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Desert Flower

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

(continued from page 3)

"It's still one of the greatest marketing tools ever," says Bill McBeath, the president of the Mirage. "I played it the first day it was open. I played there every weekend with our high-end customers. And they kept coming back time after time, hundreds of them, because they found Shadow Creek so special."

Shadow Creek remains special entering the twenty-first century. It hasn't lost its mystique; it has no less allure. It's still a terrific place to play. And now you can buy a tee time, for $500. That's a result of the merger between the Mirage hotels and the MGM Grand company, yielding MGM Mirage. Wynn broke the exclusivity barrier in the '90s when he offered customers a deal: rent a higher-end suite at the hotel, and get a round at Shadow Creek.

Now you are eligible, by staying at any MGM Mirage hotel, to pay the 500 bucks for a tee time, Sunday through Thursday. But McBeath says the course will never be packed, there won't be a hundred people vying for a locker in the clubhouse or a club sandwich in the dining room. "The course had been running to about 20 percent of capacity," says McBeath. "We are not intending to increase that above 50 percent of capacity, and that's only on certain days. To put any more people out there would denigrate the experience."

Shadow Creek still is a great draw to players from the Far East. "The golf course had its greatest impact on the international market," says McBeath. "Its instant acceptance by the golf community helped to accelerate our ability to dominate the international market. We command up to 50 percent of it and up to 90 percent of the baccarat market."

Shadow Creek still has a lot to do with MGM Mirage's ability to attract players with ultra-deep pockets. "During the holiday periods -- Christmas, New Year's, Chinese New Year's -- it's impossible to get on the course unless you are a six-figure player," says McBeath.

The Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino also saw golf as a major draw, and had architect Rees Jones design the Rio Secco Golf Club in the hills south of the city. The Rio sends its big-time players to Rio Secco, though the course may not be the principal attraction. What the Rio has that other hotel golf courses don't is Butch Harmon, the coach of Tiger Woods.

"In addition to his knowledge and his expertise, Butch is truly a nice guy and a real character," says Bill Hunt, the Rio's executive director of casino marketing. "It doesn't hurt that he's Tiger Woods's coach, but Butch's personality holds its own."

When Harmon isn't busy with his teaching academy at Rio Secco, the hotel books him for private lessons and private rounds with valuable customers. "We have to block times way in advance with him because of his commitments to Tiger and other players, and his golf school," said McBeath. "But we have guys who once they meet him just can't wait to go back." Those guys need to have a six-figure credit line or close to it.

You can buy a tee time at Rio Secco for as little as $200 if you're a guest at Rio or Harrah's; $250 if you're a guest at another hotel. But of course the big players don't pay a dime. The course probably loses money against the bottom line, but Hunt sees it as a valuable commodity. "As a casino amenity, it's absolutely a great thing to have," he says.

The Venetian hotel doesn't have its own course, but, like the Rio, its offers a special instructor to satisfy its best customers. "It's important to have some kind of golf amenity for both the domestic and Asian side of the business," says Brian Parrish, the vice president of marketing for the Venetian. "We have John Redmond, who is Paul Azinger's coach, who plays with our customers and helps build relationships with the hotel. He gives real solid, quality instruction and keeps a record of every player so he can pick up where they left off the last time he saw them."

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