LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nev. – How do you resurrect a dead, award-winning golf resort?
It’s not easy, but Reflection Bay Golf Club on the shores of Lake Las Vegas may be a one of the best examples.
The real estate recession of 2008 nailed the opulent subdivision in Henderson, which included the fabulous Jack Nicklaus’ designed Reflection Bay, along with the private Nicklaus South Shore Golf Club, and The Falls designed by Tom Weiskopf.
Reflection Bay and The Falls closed in 2009, but Paulson and Company, a conglomerate founded by American hedge fund manager John Paulson, reopened Reflection Bay in 2014. The purchase included 1,000 acres and a decision not to reopen The Falls.
Enter Eric Dutt, local golf pioneer, Las Vegas Golf Hall of Famer and visionary at The Badlands, Rio Secco, Cascata, Las Vegas National Golf Club, Caesars Entertainment and the Butch Harmon School of Golf. Not to mention he has run the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, benefiting the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. In 1996 he generated 51,000 rounds at The Badlands.
Perhaps his days as a kid watching the Sahara Invitational in Las Vegas in the 1970s inspired him to be a part of Las Vegas’ golf birth and growth into resort golf. He won the Nevada State Amateur as a 17-year-old, went to Purdue to help the Boilermakers win the Big 10 golf title in 1981 and on to the NCAA Tournament.
The new game plan — The Lake Las Vegas Golf Academy
As general manager at Reflection Bay, Dutt is looking for excellent, pristine conditioning and he’s looking to expand a newer vision of providing great resort golf instruction scenarios to make good golfers reach loftier heights. All the newest technology will be here, including indoor hitting bays with TrackMan, and two PGA Tour professionals to guide you on a journey to become the best you can be.
The nines have been switched and the future could yield more design changes.
The Lake Las Vegas Golf Academy practice facilities includes practice holes, bunker areas, putting and chipping and pitching greens as well as on course instruction at the Jack Nicklaus signature designed Reflection Bay Golf Club. Interesting, even though The Falls was closed several holes have been designated for practice.
Craig Barlow, a Henderson native, and Jim Gallagher are the two PGA Tour players who have been hired as teaching instructors.
Barlow had a storied amateur career in Las Vegas winning every amateur title before turning professional in 1995. He made 170 cuts in PGA Tour events and has played in six U.S. Open Championships, one PGA Championship and one British Open. Barlow’s most heralded course record is a 63 at Cypress Point that is shared with Ben Hogan.
Barlow states that his teaching philosophy is focused on proper set up, lack of tension, great rhythm in the swing and the realization that we shoot lower scores by increased focus on the “scoring areas of the game, 100 yards and in.”
Gallagher grew up in Indiana and attended Ball State. His brother Jim and sister Jackie both played the professional tours. Jeff turned professional in 1987 where he won twice, on the then Ben Hogan Tour, the 1990 Cleveland Open and the 2000 Web.com Tour’s South Carolina Classic. He still competes on the PGA Champions Tour.
“I hope The Lake Las Vegas Golf Academy will take, say, a very good junior player and give him or her additional skills that will move them to become a college golfer,” Dutt said. “And I’m hoping we will become the place to come in Las Vegas for golf instruction.”
Reflection Bay delivers
Reflection Bay Golf Club, built in 1998, is set on luxurious Lake Las Vegas, located 20 minutes east of the Las Vegas Strip. A 320-acre man-made lake is the centerpiece of this high-end residential resort community.
Nicklaus designed this course out of the rugged desert and came up with an Oasis. When Nicklaus returned in 2014 he removed 12 bunkers and reshaped another dozen on the 7,184, par 72.
Five holes stretch along a mile and a half of sunny shoreline, with greens connecting the hillside property of the luxurious Westin Lake Las Vegas. The 200-yard, par-3 eighth, which showcases a peninsula jutting out into Lake Las Vegas.
The lake’s vast shoreline and terraced hillsides are home to elegant Mediterranean residences and many unique offerings. The master plan for the private residential community of South Shore included approximately 360 custom estate and waterfront home sites. In addition, courtyard villas, Venetian-style waterfront homes, and luxury executive homes climb the hillsides.
You can also dine in the clubhouse or outside patio seating. Weddings are also on the menu.
Stay and play
Newly remodeled (2018) Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort provides the best option for your golf vacation that lends luxury accommodations — 493 rooms and suites, two pools, multiple dining options and its own spa facility located just a pitching wedge from the golf course. Ask about the stay and play package.
There’s a 90,000-square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space and try the dining at Rick’s Cafe and Marssa.
Lake Las Vegas offers multiple water sports activities and outdoor adventure options.
Additionally, Lake Las Vegas is located just a short ride from the center of the Las Vegas “Strip” for those that want to experience the entertainment that Las Vegas has to offer.
Perhaps the best is the solitude you get at Lake Las Vegas and starry nights.
I’ve played most of the area golf courses and can say Reflection Bay is my personal favorite and it is very playable. Don’t miss it.
Story by David R. Holland