Cascata is an Italian word for waterfall so it will come as no surprise that the predominant feature of the Cascata course is a high cascading waterfall.
Designed by Rees Jones and opening for play in 2000, Cascata is an unforgettable Las Vegas golfing experience. Located a mere 30 minutes from the Strip in a spectacular landscape under the shadow of the Red Mountain, Cascata is an extravagant and luxurious experience which can be savoured by simply phoning ahead and making a reservation. If your budget will stretch to it then you are in for an absolute treat.
A former golf property of the American gaming corporation Caesars, Cascata is now owned and operated by VICI Properties Inc.
I have been a regular visitor to Las Vegas for forty plus years. I marveled at the pace of mega golf development over the years, yet much of the golf present is on the functional side of things from a design perspective. There are exceptions to that but you can likely count them on one hand. The high-end Vegas golf scene is centered on the pampering and utter detail to customer service. People who want top shelf attention can certainly get it in Vegas. The script is a simple one -- get the customer what he or she wants -- before they want it -- and make sure you exceed expectations.
Cascata was created in the aftermath of the success of Shadow Creek. Then owner Steve Wynn smartly understood that taking care of the highest of high rollers meant giving them a golf diversion second to none. In Vegas -- replication is the sincerest form of flattery and MGM -- the folks behind Cascata at its inception -- wanted to have something to rival what Wynn was doing. Ironically, it is now MGM which owns Shadow Creek and Harrahs which owns both Cascata and Rio Seco.
440 acres of land was found about 30 minutes south of The Strip in the town of Boulder City. The course is built literally on a hillside which provides views of the western landscape. Befitting the theme Cascata -- which is Italian for waterfall -- provides a 37,000 square-foot Tuscan clubhouse that features a waterfall that starts at the highest portion of the property and eventually is routed through the confines of the clubhouse. The water rushing through provides a thunderous roar and is truly spectacular. To make the day even more complete you get a personalized caddie who is there to take care of your golfing needs. This isn't the gum-smacking or cigarette chain smoking looper. You get someone who is essentially your butler on the course.
Naturally, when you have top shelf service you also get top tier conditioning. Cascata rivals -- and likely exceeds -- most clubs on the agronomy side of things. The greens are cut and rolled and if you don't develop a sense of speed control at the outset you'll likely be three-putting several times for sure.
The course climbs up and down the hillside where it's routed. The issue quickly becomes one of shot distortion. The uphill holes become predictably harder than the ones going downhill. Rees Jones is a skilled architect and I have played numerous other designs he has created and Cascata fails to break new ground or provide something beyond what he's done previously.
The overriding theme for Cascata is about taking care of the customer and providing an oasis setting that goes far beyond a typical golf experience. Candidly, if people were truthful and had all the extras removed and were forced to just look at the course itself it's more than likely they would see things far differently. The architecture is good in spots but simply empty in others. Shadow Creek is still the top dog when it comes to providing a design on par with the service and amenities provided.
Naturally, the costs to play at Cascata is not a cheap ticket but for those enamored with high end servicing the costs are a much lower concern. However, for those who are golf design aficionados you'll likely come away wondering why the architecture is just so predictable. The hardest part in working in stark desert terrain is providing golf that doesn't look superimposed on the land -- Cascata is an example of man's hand being too big an element in the final creation. One can play quality desert courses such as Coyote Springs and Conestoga in nearby Mesquite which are both well done and far less expensive to play.
As I said at the outset -- Vegas golf is about the customer -- taking care of them to the max. Cascata does not disappoint from the customer service side and there are many people who view customer service and course grooming as being equals or more so to when the actual architecture is assessed. While I certainly appreciate the former -- it is the latter which gets my immediate attention and higher priority.
Cascata is the equivalent of many modern movies today -- give the paying viewer plenty of car chases and explosions but no real character development or storyline. Cascata provides a first rate show -- the depth side of the aisle is what's missing. When you finish playing Cascata you'll relish the attention to detail on the customer service side -- but you'll be scratching your head in trying to remember the holes you just played.
by M. James Ward
Had the opportunity to play at Cascata whilst in Las Vegas on a business trip and what a treat. The place is a first class and indulgent experience as reflected in the price to play there, but you will not be disappointed.
From the waterfall in the clubhouse itself, to the practice facilities, the whole experience is well organised and set out for those visiting.
As for the course itself - it is certainly one of the very best I have played so far. Set in the stunningly rugged Red Mountain canyons, you get the sense of being all on your own when playing each hole, and you are in awe at times of the beauty of the natural surroundings.
The course plays longer than the yardage on the scorecard but it is not gruelling, with an equal amount of the holes playing uphill and downhill, and with 40% of the holes having water for you to negotiate. For me the most memorable hole is the short downhill par 3 7th hole which is surrounded by a water, a waterfall and a U shaped bunker - a stunning looking hole from the tee box. The par 5 16th and 18th holes are also ones that I will remember for a while and really require the player to think strategically on how to tackle them.
The greens are super quick, yet they run so true. It is imperative that you get some time on the practice greens before hand otherwise it will be a long time on the greens during your round. That being said, if you get your eye in, you should be fine!
A shout out to our caddy on the day - Casey - a top bloke who was a pleasure throughout on the history of the course, as well as advising us on what we should be doing.
If you are in Vegas, have a spare couple hundred bucks to spend on a first class experience, then this is the place to spend it!
If you enjoy playing the same hole over and over and over again, then this is the place for you. It felt like there were 7 holes uphill that played and looked the same, 7 holes downhill that mostly played the same with a little more variety and then a bunch of par 3s that were generally the same length.
I appreciate that it’s built on the side of a hill in the desert, but this course does not have much variety. Best of luck remembering more than 2 holes a year after you play it.
On top of this, this high-end resort course intentionally keeps the greens rolling at at least 13 on the stimpmeter, which was absolutely outrageous when playing down towards the valley as a 10 foot putt could easily roll 40 feet past the hole and off the green down the fairway. This was not conducive to having fun, did not help with pace of play, and players wasted more time chasing after carts than I can remember.
A number of holes require a long drive in the buggy just to reach the next tee box, which disrupts the flow and you lose orientation.
Not sure we played the same course here or not .... The greens were fast no doubt but that's where the caddies come in to help. I live in the UK on super slow greens and whilst the first couple of holes were challenging, it became manageable.
Depending on what tees you played off the course looked very different and you had to employ different strategies. Playing off the whites you sometimes could risk the driver for the reward or play safe with hybrid / long iron.
Ultimately, the course was immaculate condition and I agree the greens were fast, but what else were you expecting? This is a high-calibre course that the Pros often play in their downtime or even for setting up their own Foundation events.