Conestoga Golf Club: A scenic, thinking man's course in Mesquite, Nevada

MESQUITE, Nev. -- Players need to follow one simple rule at Conestoga Golf Club: Think before you swing.

Located just an hour north of Las Vegas in Mesquite, Conestoga is Mesquite's only Troon-managed facility. The layout stretches out to 7,232 yards, but with five sets of tees, it's definitely playable for everyone -- providing you use your brain and don't try to overpower the golf course.

And that thought process is tested right from the first tee.

"The first six holes will really make you focus," former Conestoga General Manager Travis McDowell said. "You've really got to know, and be honest about your game."

Ready for the challenge? Let's hit the course.

Conestoga Golf Club: On the course

Conestoga's par-3 second is a prime example of this layout being a thinking man's (or woman's) course. At 188 yards (from the tips), it's all carry over desert landscaping to an island-type green (minus the water).

There's also a 100-foot drop from tee to green, so do the math, pick the right club and put your best swing on the shot. (One hint: There is a little bailout area to the right.) The green is perched some six feet above the desert, making for a great-looking but devilish hole.

And just think -- you're just getting started. The par-4 third is 403 yards, but, again, it's not the distance that makes it a challenge. It's the arroyo that comes into play. The forced carry off the tee can be intimidating, and the landing area is narrow, very narrow. So driver isn't always the club of choice here -- or on many holes.

Find the fairway, and step one is a success. That leaves a tough approach to a green that is tucked behind a bunker and at the base of a mountain.

One of McDowell's favorites is the par-5 sixth. Stretching to 536 yards from the tips, players cross not one, not two but three washes from tee to green.

"It's definitely a great risk/reward hole," he said. "Long hitters will have to lay back off the tee, so they don't drive it into the first wash. It's definitely a three-shot hole, and players should be able to set themselves up to have a wedge into the green. It's just one of those holes where you really have to be honest with your game, or you'll definitely lose a golf ball."

Now that McDowell -- and the course -- have your attention, he's quick to point out that Conestoga Golf Club is definitely a fun and playable course.

"The front nine is definitely more challenging," he said. "But the back nine is pretty darn open and a lot less target golf. It all adds up to a very good golf course."

And that brings us to the par-3 14th. At 148 yards from the tips, it looks like a pushover. But, it's got its test.

"If you're into desert golf, this is the hole for you," McDowell said. "There's a postage stamp worth of turf on the hole -- it really gives you an idea of how out in the desert you really are. You've got a wedge in your hand and taking dead aim at the green. Plus, it's got great views as it's the highest point on the entire property."

Conestoga G.C.: In the clubhouse

Like the wild, wild west, the Conestoga clubhouse and restaurant offers wide-open spaces. Players won't feel crowded as they look over the golf apparel or other items. One quick note: Download Conestoga's free app for your phone before playing. It comes with an on-course GPS, along with tips on playing the course. It will come in handy and will save a stroke or two (at least).

In the 1880 Grille, players will find themselves taking a trip back in time with its Old West backdrop. Choose from golf course favorites (burgers, chicken, wraps), or check out the specialty items (meatloaf, pot pie, stir fry). And wash it down with a cold drink or a signature 1880 Ale.

Conestoga Golf Club: The verdict

Whether you're looking for a scenic round of golf or a challenge for your game, Conestoga Golf will give you both in the same round.

The canyons and washes are stunning but also add a definite test to your game. Throw in 51 bunkers, a lake that comes into play on two holes and washes that add challenges on five holes, and you've got a golf experience that will bring you back for more.

"There's no doubt that there is no lack of supply when it comes to golf courses," McDowell said. "We like to think we do everything very well here. We want you to walk out saying 'I can't wait to come back to this golf course.'

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 16-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas and has teed it up for magazine profiles with celebrities including comedian Bill Engvall, actor Jeffrey Donovan (USA's Burn Notice), ESPN personality Colin Cowherd, NASCAR's Kurt Busch, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, the Baltimore Ravens' Jonathan Ogden and many others.
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Conestoga Golf Club: A scenic, thinking man's course in Mesquite, Nevada