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Desert Flower

Jeff Williams
From the Print Edition:
Rudy Giuliani, Nov/Dec 01

(continued from page 1)

Jones knew this had to be a special course for a special purpose. "I think this project is one of a kind," he says. "We had to find holes without being able to move a lot of earth. We had to crush the rock to make the soil. I think we came up with a very accommodating golf course that has a lot of beauty. It took a year and a half to build. I don't know if you could have built it anywhere else, because of Las Vegas and the resources they have there."

Virtually every hole sits between rock ridges, isolated from the other holes. Unlike the desert courses of Arizona, grass is abundant. Few holes require a forced carry off the tee, allowing the higher handicappers to bunt it along if they have to. Two par 3s stand out, the 157-yard seventh and the 165-yard 12th. Both greens are notched into the side of large rock outcroppings; the seventh's is blasted from the side of the mountain. The rock walls provide both backdrop and backstop. Errant shots hit long may rebound back on the green.

There are big par 4s, some as long as 489 yards, but mercifully they play downhill. The longest hole is the 17th, where the good or brave player can try to fly his tee shot over an arm of the mountain that defines the dogleg, cutting off 100 yards. There are multiple sets of tees on every hole, the course playing as short as 5,591 yards or as long as 7,137.

"This was really a feel job, something you had to do in the field, not on paper," says Jones, who made 25 visits during construction. "It's not like you could move soil around and do it again if you didn't like it. We moved some rock, but you definitely didn't want to do it again."

To live up to its name, Cascata offers water features on many holes, usually in the form of streams. The water tends not to be intimidating, though it is the main feature of the par-5 finishing hole, with a stream running along the fairway and a lake in front of the green. It takes 13 pumping stations to carry the water around the course, and four 200-horsepower pumps are needed to operate the main waterfall that runs through the clubhouse. Besides sustaining an abundance of grass, the irrigation system, with 70,000 drip nozzles, provides life to the many varieties of flora that are planted along the ridges. Jones calls the revegetation of the area "simply amazing."

The course looks out over the El Dorado Valley and from the higher elevations you can see forever, or at least to a mountain across the valley floor. Along with the coyote and the crow, bighorn sheep and mountain lions are known to roam the area. The land was even home to a hermit woman, who was discovered during construction to be living in a small cave that now sits on the right side of the 16th fairway.

Providing personal service is the ultimate goal of the Cascata staff. There are seldom more than 12 players a day, often just a handful. Each player or group is sent out with caddies, many of them aspiring professionals who can help a player with his swing as well as identify the proper club and read breaks in the greens. Cascata professional Brian Hawthorne often accompanies guests. "I actually get to play more here than other places I've been," says Hawthorne. "It's a pleasure to be meeting and playing with so many different people from around the world."

Food and beverage director Poplewko deals with special requests for all types of cuisines. Food products are shipped to Cascata by truck from the Paris hotel. Want caviar or foie gras? No problem. Jellied eels? They'll work on it. Special trays are available for lunches eaten on your golf cart and for cigar service in the dining room. A cigar lounge, which adjoins the dining area, contains a decent-sized humidor stocked with high-end labels. All of this is free, of course.

"The high-end players are used to being comped, so when they go to Cascata they don't spend money except for tips," says LaPorta. "If they want something in the pro shop, chances are we'll buy it for them. The pro shop is the only place where there are goods for sale, but you have to be at the course to get any of our logo material. We don't sell it in our hotels."

Invariably there will be comparisons to Shadow Creek, but the only things the courses have in common are 18 holes, water features and personal service. Shadow Creek was an enormous earth-moving task, dug down into the desert floor so that the desert disappears the moment you drive inside the gate. With thousands of trees and views of the distant mountains, Shadow Creek could be in Oregon or Washington, minus the 110-degree temperatures in the summer.

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