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Southern Highlands course a dreamy reality

You would have done the same thing, I know you would have. Maybe I’ll end up in hot water; if I do, it would have been worth it.

I had to dust off the thesaurus before I even started this article. With a limited vocabulary, I wanted to disclose this fact up front.

Impeccable: faultless, flawless, perfect; pristine: unspoiled, perfect; top notch: superior, superlative, elite; superb: fabulous, fantastic, marvelous; first class: unequaled, unparalleled; best: most excellent; and experience: encounter, event, episode.

All of these would describe my latest golf adventure.

The focus of this column, the courses and experiences, should always be available to the average reader. Obviously, this column will not apply.

When I was invited to play Southern Highlands Golf Club, I wavered for only a second. After all, that club is a very exclusive, private membership-only course. Members-only did not fit the mold, though. When Southern Highlands is talked about, it’s always referred to in reference: “I have a friend who played the course. He knew a member there,” or, “I know a guy who knew a guy who played Southern Highlands. He knew the manager there,” or, “My friend’s father played the course in an invite-only tournament. He says it’s the best he’s ever played.”

With many more such comments, the urban legend was born: Southern Highlands is a remarkable course, but just try to get on it.

Thank you, Jason Cheney, director of operations at Southern Highlands, who, for some reason, invited me out to play. I invited three friends, and Jason OK’d the foursome.

Southern Highlands is a very exclusive, luxury lifestyle community, near the south end of Las Vegas with a prestigious course and amenities.

It was designed by the father-and-son team of Robert Trent Jones and son Robert Trent Jones Jr. The layout is a par-72; from the tips, it reaches 7,510 yards, has a ranking of 75.8 and a slope of 138. Even playing from the whites, it’s 6,696 yards and very challenging.

All nonmembers who play the course are required to have a caddie. Keith was our caddy and competently described the first hole and the course management strategy involved. He proved invaluable throughout the day in that context. Moreover, he has more stories to tell than would fill 18 holes of golf. Need anything? Keith will take care of it for you. The going price for his expertise is a $40 round per bag.

The course is fabulous. Water comes into play beautifully on nine holes, but the characteristic that is most notable is the layout and positioning of the bunkers. They are sizeable, sprawling affairs with fingers that extend out every which way. Most of the bunkers guard the greens, making for devilishly tricky approach shots.

Local tundra comes into play on holes two and 16, and accurate tee shots are needed to avoid these hazards.

Back-to-back signature holes end the day. No. 17 is a par-3 209-yard tickler. Water and sand guard the front, traps line the back, and a full carry is needed to green it. A bail-out area to the left of the greens provides relief to those wishing to play it safe.

Hole 18 is a 603-yard monster that requires a decision on the tee. The fairway is split by a rocky stream right down the fairway. Water and traps guard the left plateau, the right side being the safer play but requiring a long approach over the winding stream to a shallow green. Great fun.

The special appeal to this layout is the fit, finish and detail of the course, which makes it a pleasure to play. Course grooming is immaculate, greens are true and fast, bunker sand is feathery, and fairways are mowed perfectly. You can tell the course is not heavily played, adding to its exclusivity.

This doesn’t come inexpensively. Southern Highlands is part of Pacific Links International, which owns exclusive clubs in the U.S. and Hawaii and more than 80 affiliate courses in Asia and Australia. In its rankings, Southern Highland earns Diamond Club status, the highest club ranking. Full membership is $50,000. Monthly membership dues are $1,445. There is a food and beverage minimum of $600 semi-annually.

There you go. World-class amenities and world-class golf. Thank you, thesaurus.

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

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