Most of the curtains are closed along the row of houses that run up the ninth fairway of the Las Vegas Country Club.
In more typical times, the outdoor swimming pool – enclosed by iron gates – and the manufactured fairways would offer a sanctuary from the arid desert. A degree of tranquility, too, from the chaos rolling down the nearby Strip. This is a part of the city that always sleeps.
Well, almost. Not this week. This week, America has descended on Las Vegas and LIV Golf has arrived in Sin City – on the eve of the very first Super Bowl here, the Saudi-funded venture is hosting its first ever event in the desert.
This week, life on the country club is playing out to the thudding rhythm of electronic music. On the short walk from the clubhouse, back up the fairway towards the ninth tee, the beat grows ever louder with every yard.
The par three 8th hole at Las Vegas Country Club has been turned into the Party Hole
‘Golf, But Louder’ is the slogan printed on the galleries built around the tee box and the green
This week, in the entertainment capital of the world, LIV brought the Party Hole. On the par-three 8th, around the tee and around the green, fans in makeshift galleries are invited to let loose. From a podium on the edge of a water hazard, a DJ conducts the crowd. Towering above the hole is one of the many resorts which loom over this course.
At first glance, Vegas should be a second home for LIV Golf. Both have become synonymous with expensive gambles and gaudy flashes of wealth. ‘Golf, But Louder,’ signs here scream.
So far, there has been only one problem: they built it, the people came, they turned the music up… but the party hasn’t arrived. At this rate, the 8th hole won’t be putting any clubs around here out of business. Perhaps that will change on Saturday.
Las Vegas resident DJ, Gryffin, will perform a special set on the par-three hole on Saturday
Bryson DeChambeau holds the joint lead at LIV Golf Las Vegas after nine second-round birdies
Gryffin, the resident DJ at XS nightclub on The Strip, has been booked for an hour-long slot midway through the closing round. But more importantly? Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau and Dustin Johnson will make up the final group. On the eve of Super Bowl Sunday. The stars have aligned, now they must light the fuse…
LIV have already tried other tactics: every member of the field has chosen a song to play as they attack the green. T-shirts are tossed into the crowd, ‘Party Hole Cam’ brings some fans to life. Cheerleaders from the Vegas Golden Knights welcomed the crowd into the course.
Alas, nothing so far has recreated the scenes at LIV Adelaide last year, when Chase Koepka’s hole-in-one sparked bedlam and showers of beer. A few hours from here, meanwhile, the Waste Management Phoenix Open continues to show what can be done. This week, fans were seen sprinting to secure their spot on the iconic 16th hole from the moment the gates opened.
Here, shortly after the shotgun start to this tournament, the galleries at both ends of the hole were largely deserted. It had been raining and one elderly fan watched from inside his home on the ninth fairway.
Those few fans dancing in the Party Hole’s ‘Birdie Shack’ – ‘where our hardiest revelers congregate’ – appeared to be concerned primarily with keeping warm.
DeChambeau is tied at the top with Dustin Johnson, who also sits on eleven under par
A few yards away, volunteers manning the 7th green held up signs asking for silence as players stood over their putts. Talk about a thankless task: you can keep fans from whispering but you cannot quieten the house music blaring from half a dozen speakers.
By Friday lunchtime, when Johnson and Tyrrell Hatton wandered through the tunnel and on to the eighth tee, the galleries had begun to fill up. It was a magnificent sight: fans gathered along the glistening water as the sun beamed over Las Vegas. Just a shame the atmosphere remained tepid at best.
Johnson and Co were given a polite – rather than raucous – welcome; one fan overlooking the tee box had a chicken salad with pecan nuts.
Perhaps that is one issue with a shotgun start. By condensing the day’s play, fans are given only a few hours to wet the whistle. Heading into day three, though, this tournament is coming to the boil. Gryffin will hope to do is bit. A special performance from Johnson – LIV’s inhouse DJ – wouldn’t hurt, either.