Golf is a sport of eternal optimism. No matter how bad one swing, one hole, one round or even one year might be, there’s always the chance that maybe—just maybe—the next time around will be significantly better. And to that end, whether an avid player or a once-in-a-while hacker, here is an offering of what to look for on the Las Vegas golf scene in 2011—from the best new piece of equipment to which local pro to keep an eye on this year.
The Ghost with the most. According to our friendly pro insider at Las Vegas Golf and Tennis, TaylorMade, already known as the creator of the No. 1 driver in golf, is about to rock the sport with the debut of the R11 Ghost Driver. The public release comes this spring, but word is already leaking that “a large number” of PGA Tour pros have signed up to play this new club, which will have a matte white paint scheme on the crown combined with a black face. The combination isn’t only chic but is designed to help alignment. Many of the best players in the game (including Martin Kaymer, Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia) have given it rave reviews, so the buzz is building. According to our source, there is said to be about 100 Tour pros already set to play the club this year. The R11 will feature the patented Adjustable Sole Technology, which allows the golfer to adjust the face angle of the club from open to neutral to closed, depending on what is best for each individual swing.
What’s in store. Speaking of Las Vegas Golf and Tennis, the Boreta family will open a new store near the In-N-Out Burger on Dean Martin Drive and Tropicana Avenue. They closed their popular Paradise Road location in 2010, but were always prepared to open another store that could serve both locals and tourists as they have since 1974. The new store will have an early spring opening, joining the location in The District. Because of longstanding relationships with major manufacturers, Las Vegas Golf and Tennis is able to give the public hot deals and occasionally offer demo days and other unique opportunities for the public to learn about the latest in golf.
A Vegas pro to watch. The Valley has more than 30 players on the major tours who have strong ties to local courses. Many live here, some teed it up for the UNLV golf team, and others grew up here but moved away. The total number easily rivals the more “traditional” golfing destinations such as Florida, Palm Springs, Calif., or Phoenix/Scottsdale, and you could argue that Vegas is blossoming into the place to move for pros. Now that list has grown again, after former Rebel Andres Gonzales survived qualifying school to earn playing privileges for 2011. Gonzales, a native of Washington state, is a former champion on the Canadian Tour, and will be an interesting player to watch in 2011. He attended UNLV from 2002-06 after transferring from Oregon State, and will quickly become the most noticeable rookie on the Tour with his collar-length hair and Fu Manchu mustache. He has the ability to hit it deep and go low, as evidenced by his course-record 62 at The Bayonet in Seaside, Calif., during Q-School.
Timberlake tourney on the rise. Las Vegas’ PGA Tour event, the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, will be played at a new time in 2011, scheduled for the week of Sept. 29-Oct. 2. The event is part of the Tour’s Fall Series, which is played after a season champion has been crowned, but word is that by 2012 it will be a part of the regular season, giving the event a huge boost. Speculation is that the tournament would move to May if that happens. The defending champion is Jonathan Byrd, who aced the par-3 17th hole in a playoff, becoming the first golfer in PGA Tour history to end a tournament with one final swing on a par 3.
Setting a new course. Par-4 Golf Management continues to make its mark in Las Vegas. The company purchased the 27-hole course at Silverstone Golf Club for $3.1 million last month in what was the first golf course sale in Las Vegas since 2007. The new owners will incorporate Silverstone, designed by Robert Cupp and located in the northwest part of the Valley, into special offers jointly with its other offerings: Badlands Golf Club (27 holes designed by Johnny Miller) and Primm Valley Golf Club (36 holes designed by Tom Fazio).
Now is an ideal time to hit the links. Nearly every local course is offering discounted rates and deals for Nevada residents, so check the official websites or call your favorite club. The best way to keep up-to-date is to sign up for the course loyalty clubs and receive regular e-mails or texts about hot deals and rates.
Brian Hurlburt is the founding editor of GolfLasVegasNow.com, and is writing a book about the historic Las Vegas Country Club, due to be released later this year.