One of the most underrated regions in American golf is the border areas of Utah and Nevada, where a number of prestigious public courses — including Sand Hollow and Wolf Creek — have sprung out of the dramatic landscape. Enter Conestoga Golf Club as another entry on the list among those on the Nevada side.
Although this club may not quite have the same video-game dimensions as fellow Mesquite native Wolf Creek, this was not Gary Panks’s first foray into the desert. The architect has made a career largely in the state of Arizona, and he knows how to take advantage of the biome’s dramatic landforms in the creation of an exciting golf course. The result is a series of holes that loop through the desert, many with high tee boxes to justify a back-tee yardage of more than 7,200 yards.
The par three greens sit perched, propped up with walls, lest they tumble into the hollows and washes they surround. No. 14 will only show half of its green from the tee, as the mountainside lurks in the way of the left side.
This public-access facility is a manageable one-hour drive from the hustle of Las Vegas.
Conestoga is an excellent course in Mesquite. This area is a very under appreciated destination. With Las Vegas being the entry/exit point you have a very dynamic group of courses available with a stay in Mesquite. Conestoga represents one of the very best in the area. It's much like Wolf Creek just a tame version. Always in great condition and a joy to play.
The thing that always amazes me when people discredit courses that have housing components as part of the presentation is it almost always comes from people who likely have not played a layout where the connection actually works quite well. You also have elite architects chiming in who sit on the throne of sanctimony because they have a client base where situations in dealing with housing are likely not on the radar screen. Good for them -- no doubt. But, the reality of golf design often has to deal with related impediments that have to be dealt with smartly.
I first became aware of Mesquite, NV around 1994 -- although I had been to Vegas several times prior.
Mesquite has blossomed as a retiree getaway and because it is close enough to Vegas and St. George, UT -- it does draw a number of people who relish the outdoors. The golf side has been brewing for quite some time and a range of facilities have come forward over the years.
Conestoga was not in the first wave of course developments and this in many ways may have been a blessing.
Some of the early designs were just pedestrian results. The turning point came with the opening of Wolf Creek which jettisoned the fanfare in a big time way. Wolf Creek pushed serious buttons -- the diehard traditionalists panned the course as being over-the-top and gimmicky. Those who were more elastic loved the edginess and the kind of shots / holes one could only fantasize about.
Even with the amount of attention Wolf Creek generated -- I'd always wondered if a course could do much of what Wolf Creek did without going to extreme lengths as it does on a few holes.
The answer -- Conestoga. The layout opened in 2010 and with veteran architect Gary Panks at the helm the final product is especially well crafted given the challenges of the land plan -- slotting all 18 holes and practice facility -- along with the need by ownership to include housing in a big time way. For those in the know -- Panks has done a number of superior courses in that part of the USA with the likes of Twin Warriors in NM and Chaparral Pines in AZ, to name just two and with more of his efforts in Arizona.
Panks created a layout with plenty of versatility -- tee boxes can be played at various lengths and for those who want to be tested to the max - the championship markers will put your game on notice quickly.
The opening hole is a benign starter -- not adding that much stress but getting you on your way. Things change noticeably with the par-3 188-yard 2nd. Panks provides several different tee boxes and the green sits below tee grade. The putting surface is angled and any shot hit too far can easily go off the back and find a nasty creek gobbling up your ball. What adds to the 2nd green is that wind velocities can be especially harrowing. In the case of the 2nd the prevailing helping wind necessitates a first rate effort to keep the ball down and spinning to assure a safe landing.
The rest of the outward side provides holes where shotmaking -- not simple slugging -- is sine qua non. The par-4 3rd is reminiscent of what you would see at Pine Valley. The hole turns right in the drive zone and it's imperative one's tee shot tries to stay on that side all the way. The green is well served by a solitary frontal bunker to a green that's elevated. Often played in a crosswind from right-to-left the demands are straightforward and at a high level.
The remaining holes on the outward side are helped considerably by the lack of housing intruding upon the scene. There's sufficient width but Conestoga never countenances stupidity or just inane thinking.
Panks provided a routing that always changes gears -- constantly calling upon the golfer to adjust as the situations demand. The closing par-5 9th can be a birdie hole but those opting for boldness had best back it up with top tier execution as a nearby pond awaits those who fail to deliver.
The inward side starts with a quality par-3 hole. The 10th is just under 200 yards and the same water from the 9th lurks again. The long downhill par-4 11th invites the big tee shot but again the riskier the play the better the execution must be.
The remaining holes work well with the two par-4's at the 17th and 18th respectively capping the day in grand fashion. Conestoga can play very hard when the wind is really picking up velocity but Panks smartly included ways for which players of varying handicaps can negotiate the terrain.
Nevada doesn't provide any real sure bets. However, for those getting to Mesquite be sure to head to Conestoga because your golf day there is one sure wager.
by M. James Ward
Love the sentiment in the opening paragraph. There is more than one way to skin a golfing cat, so if it occasionally takes an economic compromise of a housing development to get a decent course built, then so be it