A relative distance from Nevada’s population centers, Mountain Falls Golf Club offers a relatively quiet break from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas, but includes some of the city’s heroic school of golf architecture. Jack Nicklaus and Cal Olson didn’t let the course location — a desert near the California border — stop them from providing numerous water hazards.
The signature example is the closing hole, where a lake lurks on the left of the par four, and a butterfly green requires a safe approach to the right wing (straightforward into the green) or a dangerous one to the left (over the encroaching lake...or just playing it safe and praying for a two-putt par). The creek that flows ahead of the par three No. 14 is just a pleasant (or unpleasant, depending how you look at it) distraction from the true challenge of the hole, which is in its large, rolling green.
The club has embraced a no-overseeding stance, to maintain both water and firm fairways.
After playing the course and looking back, I felt like the first eight holes were merely a warm-up for the best of the course yet to come. However, I was particularly fond of the 190-yard 4th, which is a nice par 3 with water fronting green and a little stream running down the left side. The 419-yard 9th is a great hole with a fairway bunker that buts directly against the water hazard and runs virtually the entire length of the hole on the left side. Then the green complex on #9, in classic Nicklaus fashion, affords the option to place the flag on one of two greens. The smaller one to the left is more challenging and requires the golfer’s approach to cross a man-made stream the contains several small waterfalls and bisects the two green options. On the day I played, only the right-hand easier green was pinned and thus I am not certain if and when the more challenging green is played.
In my opinion, the back-9 has far more character with many great holes and water that comes into play on four holes. I found the 468-yard 12th to be perhaps the most difficult hole on the course. This par 4 demands and long and accurate tee-shot followed by a precise approach. Anything missing left of the green will run down a short embankment and into a very pleasant looking water hazard that contains a set of waterfalls for which the course is so aptly named. The course finishes strong with the 200-yard 17th designed with two separate green options. The more difficult option to the left requires the tee shot to be played the entire length over a giant bunker. Then comes the 416 yard 18, which has just one green, however it might as well be two. This giant horseshoe shaped green affords hole location options on the two front portions of the green that would require a delicately played 30-yard wedge shot over cavernous grass pit should anybody find themselves of the wrong side of the horseshoe. Just a few notes for anyone heading to play this nice track.
First off, despite its name, the mountains are only in the distance and this is in no way a “mountain” course. Also, the greens when I played were full of poa, as one may be able to view in my attached photos. However, I found them to roll quite nicely, as poa generally does when freshly mowed. In addition, it took me a few holes to realize that the abundance of small river rock that is adjacent to many of the front-9 holes is marked as out-of-bounds with white lines on the ground. I could not find this noted on the card, but it appeared to be the intent.