Unveiled in 2001, the Bear’s Best Las Vegas course features eighteen of the very best replica holes that Jack Nicklaus has built around the world.
Bear's Best is quite fun to play when you're not going through narrow corridors with housing. The opening par-4 is more on the eye-candy scene with water down the left side. Then you have to spend a bit of time meandering to the next couple of holes. The stretch of holes 3 thru 6 is done well. Nicklaus usually overdoses on the difficulty side but at Bear's Best you do have optional lines of attack which given the public access aspect of the course is most welcomed.
Holes 7 and 8 are mainly forgettable.
Fortunately, the ending long par-4 9th resumes the strategic calculus calling upon a quality tee shot and approach to well-protected green.
The inward half is where Bear's Best gets interesting. You climb uphill for the first few holes. The center-placed bunker is done well at the mid-length two shot 10th. As mentioned, you then climb uphill at the short 11th and par-5 12. The par-3 13th could have been more engaging given the terrain but is a bit on the lackluster side. One has to wonder how many superlative short par-3 holes Nicklaus has ever created?
When you reach the long par-4 14th you head back downhill and in the nearby distance is the Vegas skyline. The long parr-3 at the 15th is 230 yards and mandates a fine approach given the angle of the green. When you reach the par-4 16th, Nicklaus included a center-placed bunker but it's more decorative than strategic. Such an inclusion should have been done at other holes where its involvement would have been more central on the strategic side of things.
Interestingly, the final two holes are uniquely different than the rest of the ones played. The par-5 17th turns left in the drive zone and features a tapered landing area. Birdies are doable but hardly given away. The closing long par-4 18th is the most rigorous hole at Bear's Best. If one is a right-handed golfer, it pays to fade the ball off the tee. A long narrow strip of sand runs down the right side with a larger sized pond awaiting for those who overplay their hand off the tee. The putting surface is brilliantly placed at an angle behind the same aforementioned water penalty area. Those walking off the green in no more than four strokes will clearly reap the bounty of the 19th hole.
Bear's Best was created as a homage to earlier holes Jack created. The sum total, however, is a hodge-podge of moments. At times you encounter low level holes failing to elicit much in terms of enjoyment. You also encounter holes where the shotmaking challenge rises noticeably. In Vegas terms the golf is worth a look given the lack of high caliber accessible options but for those seeking something more on the architectural front the overall experience will be a bit disappointing. Fortunately, the 18th saves the day for the caliber of shots it mandates.
M. James Ward
One of the holes might be the best hole in America. Downhill toward the imitation space needle on the strip. Fairways lined with evergreen trees. It is a copy of Castlerock (I think). The black sand traps from Montana are also awesome. I have also played Bear's Best Atlanta. Too bad it did not make the GA top courses.
Very impressive set up as I suppose you would expect from Jack. Surpsingly un-Jack-like after a trademark first hole with water.
Some very good holes and great holiday golf with several views of the Strip in the distance, stunning mountain views and numerous superb looking luxury homes overlooking the course.
To me they missed a trick with the whole idea of the replica holes ...albeit having gone through the course on the website before flying out and not having really heard of many of the courses that holes had been copied from ,,,,,in fact had I not been through it on the website you wouldn't know that they were replicas.
Nonetheless a good playable course with many challenges and would like to play again - although with so many others to try I doubt I will ever get to visit Vegas often enough for it to come round again for me !?