UPDATE! Leaving Lake Las Vegas

By combining holes in the desert, mountains and along Nevada's largest private lake, Jack Nicklaus produced one of the nation's best golf courses, Reflection Bay, at the Lake Las Vegas resort.

Lake Las Vegas, NV Dateline March 19, 2010

When I originally wrote the post below last month, it was wiht great sadness over losing one of my favorite golf resorts in the nation, Lake Las Vegas.

Today, I have some good news.

While the Ritz Carlton hotel is still closing, apprently for good, and the exquisite Nicklaus designed Reflection Bay remains shuttered, the other Nicklaus course here, South Shore, is set to start receiving some public play. 

South Shore was the first course at LLV, hosted the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge, and has remained adamantly private for a decade. The course just announced a partnership with the Loews Lake Las Vegas, the other – and now the only – excellent hotel here to allow its guests access.

I have not played South Shore but have heard good things, and if Nicklaus did half as good a job as at Reflection Bay, it is worth playing. Lake Las Vegas may be hanging on by a thread, but at least it is hanging on!

Leaving Las Vegas

In the movie Leaving Las Vegas, Nicholas Cage drinks himself to death. For one of the world’s great golf resorts, it looks like binge building was the killer.

I loved Lake Las Vegas. It was anchored by the awesome Reflection Bay course, a perennial Top 100 on everyone’s list that in my humble – but expert – opinion, was tied with the Kiele Course at Kauai Lagoons as the very best of the hundreds of Nicklaus designs you could play. The second course, Tom Weiskopf’s The Falls, was not as good but did have one of the most dramatic three hole stretches in all of golf. The third layout, Tom Fazio’s Rainbow Canyon, never got beyond the initial earthmoving stages, and it is this course that symbolizes the current state of affairs at Lake Las Vegas: a ghost town.

About a year ago I heard they were shuttering The Falls to save money. Then a few months back, they closed Reflection Bay.

I was shocked, but figured that it might be temporary. After all, Vegas is a big golf destination, and frankly there still are not enough good courses. In a sea of mediocrity, the only Vegas course possibly better than Reflection Bay is Shadow Creek, at twice the price. This is a course that hosted the Wendy’s Three Tour Challenge for years and waas played by a Who’s Who of PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour stars. How Bali Hai and the Wynn Golf Club and Royal Links and their ilk can stay in business while the spectacular Reflection Bay cannot is beyond me, and a testament to the utter lack of comprehension of the golfers visiting Vegas.

Still, I hoped for a comeback, based largely on the fact that in addition to all those millions of annual casino visitors, there are two excellent resort hotels right at Lake Las Vegas, right at the course, the Ritz Carlton and the Loews.

Not anymore. Today I learned the Ritz is shutting down as well, the final nail in the coffin for this once grand golf resort.

This is a sad day for golf, not just because there are two less courses to play, but because of the rarity of a world class 36-hole resort, accompanied by luxury resorts and spas, simply disappearing. It’s like waking to find Torrey Pines or TPC Sawgrass gone.

Goodbye Lake Las Vegas. We hardly knew you.

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