Taking a Mulligan

Mulligan

October 1, 2008
Filed under Travel

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Contrary to the popular saying, timing may not be everything, but it is definitely something – as anyone who has filed a tax return on April 16th can attest. Yet even punctual postmarkers may still curse their timing when they travel. A fierce rainstorm drenches the best-laid plans for a beach vacation. The flu forces bed-rest, and various forfeited deposits exacerbate the aches and fevers. Or the usual salmon run on a favorite river is late, so that Alaskan dream trip turns into a scramble to find available guides who can track down kings and silvers.

Missing a golf tee time is not generally as dire as these scenarios (although certain golfers would never let rain or the flu impede their games). Last year, however, I had to improvise when I learned that bad timing would upend a golf-inflected trip to Laughlin, Nevada, and the adjacent locale of Bullhead City, Arizona. October, it turned out, is when the area’s golf courses close for overseeding, meaning that instead of playing the three-to-five rounds I expected on different courses, I played only one round on Laughlin Ranch Golf Club (866-866-5729, www.laughlinranch.com). The course, although fantastic, was being closed the next day, so it had been allowed to dry out, and it played like concrete. The David Druzisky-designed course cuts an impressive swath through the desert, combining spectacular vistas with demanding shot-making to play to a monster slope of 142 from the tips. And yet, despite the ability of RVers to park their rigs for the winter only minutes a way from Laughlin Ranch at the various casinos in the city of Laughlin, the golf experience that day was frustrating – like eating a delicious piece of cake that had fallen on the floor.

Laughlin, the city on the western bank of the Colorado River that is as RV-friendly as any city, would deliver more golf this year, my father and I hoped. We would attempt to drive 300 miles each way without discussing politics, religion, war, health care, immigration, outsourcing, unions, steroids, Elizabeth Taylor, FOX News, transcendental meditation or Brussels sprouts. It was a quiet trip, but we arrived at Avi Hotel and Casino, about 15 miles south of Laughlin, ready to tee up our Top-Flights at Mojave Resort Golf Club (702-535-GOLF, www.mojaveresortgolfclub.com). With a KOA Kampground literally bordering the course, the Mojave Resort Golf Club is an excellent course and convenient for RVing golfers.

I had played the course three years earlier and had ranked it among my favorites, but I was concerned that my father might not enjoy the course as much as I had. As it turned out, he loved it, and he couldn’t stop admiring how perfectly the course was manicured. I’ve played some fantastic, expensive courses, but none of them was as well-maintained as Mojave Resort Golf Club. The only parts of the course that weren’t imbued with a deep-green color were meant to be something other than verdant – the water that comes into play on eight holes, the waste areas and the 87 bunkers. We spent more time than we’d have liked in the sand, and I sculled a wedge nearly into an RVer’s “front yard,” but on the whole Mojave Resort Golf Club delivered a wonderful golf experience.

And yet the next day’s outing at El Rio Golf & Country Club (888-88-ELRIO, www.elriocountryclub.com), across the river in Arizona’s Mohave Valley, will bring smiles to our faces for years. From the moment we pulled through the impressive gates, we knew we were in for a special experience. The clubhouse ratchets up the high-end feel of the resort, as do the unlimited range balls that allow golfers to find their grooves before they step to the first tee. El Rio, however, only feels and plays as though it should cost a fortune. If staying at one of the casinos, golfers can play this forgiving, beautiful course for about $60, and they will almost certainly consider it money well spent. We found the greens to be fast and true, the layout to be challenging but fair and the staff to be first-rate. Of course, I admit that my opinion could be gilded by the fact that I shot the best round of my life that day on El Rio.

Our plan called for Laughlin Ranch the next morning, but on a whim I decided to see if the course I knew was being built – Los Lagos Golf Club – was open yet. My dad and I turned down a road that possibly might have led us to the clubhouse. The course was obviously not yet operational, but we flagged down a passing truck that happened to be driven by the club pro, Danny White, who told us that Los Lagos (928-768-7778, www.loslagoslinks.com) would open in three days. My dad and I groaned simultaneously, and I silently questioned my sense of timing. But Danny graciously told us we could play the course anyway, so long as we didn’t mind that the finishing touches had not yet been applied. The holes had no numbers on them, for example, and the tee boxes lacked markers. We would manage. We smiled, thanked Danny,
then set out to play one of the most fabulous courses either of us has been lucky enough to play.

For the most part, Los Lagos’ fairways are wide open, and not nearly as many traps exist here as at Mojave Resort. Yet Los Lagos commands respect, since aggressive mounding, countless undulations, extensive waste areas, abundant water and extreme elevation changes combine to create a demanding, beautiful course that will test golfers smart enough to seek out its unique challenges. Los Lagos looks and feels like a links course, with not many trees, bunkers ringed by deadened grass and uneven terrain delivering its difficulties. The spectacular downhill 517-yard 15th hole may become the course’s signature hole, and the dog-leg-right 18th, with its green sandwiched between traps and enveloped by water, completes a nearly perfect course.

If timing is everything, then I intend to return to Los Lagos time and again.

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