Five Things to Know: Wynn Golf Club
6 Min Read
A primer on the course that will host the match between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau
Written by Jeff Eisenband @JeffEisenband
The match between Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka features all the elements of a Vegas prize fight, except for the ring. This heavyweight showdown will take place at the Wynn Golf Club instead.
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Just a few blackjack table-lengths away from Las Vegas Boulevard, the Tom Fazio-designed course will challenge DeChambeau and Koepka to delegate their match-play chips wisely. A waterfall, a monorail, a Ferris wheel and a series of both manmade and natural elements will all be factors at one of America’s most extravagant courses.
“Bryson vs. Brooks” tees off at 4 p.m. Eastern on Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving. And what happens in Vegas at the Wynn Golf Club won’t stay at the Wynn Golf Club. The theatrics will be broadcast to the world.
1. A STORIED HISTORY
Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods all set foot on the site of Wynn Golf Club en route to PGA TOUR wins, although the track was called something different at the time (and looked totally different).
The Desert Inn Golf Course, adjacent to the Desert Inn Hotel and Casino, opened in 1952 and hosted the PGA TOUR Tournament of Champions (now the Sentry Tournament of Champions) from 1953-1966. Al Besselink won the inaugural event, but Snead, Nicklaus and Palmer would all capture titles on the North Side of the Las Vegas strip (Nicklaus won twice and Palmer three times).
From 1983-2000, the Desert Inn also served as part of the rotation for the Shriners Children’s Open. In 1996, Tiger Woods played the third round of the Las Vegas Invitational -- his first PGA TOUR win -- at the Desert Inn, shooting a 68.
The PGA TOUR Champions and LPGA also called the Desert Inn home at points.
After the Desert Inn closed its doors in 2000, Steve Wynn bought the property, including the golf course, and built the Wynn Las Vegas. In the process, he brought in Tom Fazio to turn the course into the Wynn Golf Club, which opened five years later. Fazio and son Logan recently returned to the course for another redesign, culminating in a reopening in 2019. There are no remnants of the Desert Inn layout at Wynn Golf Club.
“Not one piece,” Fazio said. “The entire land was regraded. The Desert Inn was dead flat. It was built in the ‘50s. Back in that era and that time, you didn't move … earth, you didn't create elevation change, you just built it right on the ground. So it was a very flat desert golf course.”
2. A DESERT OASIS
The Wynn Golf Club can easily feel like a mirage. What other golf course is on the same street as the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, and features a Ferris wheel overlooking the property?
Despite being a desert layout, water comes into play on 12 holes. Over 8,000 trees are present on the landscape, including 1,200 from the Desert Inn era -- some of the only remnants of the previous tenant.
“If you were to put a hat on and pull it really close down over your eyebrows and look at each individual golf hole and only look from the tee to the fairway to the green and block out the view of the skyline, you'd say, wow, this golf course looks like it's in Middle America. It doesn't look like a desert course. It doesn't feel like it's in Las Vegas,” Fazio said.
Some of Fazio’s other Las Vegas layouts– including recent PGA TOUR venues Shadow Creek and The Summit Club – include desert features, but that isn’t the case at the Wynn.
3. A GRAND FINALE
The 18th hole at Wynn Golf Club is a rare par-3 finishing hole. It can be stretched to 249 yards from the back tees, and there’s extra incentive to play it from the tips. The Wynn Golf Club regularly offers up to $20,000 for holes-in-one, depending on tee box (the farther back the tee box, the higher the potential payout).
Nothing in Las Vegas is complete without some extra glitz and glamour, and the 18th hole boasts the course’s signature 35-foot waterfall behind the green.
“The thinking behind that was to create some drama, uniqueness, interest, and it was part of the experience of the grandeur that the Wynn is about,” Fazio said. “Obviously, the entire place has an awesome feel to it that is extremely dramatic. When the event is played there and shown visually on TV, it’s very striking. People who've never been there before are going to be captivated by this unique landform that is obviously manmade. But then again, most of Las Vegas is.”
While the waterfall par-3 may play as the 18th hole 364 days a year, “The Match” will likely include it among the 12 holes Koepka and DeChambeau are scheduled to play. And if it ends up being a playoff hole, it should provide a dramatic setting.
4. THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT
The Wynn Golf Club is a par-70, featuring the unique configuration of six par-3s and four par-5s. Listed at 6,722 yards from the back tees, the course can play as short as 4,810 yards. All three par 3s on the front nine play less than 200 yards from the back tees.
“When you look at the scorecard, the yardage may appear to be short, but it won't play quite that short because the short holes are short and the long holes are long. It’s an interesting concept because that's what fits the property,” Fazio said.
The most recent renovation came after the Wynn Convention Center extended itself onto course property. This slightly shrank the course, resulting in the 18th hole being converted from a par-4 to a par-3. The course’s greens were actually expanded by an average of 300 square feet, however. The 14th hole has become a particular fan favorite with its large, boomerang-shaped putting surface.
“While the first 14 holes are somewhat reminiscent of North Carolina – albeit with overlooking hotel towers visible throughout — the final four make it abundantly clear you’re in Vegas,” Forbes wrote.
The Las Vegas monorail runs along the 15th hole. A special events pavilion is just steps away from the 16th tee box. The 17th hole is beside the new convention center, gearing players up for the final tee shot toward the daunting 18th green and its foreboding waterfall.
“It’s a perfect match-play golf course because each individual golf hole offers the risk and difficulty factors and the ability for, especially players of this caliber, … to take a lot of chances,” Fazio said. “It's all contained golf. Now, granted, there are trees and there's framings, but you could knock a golf ball a fairway away and still recover and have a heroic shot.”
In other words, Bryson and Brooks can blast away. Errant drives can be found on other fairways.
5. A PUBLIC AFFAIR
Koepka and DeChambeau will have the course to themselves for a day, but the Wynn Golf Club is open to the public (if you have the time to plan ahead and the pocket change to spend).
Since its reopening in late 2019, the Wynn Golf Club has offered Wynn resort guests the opportunity to book a tee time 90 days in advance. For non-resort guests, a window of 30 days is available.
Playing the only golf course on the Las Vegas Strip fittingly comes at a high-roller price. The greens fee is $550 in-season, which can seem like a lot or a little depending on how your luck is going at the tables. The fee is inclusive, coming with a forecaddie, practice-area access and rental clubs at no extra charge, among other perks.
Prices are lower out of season -- which in Las Vegas, means the summer.
And unlike Koepka and DeChambeau, who will only play 12 holes, Wynn Golf Club guests get in the whole 18.