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Las Vegas: 72 holes in 72 hours

By Mike McAllister
SI.com

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Jack Nicklaus has recreated 18 of his favorite holes at Bear's Best in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS COURSES

Bear's Best Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 7,194/72. Greens fees: $185-$235. 866-385-8500. http://www.bearsbest.com

Cascata: Yardage/Par: 7,137/72. Greens fees: $500. 702-294-2000. http://www.golfcascata.com

Shadow Creek: Yardage/Par: 7,239/72. Greens fees: $500. 702-399-7111. http://www.shadowcreek.com

Wolf Creek Golf Club: Yardage/Par: 7,034/72. Greens fees: $250. 866-252-4653. http://www.golfwolfcreek.com

Alternate Courses: Lake Las Vegas, Bali Hai, Las Vegas National, Painted Desert, Primm Valley, Badlands

NEXT WEEK

Next week we'll travel to Long Island, New York.

(CNN) -- What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas ... especially if you can't break 90.

That's one way to look at a golfing vacation in Sin City. Another way to look at it? You'll be shelling out big dough to play the high-end Vegas courses, so bragging about it to your friends back home not only is expected, it's a good way to justify the costs.

Most Vegas courses, you see, are much like the city itself -- lots of flash and glitz.

Oh, to be sure, there are no neon lights on the courses, no leggy showgirls waiting to carry your bags (at least we don't think so). But the courses, taking advantage of the desert terrain, are a show all their own.

Add the exclusivity factor and the cost factor -- hey, if you're out playing golf, then you're not out gambling, so that's costing the casinos money -- and a long golfing weekend in Vegas can be just as memorable as an all-night binge at the poker tables.

Heck, if you're successful in the casinos, you might even break even against all those outrageous greens fees.

After flying into McCarran International Airportexternal link, here's how we'd play it the rest of the weekend.

Friday afternoon

Wolf Creek: Unlike our other choices, this course is not exactly location friendly. It's an hour north of Vegas, but don't worry, it's worth the drive from the airport. Wolf Creek, ranked among the top 30 public courses by Golf Digest, will provide you some relief from the glitter and frenzy of the Strip. Set amid the canyons and cliffs of the breathtaking terrain, Wolf Creek is one of those courses in which you'll enjoy the scenery as much as you do the holes. One of the tee boxes, by the way, is 11 stories high.

Saturday morning

Bear's Best Golf Club: Jack Nicklaus has seen a few golf holes in his day. And now he's taken 18 of his favorites and recreated them in Vegas. It's not unlike the Tour 18 concept, but with a Golden Bear flavor. You won't be familiar with all the holes (some of which are from New Mexico, Montana and even Mexico), but expect to have fun. To enhance the experience, which has drawn rave reviews, you'll even get a forecaddie to help you out.

Saturday afternoon

Shadow Creek: Two questions about this celebrated and exclusive Tom Fazio course, ranked among the top 10 public courses in the country. Is it worth it? And are you worthy of it? You'll need big money just to get one of the limited tee times. But if you're rich (and lucky), you may spend your 18 holes wondering if that's a Hollywood actor shanking his four-iron in the group ahead of you. As for the course itself, the pine trees and streams will captivate you. For the golfer on a budget, it's totally non-practical. But then, so is Vegas.

Sunday morning

Cascata: In Italian, cascata means "waterfall." Certainly that fits at this Rees Jones-designed course in Boulder City, about 30-45 minutes away from the Strip. A 418-foot waterfall roars down from a mountain, with the resulting river flowing through the 37,000-square foot clubhouse. The course is equally impressive, with golfers looking up to find a 3,600-foot peak at Red Mountain. Be forewarned, though -- like Shadow Creek, Cascata comes at a steep cost.

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