Whale of a weekend: Golf, food and fun on the Las Vegas Strip

LAS VEGAS - What's more perfect than a three-day weekend in Vegas? How about a three-day weekend with three rounds of golf? After all, it's Las Vegas; you're supposed to cram in as much fun as possible. Sleep is overrated.

To make this happen, forget the rental car. That's for another trip. In this scenario, you want to stay on the Strip, in the heart of the action. Besides, the line to the rental-car shuttle can be long, so why not find transportation directly to Las Vegas Boulevard?

So here's the plan: Book one of those cheap flights on Southwest, U.S. Air, Continental or some other airline. (I get e-mail offers for cheap Vegas flights all the time.) Get a room on the Strip and reserve tee times for three rounds of golf.

Good golf close to the Vegas Strip

While most of the golf in the Las Vegas area shifts away from the Strip, three courses sit within easy cab rides – Bali Hai Golf Club, Las Vegas National and the Wynn Golf and Country Club.

"These courses are a long dice throw from the fabulous Las Vegas Strip," said John DeMarco, director of travel and tourism for LasVegasGolf.com and the Golf Channel. "If you need to squeeze in a round or just don't want to spend much time commuting back and forth, these courses offer the best in convenience from the Strip."

Heck, if you're staying at Mandalay Bay, you could walk to Bali Hai Golf Club. The 7,000-yard, par-71 layout literally sits in the shadow of the great casino, resort and hotel.

Billed as a golfer's tropical paradise, this Lee Schmidt and Brian Curley design features more than 4,000 imported palm trees, spectacular Augusta-like white sand against black lava rocks, seven acres of water and 100,000 tropical plants and flowers. You can also expect immaculate conditions, memorable holes – including the signature island green, par-3 16th – and great service, which can include a top-notch forecaddie service.

Las Vegas National on Desert Inn Road, probably less than a $10 cab ride from most of the major casinos, ranks as one of the least expensive green fees in southern Nevada, especially on weekdays.

Las Vegas National offers a great taste of old Vegas. Tiger Woods began his professional career at the club, which formerly hosted a PGA Tour event. But more than that, it's where the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack hung out - and not just on the golf course. Check out the old clubhouse. If you try hard enough, you can probably still hear the music coming from the old piano bar.

As one of our readers observed: "They should put somebody on salary to play that piano. ... I miss that."

Finally, if you're a high roller and don't mind the $500 green fees, take in the golf course at Wynn Las Vegas. It's the second extremely high-end Las Vegas golf course built by Steve Wynn. The other is Shadow Creek, which he no longer owns.

Like Shadow Creek, Wynn Golf and Country Club was designed by Tom Fazio to look nothing like a desert golf course. There's water on 11 holes, including the finale that features a 37-foot waterfall. The golf course bears absolutely no resemblance to old Desert Inn layout, sat on the same site. Wynn is wall-to-wall turf with a forest of more than 6,000 imported trees.

Sample Las Vegas golf weekend itinerary

So here's the plan:

8 a.m. – Catch Southwest flight into Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport.
10 a.m. – Arrive, get luggage and take taxi to Bali Hai.
Noon – Lunch at Bali Hai's Cili Restaurant, which offers an eclectic menu of contemporary American cuisine with Asian influences.
1 p.m. – Tee time at Bali Hai. Take the forecaddie; it's well worth it.
6 p.m. – Check into Wynn Las Vegas resort for a chance to get a tee time at Wynn Golf Club on Sunday.
7 p.m. – Dinner at the SW Steakhouse, one of a dozen or so award-winning restaurants at Wynn Las Vegas.
10 p.m. – Hit the gaming tables.

9 a.m. – Walk to the Bellagio for breakfast buffet, features cuisine from all sorts of countries.
11 a.m. – Tee time at Las Vegas National.
2 p.m. – Grab sandwich at the turn.
5 p.m. – Head back to Wynn for a nap. (You're going to need it.)
7 p.m. – Dinner at TV personality Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace. Reservations suggested.
9 p.m. – Drinks at the Shadow Bar at Caesar's Palace.
11 p.m. - Back to the tables or some other entertainment option.

10 a.m. – Light breakfast at Wynn's Terrace Pointe Café.
Noon: - Tee time at Wynn Golf and Country Club. Eat lunch at golf course.
5 p.m. – Hot stone massage at Wynn Las Vegas' spa. (Ask for late checkout at the hotel.)
8 p.m. – Dinner at Nine Fine Irishmen Pub at New York, New York.
11 p.m. – Return to airport for red-eye flight home.

And don't forget to take Monday off work to recover.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Whale of a weekend: Golf, food and fun on the Las Vegas Strip