LAS VEGAS–Spanish Trail Country Club has stood the test of time when it comes to the Las Vegas golf scene. Don’t believe us? Well, consider the fact this 27-hole Robert Trent Jones, Jr., masterpiece opened in 1984 and right from the start made a name for itself on a worldwide stage. The reason is simple as the course got a big boost as one of the sites of the PGA Tour stop in Vegas on five different occasions, including in 1986 when Greg Norman hit the golf jackpot in Vegas. –by Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider staff.
With rolling hills, tree-lined fairways and a daunting 120 bunkers, Spanish Trail has tested everyone’s game–from the beginner to the PGA Tour pros.
Just ask Jerry Roberts.
Roberts, golf pro emeritus at Spanish Trail, was there from Spanish Trail’s beginning. Well, actually, even before the beginning. Spanish Trail was one of the courses used during the 90-hole rotation, prior to the final round being played at Las Vegas Country Club. The tournament was operated by the Las Vegas Founders Club.
“We opened in November of 1984 and I came on board in September of 1984,” Roberts said. “To take on that kind of risk in that market was a pretty big deal. And then to do 27 holes was a pretty grandiose scheme.”
It was an instant hit and also drew a lot of attention…and that included the PGA Tour.
“The pros needed a third course (for the Las Vegas Invitational in the mid-1980s) and they approached Spanish Trail,” Roberts said. “The Blasco family thought it would be a great way to showcase the product.”
The Spanish Trail years included a million-dollar purse ($1,150,000) offered in 1986 when Greg Norman won the tournament and pocketed $207,000. It was the largest first-prize on the PGA Tour, but Norman told Las Vegas golf writer Brian Hurlburt, he had a different memory from that week. In 1984, Denis Watson won the event.
“I never played for money. I played golf for the enjoyment and the feeling it gave me,” Norman said of winning the tournament that is now the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “I always loved playing that event, even though I’m not a gambler. One of my most memorable shots was in that tournament. I hit a 1-iron and it went right through a pigeon. That has never happened before or since.”
Roberts remembered that many others knew how big of a deal the large purse was.
“Everybody was impressed that there was that large of a payday,” Roberts said. “But what impressed me was that everyone said the pros were going to tear up the golf course and they didn’t. The undulation and speed of the greens made it a challenge.”
Despite not tearing up the course, the pros also had plenty of kudos to go around for the layout even though it was in its infant years.
“What the pros really loved was the course had magnificent greens,” Roberts said. “It still does today. They were very generous in their positive comments especially due to the fact it hadn’t really been open that long. But what they really loved was the fact it was a Robert Trent Jones, Jr., designed course.”
Roberts added that because of the exposure of seeing the PGA Tour in action, the membership grew…and quickly.
“When people saw the pros playing the course the interest grew,” he said. “It was such a great venue and a brand new venue. The pros played the original 18 holes (Sunrise and Canyons nines) and then the new nine (Lakes) came in and had one of the first 600-yard par 5s. Everything was planned out well. Word quickly got out about the quality of the product that we had.”