Although Las Vegas is home to a Bear’s Best collection from the Jack Nicklaus portfolio, there is only one “Jack Nicklaus Signature Design” in the state of Nevada, which belongs to the Reflection Bay Golf Club. Fortunate players looking to escape the desert can drive just a bit into the mountains southeast of Las Vegas and find this constructed oasis, with palm trees dotting the shores of the “Bay,” which is in fact Lake Las Vegas.
The signature stretches at the club occur along the lake, with Nos. 6 through 9 playing alongside the body, as well as Nos. 17 and 18. The most daunting holes on both stretches are the respective par threes. The former plays out to a peninsula surrounded by water on all sides, while the latter requires a lengthy forced carry. The other holes head into the desert hills, akin to Nicklaus’s Cove Club at Cabo Del Sol.
Reflection Bay once hosted one of the more unique events in golf — the Wendy’s 3Tour Challenge — in which professionals from the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour banded together for a team competition.
Reflections Bay has a spectacular location, but I cannot say the same about the course. The first hole is welcoming, a dogleg left. The green is protected by a deep bunker left. The 2nd is another par four with waste area left, favor middle right. The 3rd is a reachable par 5 dogleg right, if you can reach the downslope. There are an assortment of fairway bunkers with the right side offering the largest margin of error. The first par three is mid-length. Favor the left side as the green is protected with a deep right front bunker. The 5th can be reached in two, but it is real tight and uphill. Desert left and stream right. The 6th is a tough par four. Long, tight, stream right to a well-guarded green. The 7th is also a tough par four. There is a stream that dissects the fairway. You may want to lay up off the tee. The 8th is the signature hole, a par 3 with a peninsula green. The 9th is a dogleg left with bunkers on the inside elbow. You can cut the corner and that will leave with an attack wedge to a two-tiered green.
The 10th is not hooker friendly. Water all the way down the left side with a water carry approach. The 11th is a fairly straight forward par four. Fairway bunkers right and left with the left part of the green protected by waste area and a ravine on the right. The 12th is a par 3, long and forgettable. The 13th is dogleg right, fairway bunkers left and right with a large fairway and a green protected by three bunkers. The 14th is a long difficult par 4. Left is best off the tee, the green has a bunker right and a bunch of moguls. The 15th is a pretty par 5. You must carry a ravine off the tee that also runs down the left side. The good news is the landing area is much bigger than it appears from the tee. The approach must also carry a ravine not to mention the greenside bunkers. The 16th tilts right, which is good so hopefully the BAB left is out of play. The 17th is a Florida par 3 water carry and right. The finishing hole is a dogleg right par 5. You can cut the corner a bit and get home in two. Water right and bunch of bunkers down the right side.
Good but not great.
It's amazing how Reflection Bay started on the most grandiose of plans. The concept was to create a second city with Reflection City at the epicenter. Then the housing bubble burst in the 2007-2009 period and what was going to be Shangri-La turned out to be a near ghost town.
The Jack Nicklaus layout actually closed for a period of time but has been resurrected. The same cannot be said for the companion Tom Weiskopf course which was shuttered a few years back.
The Nicklaus team created a very ambitious routing that takes you up and down and throughout the property. There's sufficient width given the resort status but there's also enough challenges to keep the better players interested. The first six holes are satisfactory but it's at the par-4 7th where things begin to ramp-up. The dog-leg right is brilliantly strategized with a pesky creek that runs on an angle in the drive zone. The green is also well done -- bunkers protecting it and with sufficient contour to punish the amateurish putter. The following par-3 8th brings you back to Lake Las Vegas and is done well. The closing 9th hole for the outward half is a quality par-4 that turns left in the drive zone with water hugging close enough ont hat side.
The inward half is a rollicking adventure. After a good mid-length par-4 at the 10th you ascend hillier terrain with a routing that smartly goes back and forth until you reach the par-3 17th which is identical to the 8th -- the main difference being Lake Las Vegas is now on your right. Nicklaus concludes the round with a first rate par-5 working its way back to the clubhouse and with the Lake all the way down that side.
Reflection Bay is a quality layout but the key will be in getting the turf quality up to where it was originally. When I was there the speed and consistency of the green was suspect. Ensuring there are level tees on all the holes is also needed. If all can be rectified there's no reason why Reflection Bay cannot return to an even higher level. The work team Nicklaus did provides for a quality routing and a good variety of holes. The conditioning dimension will only heighten those elements in a big time manner. We shall see.
by M. James Ward