Course Review: Bali Hai (Las Vegas, NV)

September 2, 2012

Those common readers of our blog know we spend a lot of time playing new courses at locales of travel with the hope of finding a few diamonds in the rough to share with you. While our main goal is to give golfers in our own locales some information about the many local courses in our respective areas, we also like to share our experiences on various travel excursions. One spot that both LG and I have frequented for golf vacations (and vacations in general) is Las Vegas.

Although not ideal from a price point, Las Vegas is a great place to play golf. There are numerous options that give the golfers of the city a chance to get out and see what desert golf (or some variant thereof) is all about. LG and I have reviewed several of these courses (and played several more). And while they all have their own character, they seem to bring different features to the party that is a Vegas vacation.

On my most recent trip, I had a choice between playing Paiute in the afternoon in August or playing Bali Hai in the morning. Given that the temperature was around 110 degrees in the afternoon, I chose to play Bali Hai in the morning.

Bali Hai is one of the iconic courses in Vegas if for no other reason than it is right on Las Vegas Boulevard (aka, “The Strip”). Although other courses are close (i.e., the course at the Wynn), I don’t know of any other courses that are actually addressed on the strip. As such, Bali Hai is a course that gets a lot of play year round if for no reason other than it is convenient to most major resort hotels in Las Vegas. Having heard about this course for years (heck, maybe even decades), I decided it was finally time to play it.

Scorecard at http://www.balihaigolfclub.com/course/scorecard/

Bali Hai is a south-pacific themed course with white sands, exotic flowers, palm trees, rock outcroppings, and various homages to south-pacific architecture and style. The course plays (in my opinion) very short at 7,000 yards, likely because of many elevated tee boxes and thin desert air. For example, my second shots into the four par 5 holes were made with 9-iron (531-yard 2nd), 7-iron (550-yard 7th), 8-iron (518-yard 10th), and 7-iron (550-yard 15th). Even with some long par 4s (482-yard 8th, 484-yard 17th, 486-yard 18th), I had no more than a 7-iron into any green. While the course does have a few tricky drives, there are a lot of opportunities to use the driver (something I don’t see a lot in Atlanta), and there is usually an open side if one side has a hazard or OB.



What this course has going for it is convenience. The price isn’t great (I was getting a deal at $125–the rack rate is over $200), but it’s not as egregious as some other places. For example, the Wynn course is over $500 to play. However, if you’re a person who values proximity, Bali Hai is a great value. For me, I had to play a round of golf in the amount of time my wife was at the spa, so the locale of Bali Hai was worth it for me on this trip. The photos below, showing great views from the 14th and 18th tee boxes, illustrate how close the course is to the Mandalay Bay, with the Luxor seen between the two towers of Mandalay Bay.



As far as Vegas goes, the course is OK. If this course were plopped down in an Atlanta suburb, it would see a ton of play and be voted amongst the best in the city. But in Vegas, it’s so-so. What I liked about the layout was that it had some elevation change. I’ve played a number of courses in Vegas that were so flat you could land a plane on them. Bali Hai has some elevated tees, some uphill shots to greens, etc. It also has good use of water features, with a few creeks, a few greens well-guarded, and a few interesting water hazards with sand leading down into the water.

The staff was friendly and helpful, and I appreciated their attention to detail, helping me in the process from the time I drove up to the moment I left. The course is well-watered, as they understand that the players need to be hydrated to have a good time (something very important in Vegas).

What I didn’t like about this course was the condition. I have to be fair–most courses in the area are pretty bad at the end of August, and Bali Hai (like many others) was about to close for overseeding. That said, the greens are bermuda, which is an immediate strike for me. They were running only 9 on the stimp and had a lot of burnt spots. The bunkers were inconsistent, some as hard as concrete under a thin layer of sand, some like Daytona Beach. The fairways and rough were recently cut, and apparently this world-renowned course does not have a bagging mower, because there were piles of bermuda leaflets everywhere. Also, another seasonal issue, the greens were hard as concrete. I hit two 7-irons into good spots on par 5s and ended up with the ball bouncing over the greens and into depressions that were difficult to chip from.

Further, the range was an oddity. It has a very cool automatically loading tee that allows the player to hit ball after ball without bending down to re-tee. However, the range faces the strip and is no more than 100 yards long. As such, it is entirely enclosed in netting, and your drives are essentially limited to the first 100 yards of travel. I hope you don’t have any late movement the day you play.

Oh, and, speaking of landing planes, the course is RIGHT next to Las Vegas McCarron airport. Being that it’s so close, you can expect to be buzzed multiple times by jumbo-jets bringing in starry-eyed vacationers and transporting drunken/hungover and broke folks out. It actually wasn’t as loud as I expected it to be, but it was distracting for sure.

Altogether, I think the course was nice and certainly suited my needs for the trip. However, I would probably prefer to play Paiute or Rio Secco next time I make it out, as I’ve heard great reviews on both.

Price: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Experience: 7/10
Condition: 6/10 in August
Course Accommodations: 8/10
Cache: 9/10
Overall: 7/10. Good to say I’ve played it, but won’t be back until I’ve played a few others or if I need to play quickly.

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2 Responses to “Course Review: Bali Hai (Las Vegas, NV)”

  1. LG Says:

    Great course for beer golf. Also, great gambling course for all the reasons that JK described. Even a bad drive doesn’t really take you out of the hole. For the best experience, don’t play this course for the golf experience. Bring some cash and gamble on every hole. It’s vegas, after all.

  2. JK Says:

    let’s play some beer golf next time we’re out there–or some gambling golf. been awhile since i did that. of course, since i was the only one there, i had no one to gamble with….


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