On Saturday, Oct. 1, “Golf’s 5th Major” will be played in the historic Scotch 80’s neighborhood in the heart of Las Vegas. The 23rd annual event, the Lakeshore Open, is hosted by the property owner and course professional Phil Tom.
The event started in Seattle but is now in Las Vegas since 2004 when Mr. Tom moved to Las Vegas. The Lakeshore Open has gained popularity for its fun, fame, and unique test of golf. It is the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Golf‘ according to many observers.
The event is by invitation, and this year’s field will likely reach last year’s turnout of 81 players. There is an 18-hole round on the mini-par 3 residential course. And 21 players advance to the championship round.
The event includes golf commentary, a PA system, a scoreboard, food, drinks, and a blue jacket presentation to the winner near dusk.
On behalf of PlayNevada, I’m happy to be joining 10 other rookies for the 2022 tournament while reporting on the charity event. For the second straight year, participants are shooting to raise more than $10,000 for Maximum Hope, a foundation for critically ill children.
The foundation provides a lifeline for families navigating the devastating financial and emotional challenges of caring for a child with a critical illness.
The Lakeshore golf course
You play the par 3 tournament on a very short 18-hole course that winds around the 1-acre property. Only one club can be used when playing the Lakeshore course with most players choosing a pitching wedge.
Beyond the strategy and creativity required as you crisscross your way around the unusual and unique grounds, players need the touch of a surgeon and the ability to chip the ball perfectly straight or pay a severe penalty on many holes.
No player has ever broken par over the 36-hole event, and that includes some touring PGA pros from Las Vegas, college golf coaches, and club professionals who have come to play at the Lakeshore golf course.
Current PGA Tour players and former UNLV golfers have all enjoyed some rounds and the experience at the Lakeshore golf course including:
- Charley Hoffman
- Kurt Kitayama
- Harry Hall
- Taylor Montgomery
So has 2019 Lakeshore Open winner Phil Rowe. Rowe is a former UNLV golf associate head coach and current head coach of the Cal Poly men’s golf program. Many other PGA professionals and mini tour pros have played the most difficult golf course in the world.
What makes this tournament so unique?
With out-of-bounds on a majority of the holes on the street, fencelines, and flower bushes, the hazards can quickly create skyrocketing scores. The unique layout features pencil-thin fairways with many less than 3 feet wide.
A picturesque hole at No. 6 is called ‘Overhead Barking’ with a testy tee shot from the ‘Shark’s Mouth’. It is perhaps the most photographed tee in all of Nevada. A chip just two feet right is out of bounds on the street.
A similar tight setup faces the players on the toughest hole at No. 18 (South Tom’s Tomb). With the street out-of-bounds on the left and a fence line right separated by just 3 feet as you target the ‘flag’ pole that is a stop sign.
The hole can be aced and birdied but the average score every year approaches 8 over par. It is such a stunning finish and closing hole where the tournament almost every year is won or lost.
Players will have an incredible test at hole No. 11. You have to hit a tee shot over the swimming pool with patrons hanging out in and around the pool and BBQ. A diabolic green ruins many chances for the Royal Blue Jacket.
Having played the mini par 3 course with “The Chairman” Phil Tom last month and again the week of the event, I can vouch for the difficulty of the course. You need the practice to hit precision chip shots and putt them with a wedge in hand.
Let’s just say despite being athletic and a capable golfer, the betting odds are against FairwayJay making the cut.
PlayNevada is playing for fun and chippin’-in for charity
The course and event are an amusing and challenging experience over a landscape that excites and frustrates players at all levels. But a focus for 8-time Lakeshore Open champion Phil Tom has always been on giving to a worthy charity. Tom said:
“I have a lot of fun playing ‘real’ golf. But it doesn’t compare to playing this course and the fun and enjoyment of seeing others expressions and compliments that come from playing the Lakeshore golf course.”
That includes the late six-time World Series of Poker champion Layne Flack, who shot 37 over par on his first round at Lakeshore. He stayed and played four rounds that first time and his last round was only 11 over par.
Phil Tom, also a WSOP bracelet winner back in 2008, says that “Layne’s enthusiasm was contagious, and it was special to hear his comments when he took the mic to give a hard time to friends and challengers of the layout.”
As I sat in the Chairman’s wine cellar before moving to the ‘Clubhouse’ bar in his home, Phil Tom told me of the time he took his 12-year-old son to a golf clinic in Seattle run by Fred Couples.
“He hit 25 wedges from the Championship tees to the women’s tees to start the talk. Couples then turned to the youngsters and pointed to the wedge and said; “this…is the game of golf”. You practice with the wedge by the hours and you will be a great golfer.”
The Lakeshore Golf Course and event is special and does just that while chipping into the community and helping others.