Review: Cascata Golf Club

Course Name: Cascata Golf Club

Designer: Rees Jones/Keith Evans (2000)

Location: Boulder City, Nevada

History: Italian for “waterfall”, Cascata was designed in 2000 by Rees Jones and Keith Evans. Originally only really open to MGM high-rollers, Cascata has since changed hands and is fully public now. Considered one of the best public options in the desert, Cascata has also earned national recognition, earning the following accolades:

  • #182 Best Modern Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #70 Best Public Course in America – Golf Digest (2021)
  • #65 Best Public Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #46 Best Resort Course in America – Golfweek (2022)
  • #8 Best Course in Nevada – Golf Digest (2021)
  • #7 Best Course in Nevada – Top100golfcourses.com (2020)
  • #2 Best Public Course in Nevada – Golfweek (2022)

Conditions: 8/10, Cascata is in overall very good condition but was a little less lush than expected and not quite on Shadow Creek’s level. Overall, I expected more at the price tag.

Value: 1/10, Despite a great course and extremely upscale amenities, nobody is going to consider Cascata a bargain at about $450 a round not including your mandatory caddie.

Scorecard:

Tee                           Par         Yardage         Rating          Slope

Black                       72           7137              73.8              150

Blue                         72          6638              72.7              140

White                       72          6168              71.0              133

Gold                         72          5543              72.8              133

Hole Descriptions: If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, you know the glitzy city is full of unbelievable sights that are often hard to forget. Cascata is located about 30 minutes southeast of the Strip and follows a similar formula playing into the side of a giant mountain at 3,200 feet, featuring breathtaking desert vistas for miles with many memorable holes. I am often critical of Rees Jones, but must give him credit for building Cascata on such a challenging terrain. The resultant course is an expansive layout with eighteen somewhat isolated holes featuring significant elevation changes. Jones follows a predictable bunkering scheme here and not every hole is great, but the overall course is surprisingly playable and overall an unforgettable experience when taking the amenities into consideration. Overall, I prefer Shadow Creek, but do think Cascata slightly edges out Wolf Creek in terms of Vegas public golf. All three are well-worth a play and are among America’s finest public offerings.

Cascata opens gently with a 337 yard par 4 that plays slightly longer uphill. Golfers might want to consider less than driver here as a creek runs down the left side the entire way and a large bunker guards the right between 195 and 235 yards. At about the midpoint of the bunker, the fairway becomes really narrow and difficult to hit. This green is defended by two bunkers long, the creek left, and runs severely back-to-front.

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The par 4 1st
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A closer look at the 1st green

The difficulty ratchets up on the par 4 2nd, a worthy number 1 handicap playing 406 yards steadily uphill. With desert lining both sides the entire way, this fairway is further constricted by a 50-yard long bunker down the left beginning around 200 yards. This approach plays at least one club uphill to a flatter green surrounded by four bunkers on all sides but short. Par is a strong score here.

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The intimidating par 4 2nd

The 3rd hole is the longest at Cascata but plays downhill the entire way as a 545 yard par 5. Featuring insane desert and mountain views 25 miles away, it’s hard not to be distracted on a very difficult teeshot to a tight dogleg left fairway surrounded by desert and two bunkers down the right between 230 and 290 yards. From here, the hole does widen a bit and runs downhill until you reach a back-to-front sloped green defended by two bunkers right.

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The 3rd teebox features intoxicating views
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Some typical Rees Jones bunkering on the 3rd approach

The 4th hole is your first par 3 playing slightly downhill at 193 yards. This hole features a large back-to-front sloped green defended by a large bunker right and artificial-looking pond short left. This is a fine hole but fails to stand out among many other better holes here.

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The par 3 4th

The 5th hole is a solid 500 yard dogleg left par 5 running back uphill the entire way. The dogleg here occurs around 250 yards and longer hitters can cut the corner here provided they can carry the left bunker. From here, the hole runs uphill with a generous fairway until about 50 yards short of green where you’ll encounter rough and a large bunker complex. This green runs steadily back-to-front with a backstop of rough behind.

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The par 5 5th
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The approach at 5

The 6th hole continues uphill as a nice mid-length 364 yard par 4. Running slightly right the entire way, this hole is notable for a large bunker down the right between 215 and 260 yards. This approach plays towards a diagonal back-to-front sloped green containing a left swale and defended by bunkers on either side.

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The par 4 6th
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The approach at 6

For many that play Cascata, the par 3 7th will be the most memorable and best hole. At just 139 yards, this short one-shotter is absolutely stunning featuring a back-to-front sloped green sitting in a valley between hills and defended by bunkers short and long and water left. For me, this is easily the best par 3 on the course and one of my favorites anywhere.

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The gorgeous par 3 7th

At 390 yards, the par 4 8th is another excellent hole running uphill through a chute of desert. Initially featuring a generous fairway, this hole really constricts at about 260 yards with desert encroaching on both sides. This approach plays at one club uphill to a large, severely back-to-front sloped green defended by a lone bunker short left. This is a very unique hole and one of the best on the course.

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A missed fairway at 8 is a lost ball
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The uphill approach at 8

After a lengthy (and unwalkable) drive, you reach the 9th hole, another strong 427 yard par 4. Up to this point, it feels like you’ve played up the side of a mountain the entire time, and that’s essentially true minus the 3rd hole. The 9th and 10th holes give a lot of that altitude back playing severely downhill and quite similarly. The 9th hole plays straightaway with an 175 yard carry to reach a generous fairway lined by desert. This approach plays a club less to a back left-to-front right sloped green defended by bunkers on either side.

