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.
It's been said timing is everything in life and nothing could be closer to that truth than the story of Coyote Springs. The course was what was supposed to be the first of several other courses in conjunction with a massive planned land use development. The theory was a simple one -- people who wanted to have some clear distance between themselves and Las Vegas but close enough to touch base whenever desired.
How big would the effort be?
Try 40,000 acres -- or 65 square miles (170 km2). Just one small issue. Just as the course opened in 2008 the beginnings of The Great Recession were picking up steam. The net result? The grandiose plans came to a halt and the only thing of consequence produced to date is the Jack Nicklaus designed layout. An endless array of lawsuits were filed by the original developers amongst each other and other outside groups also got into the legal thicket.
Suffice to say, I have been to the course on several occasions since it's auspicious beginnings and it's well worth checking out when coming to Sin City.
The layout by the Golden Bear is utterly tenacious -- save for the benign opening hole -- which ultimately has golfers lowering their expectations until they reach the 2nd tee.
The course puts immense pressure on one's tee shot. There are clearly favored sides to be on with each fairway and the penalties for overzealous / cavalier execution will be swift, certain - and final. Yet, there's room for bailing out but one cannot reap the dividend in such situations.
The layout is also devoid of trees -- minus peripheral palm trees and some local desert scrub brush. If you happen to be playing when serious wind is blowing -- say the 4-5 club variety -- it pays to recognize the obvious and move up at minimum two tee boxes -- otherwise your day will be totally joyless.
The Nicklaus effort at Coyote Springs came soon after his shared co-architect effort with Tom Doak at Sebonack and the lessons Jack learned from the Long island layout are front and center here. Coyote Springs does not have one iota of housing -- for now -- and the stark contrast between the verdant course and the wild and wooly nature of the natural desert area is clearly an eyeful of striking contrasts. There's also the breathtaking nearby mountain ranges to the east and west of the site. The colors you see during the day also evolve with an array of mesmerizing colors and shadows.
The fairways at Coyote Springs also have a range of movements -- it's not excessive -- but it's not your garden variety flat-as-a-pancake result often see at too many courses in the greater Vegas area.
If there's one crucial lesson to stamp on one's forehead when playing is take great heed and caution when playing the par-3 holes. They are scorecard wreckers. You see that with the par-3 3rd at 228 yards -- water in play and deep bunkers lurking. Plan to make no more than bogey because double and triple can so quickly happen your head will be spinning in the same manner as Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
The other thought provoking aspect of the inward side is how Nicklaus has placed "separators" on certain holes. You see that with the par-5 5th -- one can play conservatively to the left or take on the more ambitious right hand side. At the par-4 7th you have another "separation" with the green located on the far side of a desert wash. The front nine concludes with another devilish par-3 at the 8th -- playing 233 yards and guarded by water that snarls at players more so than any junk yard dog could ever imagine. The par-4 9th rounds out the opening nine with a rollicking adventure -- descending slightly from the tee into a well-protected fairway area. As you stand on the tee it's hard to focus on the task at-hand with gorgeous mountains providing an ideal backdrop.
The inward half is not as long as the front but the design details are varied and equally testing. The par-5 11th is another with desert separation. What line of attack do you favor. What line of attack do you wish to risk? At the par-4 13th you have to decide is it worth the risk to take on a perfectly placed center fairway bunker or is laying up behind it more prudent event with a much longer approach shot.
My favorite hole at Coyote Springs comes with the par-4 14th hole. The hole is a supreme mental test. From the tee it appears that being down the right side is advantageous. Wrong. The best play is over desert area that appears to never end on the left side. The carry from the back tees is roughly 250-260 yards and anything that comes up short is likely to be deader than Elvis. For those successful the approach shot is far shorter with a slightly better angle into the green. Nicklaus never relents and you see this at the 14th green - a putting surface with different sections. Walk off the green with a par and you will look upwards to the sky and praise God for his divine intervention on your behalf.
The ending four holes are a quality mixture. Jack does attempt to include a short par-4 at the 15th. Once again you have a separation between fairways - the bold play is to attempt the carry on the right side and get nearer to the green. It's a good hole but for all the Nicklaus courses I have played -- 100+ thus far -- I have yet to see him create a world class short par-4.
The 16th is a fine long par-5 and the par-3 17th is well-designed with another vexing green to figure out.
The closing hole ends the day in grand fashion. The back tee is aligned nearby to the same back tee with the parallel 9th hole. Unlike the 9th - the 18th slides downhill and turns right in the drive zone. Once again, when you stand on the tee box the backdrop of the mountains in the distance can easily distract you from the task at-hand.
The approach to the home hole is a testing one. Nicklaus included a number of ridges and when the pin is cut tight to the front it's hard to not worry about the water penalty area pinching in from the right. When the pin is placed to the rear right side -- the need to flight an approach all the way to the target will require a high degree of pluck and resolve.
Coyote Springs is a physical and mental challenge. Some will opine that the course overdoses the difficulty meter but my counterpoint would be such players have unwisely opted to play from tee locations that far outstrip their golf dexterity level.
Like I said at the outset -- many people coming to Vegas will say they did play a Nicklaus layout either at Reflection Bay or South Shore. Both are fine layouts and I thoroughly enjoyed the fun elements you see with the latter.
For movie buffs -- Coyote Springs is analogous to the film Predator. After the pedestrian 1st hole you will feel the same way Schwarzenegger and his posse of cohorts realized how they were being pursued. How apt that Coyote Springs was originally named "The Chase" at Coyote Springs. You will most certainly feel "chased" but the exhilaration of when you do execute at the high level the feeling of euphoria is second to none.
The facilities at the course are limited -- there's no lodging on-site -- so plan your visit accordingly. The practice facility is first rate and the turf quality is done well. If future development does happen there's no doubt the housing situation will change the atmosphere and that will likely impact the ambiance one has now.
Coyote Springs is meant for golfers seeking how well prepared they are for what they will encounter. If you happen to be a quick whiner and can't handle such intensity then head elsewhere. However, if you relish such challenges then bring it on -- Coyote Springs is waiting for you.
M. James Ward
Decent course, Solid greens and fairways however a bit chilly around sunset as with every course in the area. Cold in the mornings as well. But solid course great value.