As golf season winds down in Buffalo-Niagara, our attention turns to domes, trips and television. You have domes and your remote control device within reach, so leave the rest to me. I’m going to give offer up a nine-part series (this is part eight) on eclectic eighteens across the USA. The only thread tying them together is my having played them. That, and the fact that all of the courses are worthwhile. You’ll never play them all in one sweep, as I once did, but when you find yourself in these regions, know that these courses are worth your money and your best game.
The story I was told about Primm Valley goes something like this: after building Shadow Creek and Wynn, Tom Fazio was encouraged to sign a non-compete contract. The nut was, he wouldn’t build other courses in Nevada. The Primm Valley folks, literally on the border ‘twixt the states of Nevada and California, hired Fazio to build two courses on hardscrabble land in California. That, folks, is how you get around a clause. There are three hotels in Primm, Nevada and two golf courses in Nipton, California. There is also a solar farm adjacent to those courses (which you will see if you look at the images below) more suited to the area.
So what’s the deal with Primm Valley Lakes? I honestly don’t know. I was schedule to play in a shotgun, but the weather was windy cold that morning and I had to be in San Diego and yadadadadadadadah…I drove the course and photographed it (unlike the Desert course, which I did play and you will see at a time to be named later.) The course was memorable and wide and interesting and firm and playable. There were no holes that I looked at and said, honestly, Tom, what the hell were you thinking? There are some holes where, if you insist on playing the tips and you don’t have the game, you will be skewered. If you get the wind I got, even if it’s a warm wind, you will need to hit low shots or the ball will sail. I’m going to say that the architect allowed for this. Where there is water, there is high ground. Where there is an elevated green, there is a bail out to one side or the other.
As I was driving up the 15th fairway, I screeched to a halt and shouted in my most-gecko like voice Crikey, I’ve misplaced three holes. Then I realized that the 15th only seemed like an 18th hole. It approached the clubhouse in the way that heroic closing holes do. I thought to myself, there’s no way that the real 18th can equal this one, and I was correct. So what do you say to a course that deludes you in this manner, only to present you with three more holes of interest? You say, bravo, major Tom. I’d go back to Vegas in a heartbeat, but I just might drive in from California to play this course.
Once upon a time, a bunch of men built a bridge. The bridge was a beautiful one, connecting a southern California city to an adjacent island. The problem was, they needed to dock the bridge precisely where a nifty golf course sat. So, they shrunk the golf course, built the bridge and Coronado Island and San Diego were eternally connected. And the Coronado municipal golf course was irrevocably altered. This was no run of the mill course, mind you. Paul Runyan, local touring pros Gene Littler and Billy Casper, and head pro Don Collett opened the course in 1957, less than a decade before the design was altered for the Three Billy Goats Gruff. But I digress…
Coronado municipal golf course seems to be an irony. It is sited on an island that has great concentration of wealth, along with a Naval Amphibious base. You don’t want to be a visitor to the island at 4 pm, because you won’t get off. That’s when the base lets its sailors out and roads stop going this way or that way. Where you want to be, really, at any hour, is the Coronado municipal golf course. It sits up against the harbor, so you see boats and ships in the water, helicopters in the air, and if you’re fortunate, you hear munitions being fired by personnel. And yet, I still digress…
The golf course is a load of fun. Due to its truncation, it has a complement of short par fours and fives at which you can take a real run. You’ll have wedges in and runs at birdie. If you accidentally make an eagle, all the better. Greens are often pushed up from a fairly flat piece of sandy soil. That’s how it goes; if the skies open up and it pours, you’ll be playing Coronado within the hour. I had the good fortune of racing around the front nine at the dawn’s early light, followed by a back nine with a local tennis pro named Mario. He was great company, a much better golfer than I am a tennis player, and an entertaining story teller. As we zipped along the harbor-side holes, he regaled me with tales of San Diego’s favorite son, Phil Mickelson, and how his pal, a local golf pro, shot 63 against Left to win daily honors. I don’t care if it was true or not, it was a great story!