2006: A Wynning formula, typically extravagant
A year ago, Steve Wynn, the indefatigable Las Vegas entrepreneur, capped his comeback on the Strip by opening the eponymous Wynn Las Vegas. Even in Sin City – where the goal always is to be bigger, bolder, brighter – Wynn’s newest property had created the kind of early buzz that every Hollywood producer craves.
It fell to me to plop down the company credit card and make a sneak inspection of Wynn Las Vegas to see whether the hype met the reality.
Wynn is famous for his attention to detail, and visitors see that immediately in the registration area. Hundreds of floral arrangements bathe the room in a pleasant scent, and a balcony allows for viewing of the 70-foot waterfall cascading into the Lake of Dreams. At night, lights embedded in the lake make the sight even more spectacular.
I arrived early, prepped in my pool attire, but my room wasn’t ready. “No problem,” the lady said. “We can get you in now, so you can have plenty of time to get outside and enjoy the pool and the great weather.” She upgraded me to a better room at no extra cost.
“Don’t tell anyone,” she said, smiling.
A 42-inch plasma television stretched across the wall of my 16th-floor room, and the bathroom area was something out of the pages of a Robin Leach script. The windowed exterior wall overlooked a section of the Strip – fine once the sun sets and the Strip lights up, but during daylight hours, there’s too much construction. Book a room on the golf course side.
Like many Vegas properties, this $3 billion resort is an adults hideaway; this is not a place for children. For example, the pools do not have a shallow area or slides, nor will you find kid-friendly menus at the restaurants.
In the casino, Wynn’s target plainly is the highest of the high rollers. Unless your game is 25-cent slots, you’ll be hard pressed to find action at any table for less than $25.
Shopping is plentiful on The Wynn Esplanade featuring names such as Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Manolo Blahnik and Chanel, and a personal shopping service is available.
I made time for the spa, where the staff was friendly and welcoming, as was the case wherever I went in the resort. The spa, with its green-and-tangerine color scheme and bamboo arrangements, has the feel of a tropical paradise. If you can’t unwind here, you never will. The waiting area alone is one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever been, with its fireplace, soft music and comfy couches. You also don’t get the feeling your wallet is being milked at the spa. If you book any appointment, you have access to the spa the entire day, including a steam room, whirlpool, sauna, workout facility and personal showers.
Before the sun set, I tried to preview the golf course, the Wynn Golf and Country Club. No go. Without a tee time you can’t get past the pro shop. And without a dining reservation you can’t enter the one restaurant, appropriately named The Country Club, with seating that parallels the 18th fairway. Nor can you get a sneak peek from outside the property. A tall chain-link fence with a green tarp surrounds the 100-acre lot, said to be valued at $16 million per acre. Do the math.
So I made reservations at The Country Club. This is a must-do, and be sure to request a seat outside. When I ordered my salad, the waiter informed me that Italian dressing wasn’t available. Before I could jot this demerit in my notes, the waiter returned to tell me the chef would whip up an Italian dressing for me.
I booked the opening 8 a.m. tee time the next morning. Only hotel guests have the privilege of spending $500 for a tee time. (I also paid an $85 caddie fee for the one mandatory caddie per group.) As with spa appointments, my advice is to book your tee times days in advance. Reservation sheets fill quickly.
You’re made to feel at home when you arrive in the luxurious locker room, with fresh fruit, cold water and your own locker if needed. On the downside: There is no practice range, just an area to hit balls into a net. Land on the Strip is a precious commodity, so perhaps it’s not surprising that several acres weren’t set aside to build a wildly expensive range. But if a golfer pays $500 per round, it’s not unreasonable for him to expect to have a proper place to warm up.
The Tom Fazio design is a par-70 layout that stretches to 7,042 yards, but even the forward tees are 6,464 yards. The lack of forced carries makes the course playable from the forward tees, which we used. But at 6,464 yards – more than a typical LPGA course – the forward tees still are far too long for women, or for that matter, many mid- and high-handicap men. There has been talk for more than a year that the course’s valuable real estate might be plowed under to make room for condominiums, but if not, Wynn and Fazio would do their customers a favor by installing new, shorter forward tees.
That said, the course and the playing experience lived up to the billing. The layout sits on the site of the old Desert Inn track, but the land has been completely remade. Only 2,500 trees and one small bridge near the 17th fairway remain from the old course. The beauty of the site – the lakes, streams and abundant flowers – keep your mind from wandering to the ever-growing Strip skyline.
Fazio describes it as a classic, old-style course. Rarely do you see the other holes, a remarkable routing job on such a small piece of land. There’s water on 11 holes, but it doesn’t necessarily come into play often.
As a mid-handicapper, I found the forward tees to be a good test, as did my cart companion, a 16-handicapper. The setup allows players to ease into the round, with the first challenging shot coming on No. 6, a par 3. In fact, all of the par 3s demand strong shots. While I sometimes lose interest in the middle of rounds, Fazio’s design captured my attention and held it. Each hole seemed fresh, and the surprises kept coming, culminating with the extravagant waterfall behind the 18th green – a theatrical flourish even by Vegas standards.
Following my round a Wynn employee asked me if I enjoyed the course, and I assured him I did.
“Spread the word,” he said.
Consider it done.