Bali Hai Golf Club is named after the fictional island immortalised by Perry Como’s No.1 single, Some Enchanted Evening, taken from the musical, South Pacific. The golf course is located at the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, a mere 10-minute taxi ride from the main strip hotels. Designed by Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley in 2000 all of the holes have been created with a verdant tropical theme. To that end, they planted a total of 4,000 trees with 2,500 stands of towering palms, 100,000 tropical plants and created seven acres of lush water features.
The par 71 Bali Hai measures 7,002 yards from the tips, but there are three other sets of tees measuring 6,601, 6,156 and 5,511 yards, so golfers of all abilities will find a tee that suits their game.
As you might expect with a course aimed at businessmen and vacationers whose main focus is gambling, the course starts you off gently with a relatively easy hole – where many golfers might make par – but don't be deceived and get overconfident, things subtly get tougher as the round unfolds.
Worthy of particular mention is the 16th a pretty par three where you have to play over water in full view of the restaurant. Additionally, beware of the last two par fours which could ruin your card. The 17th is a 484-yard dogleg (SI2) and the 18th is a 486 yard (SI 4) with the green well-defended by water.
Bali Hai is bounded by Mandalay Bay Hotel on one side, Las Vegas (McCarran) Airport on the other and a freeway and railway line complete the boundaries, but it's no worse for that. Bali Hai is a surprising oasis of tranquillity amidst the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas and the strip… assuming you can ignore the aeroplanes taking off and landing, especially when you're playing the 3rd.
Bali Hai Golf Club regularly features in American magazine lists of the best courses you can play, so we’re pleased to have it as one of our Gems. The club is owned by the Walters Golf Group who also own Royal Links, located just outside Vegas. Bali Hai has a large clubhouse, and pro-shop which is well versed to renting clubs to visiting gamblers who need to take a break from losing money to get their golfing fix!
If you are in Vegas and have a craving to get out and play some golf, but: a) have a relatively limited budget so the ‘premier courses’ are out of the question; and b) cannot be bothered to travel to far to play? If so, then Bali Hai Golf Club is your destination.
Bali Hai is located a mile away from the centre of the Las Vegas Strip, and compared to most of the courses around is very reasonable at just over $100 for the round if you’re prepared to be an early bird or a twilight golfer. Even at that price point, you are getting an excellent golf course and, as usual in the US, a great customer service experience from beginning to end.
The course is ‘South Pacific inspired’ and you cannot help but notice this from the hundreds of palm trees, bleached sand, and water obstacles that face you on 10 of the 18 holes. When you are playing the course, you do almost feel transported to the Pacific, that is until you hit the 7th hole tee box, and in for the foreground you see the Luxor and Mandalay Bay hotels (see picture above). It is quite spectacular at first sight.
In my opinion, the course is well designed – offering a real challenge to golfers of all abilities. Like most courses in Vegas, the greens are lightning fast and if there is only one piece of advice I would give to a travelling golfer, that is make sure you get at least 15 minutes in on the practice green to get acclimatised. Not only was the speed challenging but the undulations and multiple tiers you had on most holes placed a premium on good putting. Water is obviously a key theme throughout the course but it is not ‘overly daunting’ – ultimately only a poor shot or a poor choice will be punished here. The fairways were pretty generous and ran true, and the bunkers, whilst prolific on certain holes, were strategically well-placed but not impossible to navigate around (or out of!).
The par 4s are mixed between some very tough long par 4s with very well placed bunkers for both tee shots and approach shots, to some shorter risk/reward par 4s (normally the risk being in the form of water). All of the par 5s have an element of doglegs in them, and on a couple of occasion double breaking dog legs, and realistically only for the very long hitters are reachable in 2. However, like the Cascata course I played the day before, the real gems on this course are the par 3s. All 4 of the par 3s have water as a very real risk with the signature holes being the 9th and 16th where both have the greens right in front of the clubhouse itself. With the way the course is set up though, the wind plays a very real risk too and will blow in very different directions on each of these holes. On the day I played it was blowing hard – about 25mph – and it meant that the 144 yard par 3 7th was playing at least 2 clubs more in length and the wind was pushing the ball towards the lake … needless to say both me and my playing partner bailed into the bunkers to be safe!
All in all, Bali Hai was a real pleasure to play.
Ah Bali Hai – Some Enchanted Evening… one of my all-time favourite love songs! Was fortunate enough to play here after deciding to sneak off for a quick game while on business at CA World, which was hosted at the adjacent Mandalay Bay Hotel. It was a wise choice, the keynote speaker that morning was apparently rubbish and my game was not much better. However, I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Bali Hai and my only after-round wish was that I should have brought my putting boots. I must have three-stabbed eight holes and found the rather tricky and large greens tough to master. It always takes me a while to get used to playing golf in the US, as the ground tends to be light and sandy, so you need to strike the ball crisply off the surface otherwise a fat shot will ensue. Had a couple of fatties when attempting to carry the numerous water hazards and lost a couple of balls… much to the amusement of my single-figure playing partners. I would definitely recommend Bali Hai to anyone who wants to play an engaging round on a nicely manicured, tropically themed course. It beats those boring conferences any day!