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The downhill 9th

When going through photos, I had to do a double take to make sure the 10th photos weren’t just different angles of 9 because the holes look the same. Also playing downhill and straightaway at 423 yards, the par 4 10th features a shorter forced carry to another generous fairway this time defended by a large bunker down the right between 240 and 290 yards. This back-to-front sloped green is slightly better defended with three bunkers on either side. Both holes are fun and fine in their own right but feel somewhat redundant playing so similarly back-to-back.

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The par 4 10th
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The approach at 10

At 333 yards, the 11th hole is the shortest par 4 at Cascata and a hole I’m not particularly fond of. This teeshot plays semi-blind uphill to a fairway defended by a large desert hill down the right and a string of bunkers down the left beginning at 200 yards. You can’t tell from the teebox, but this fairway turns slightly right and ends around 265 yards with a pond, making driver the wrong play for most golfers. Like the 7th at Wolf Creek, this hole is not reachable for the vast majority and most will be left an awkward pitch over an artificial water hazard to an elevated green. This two-tiered green is defended by three bunkers long and is the smallest target on the course.

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The par 4 11th

The 12th hole is an 150 yard par 3 that runs slightly uphill to a large, flat green defended by a large bunker right and creek left. Notable for the namesake “Cascata” waterfall just beyond this green, I think this hole was meant to be the signature hole but I find 7 to be the better and most aesthetic hole.

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The par 3 12th is still a very pretty hole

The par 4 13th hole is probably my favorite at Cascata as a beautiful, sweeping 389 yard downhill dogleg left. With views for miles on this teebox, this teeshot gives the golfer plenty of options as you can lay-up down the right short of the bunkers with less than driver or try to carry it over the desert hillside about 260 yards to cut off a lot of distance. At about 290 yards, this fairway essentially becomes nothing and this back-to-front sloped green sits in a little valley defended by a bunker left.

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Pick your line and execute at the wonderfully fun 13th
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The 13th green

Somewhat of a notable hole after Tiger Woods posed in front of it for Golf Digest, the par 4 14th is a solid 393 yard dogleg right. One of the flattest holes on the course, this fairway is generous and lined by a creek down the right and tall palm trees on either side. At about 280 yards, the fairway narrows to almost nothing and water begins down the right. This green juts just beyond the water and is deceptively flatter than it appears defended by bunkers long.

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The par 4 14th
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The creek was dry when I played, making the hole play a bit easier

The 15th hole is the final par 3 at Cascata and features a straightforward 192 yard design with a stunning backdrop. This green is large and slopes towards the center from both sides guarded by bunkers on either side short. Make a good swing and par is easily found here.

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The par 3 15th

The 16th hole is a wonderful 473 yard uphill par 5 and one of my favorite holes at Cascata. A slender, tight dogleg left, this teeshot is quite intimidating through a chute of desert to a skinny fairway. This approach is again quite tight towards one of the best greens on the course, featuring multiple plateaus and defended by a large bunker short left.

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The intimidating par 5 16th
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The approach at 16

At 470 yards, the par 4 17th is only a few yards shorter than the preceding par 5 but plays severely downhill as a dogleg left. This hole again provides stunning visuals and is a tougher version of the 13th with a 210 yard carry just to reach the fairway, making cutting the corner a bit more difficult. From here, the hole continues straight dowhill towards a back-to-front sloped green defended by three bunkers on either side. This is one of the toughest holes on the course with little room for error.

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The par 4 17th
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The approach at 17

Although memorable, Cascata’s closing hole is a bit of a letdown as a 514 yard snaking par 5. Playing dead flat, this double dogleg initially features a straightaway teeshot with a creek down the left and a right bunker at 210 yards. At about 220 yards, this fairway turns abruptly left and narrows with the creek crossing about 200 yards short of the green. In theory, it’s possible to cut the corner a bit here, but the creek and tall trees down the left discourage this and many golfers lay up off the tee. After the creek, this fairway widens and then turns right towards the end with a large pond guarding short of a fairly flat green. This target golf hole is too convoluted for my liking.

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Tall palms discourage aggressive plays at 18 and leave a boring teeshot
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The approach at 18

General Comments: In terms of amenities, there are few public (or private) courses in America that can match Cascata. Your day begins when you pass through a set of imposing gates and are greeted by staff outside the large Tuscan clubhouse. The clubhouse is absolutely gorgeous and features a waterfall running through it, paid for by many a bad gambler. Once you settle up, your cart (no walking) is all loaded up on the bottom floor of the clubhouse and the doors open automatically to a road leading you to the range. The practice facilities are quite scenic as expected and allow you to practice all the shots you’ll encounter on the course. Forecaddies are mandatory but the one I had was very good and knew the course extremely well. Like Shadow Creek, pace of play is entirely up to you as you’ll rarely see another group on the course. I played during the summer and was told I was the last tee-time of the day at around 9:30!

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Cascata’s uphill driving range gives you a great feel of the terrain you’re about to play

Verdict: While not quite the “Eighth wonder of the golf world” as Rees Jones likes to say, Cascata is a great public course just outside Las Vegas featuring a memorable layout, tremendous visuals, and a very upscale experience overall. It isn’t cheap but it’s cheaper than Shadow Creek and should be strongly considered by all those planning to golf in Vegas.


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