Coyote Springs is a new town (or master-planned community as developers like to call it) of around 43,000 acres which lies an hour’s drive north of Las Vegas. Construction of the Jack Nicklaus Signature course began in 2005, with the layout opening three years later under its original name of The Chase.
Unfortunately, due to various environmental, planning and legal issues that arose after the start of the economic recession in 2008, the proposed residential development of the town has stalled. Despite this, the golf facility is thriving, giving everybody connected hope for the future.
The course is certainly located in a fantastic spot: to the north, south and east are the Delamar, the Arrow and the Meadow Valley Mountains and to the west, the Sheep Range is snow-capped during the winter months, offering peak season golfers a sensational backdrop to the layout during their round.
Holes occupy a harsh, rugged landscape, with native desert areas to be carried from many of the tees. Missing fairways or greens will result in having to play from hard ground, among the rocks and cacti, but there’s also water to be avoided on eleven of the holes – which is especially challenging on three of the short holes as well as at the closing hole on each nine.
Timing is everything in life -- and in golf course development. When Coyote Springs was conceived the golf market was flourishing and the greater Vegas golf scene gave every indication of even more growth. The gamble that looked like a sure bet came to a screeching halt with The Great Recession that fully blossomed in '09.
Originally, the plans for Coyote Springs were to be the new western headquarters for the PGA of America. The ultimate goal was to have ten (10) different courses and a very active community would spring to life -- projections touting 100,000 people eventually living in the area. The location would provide those living here a first rate get away from the 24/7 hype and clutter that pervades Las Vegas which is roughly 50 miles away.
The concept sounded fine but when the real estate market tanked in a big time way all the plans went out the window. The PGA opted to forego its plans and the facility barely hung on as a variety of lawsuits were lodged against the various parties involved with the development.
The original name for the course was to be The Chase at Coyote Springs. That was shortened to the present one used now. Coyote Springs is surrounded by top tier scenery with the likes of 5,000 foot plus peaks including -- the Arrow, Delamar, Meadow Valley Mountains, plus the 9,000-foot high Sheep Range. The course actually sits in a prehistoric riverbed valley.
Interestingly, when the Nicklaus team did Coyote Springs it was on the heels of the collaboration that Jack had with Tom Doak during their joint efforts in creating Sebonack in Southampton, New York. The influences Doak provided at Sebonack clearly rubbed off Nicklaus and Coyote Springs does include a number of such features. There is clearly much more roll and pitch on the fairway side than many Nicklaus courses which often feature a bull-dozed to conformity approach. The overall shaping, positioning and appearance of many of the bunkers is quite varied and quite penalizing for those who find them at Coyote Springs. In sum -- the "new" Nicklaus approach is to be less "clean looking" and more natural in the way they create golf courses to work in better harmony with the terrain they encounter.
As with desert courses -- the off-course elements can be severe and often result in lost strokes. Fortunately, the fairways are amply wide and they need to be as winds can whip through the property on most afternoons at time as there are no real trees to speak of throughout the property.
The penchant for demands is clearly present at Coyote Springs. However, the course starts with a rather benevolent opener. Things change quickly with each hole thereafter.
The most daunting shotmaking takes places at the quartet of par-3 holes. They can be major scorecard wreckers. The 3rd begins that "welcome" as it plays nearly 230 yards from the tips with protecting water and deep flanking bunkers. Fortunately, there is a bailout area to the right of the green and it pays to be smart so that no more than four is recorded.
Nicklaus has provided different avenues to play each hole. There is a safe side and one where higher risk can be taken. Be forewarned -- the risk side means exactly that.
The second par-3 at the 8th is the most demanding of holes and ranks among the most challenging I have played. The 230-yard hole is protected by water on the right. The slightest push to that side will result in hearing the Bobby Darin song of "Splish Splash." The only prudent play, save for the most skilled of players, is to use the available dry left side and play from that point. This is the type of hole that smart sensible play pays huge dividends.
The inward half of the course is routed well as you encounter different wind directions. There is space set aside for the absent housing development so the wherewithal to take in the views of the terrain without any outside clutter is most welcomed.
Coyote Springs has tough greens to both hit and recover from. In a number of instances Nicklaus has angled them so that the player has to have sufficient club to carry to those locations. The putting surfaces also feature subsections within them so being on the "correct" side is needed to avoid continuous three-putts or worse.
A number of holes on the back nine continue with the theme demonstrated on the front side. When you stand on the tee at Coyote Springs it pays to think carefully and execute with total resolve. Indecision will be quickly exposed when playing the course.
The ending brings the player to a grand finale. The par-3 17th is well-bunkered and has a devilish green to putt. The 463-yard par-4 18th combine beauty and strategy in a seamless manner as the hole plays downhill and turning right in the drive zone. The mountain backdrop is truly stunning especially during sunset.
Whether Coyote Springs is able to succeed in the future with additional development is hard to say. The original plans were bold -- as with many things that have been created in the greater Las Vegas area. The Nicklaus design is often forgotten by many who come to the area as golfers are whisked to nearby courses to The Strip. I would urge those coming to make the short drive and experience one of the best area courses because the fees charged are more in line with reality than many in the immediate Vegas area.
Remember when coming to Coyote Springs -- choose the appropriate tees and the enjoyment factor will be more likely. Bite off more than you can chew and you can be sure the pushback you receive will be swift, certain and final.
by M. James Ward