon nine was the healthiest of the nines at the time. Due do the mild weather last year, the course remained green until late December. It went dormant then. It’s started to come back already. The members knew what was happening and were OK with it. Outside tournaments thought the course was struggling and made some comments.”

Were there cost factors involved in the decision? “Sure,” Bill said. “We didn’t lose any revenue due to closing of the Canyon nine for overseeding. That was good. We used less water not overseeding. And there were minor savings in labor. What we’re seeing now is that the course is coming back. We expect the Bermuda grass on the Canyons will be the healthiest of our nines. It will be beautiful.”

I know what you’re thinking. You’ll never be able to play the membership-only course. Think again. Spanish Trail is open to public play during slower times all year. In fact, summer rates are as low as $60. All that is required is an email address and accepting some information about membership. No strings attached.

But wait: Membership at Spanish Trail is also surprisingly affordable. No other country club offers this value. There’s no initiation fee, there’s no food and beverage minimum, and there’s only a 30-day contract commitment.

A full golf membership includes unlimited golf, practice facility, bag storage and locker and access to all other club experiences.

The cost for ages 21 to 35 is $350 a month; for ages 36 to 40, it’s $450 a month; and ages 40-plus, it’s $700 a month.

So now is your chance to enjoy a truly great golf course, an elegant clubhouse and exceptional service levels. You’ll be duly impressed.

John Asay is a longtime golfer and local freelance writer. Contact him at jasay@reviewjournal.com.

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