The hills around the township of Henderson lie a 20-minute drive south of Las Vegas and they were an important cog in the American war machine during the early 1940s, supplying the government with magnesium for incendiary munitions.
The area has since been reinvented as a vacation destination and the Lake Las Vegas Resort, in particular, attracts many visitors every year to hotel, casino and sporting attractions that include boating, fishing and, of course, golf.
The course of the Golf Club at SouthShore was the first private Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Nevada when it opened in 1996 and its fairways ride the ridges and career down canyons to the lovely lakeside with elevation changes of over 300 feet along the way.
It plays to a par of 71 and although this is resort golf with generous landing areas, there are strategically placed bunker complexes in place, plus forced carries over water and gorges, to threaten a good score.
Lake Las Vegas visitors can play two other very good public courses. Reflections Bay is another Nicklaus design and it opened two years after SouthShore whilst The Falls is a Tom Weiskopf creation, opening in 2002. The Tom Fazio-designed Rainbow Canyon course is expected to join the others very soon.
The most lasting element of SouthShore is how the design works within the heaving and rolling nature of the property and the stunning eye vistas you see when playing. It's often hard to focus on the task at-hand.
The elevation switches are quite intense -- over 300 feet encountered. Credit the Nicklaus team in realizing the likely audience of members and guests as the course provides four par-5 holes and five par-3 holes. The range of par-4s is good but it would have been a real plus to have had a superb short one that accentuates the risk / reward dynamic. Also, the inclusion of abutting ponds near to greens on the par-3 holes gets a bit redundant.
SouthShore is a fun challenge. Unlike other Nicklaus courses designed in that period of time which often were stacked in favor of the low handicap golfer capable in carrying the ball sufficient distances and mirroring the kind of game the Golden Bear demonstrated during his playing career.
Turf conditions are often ideal and the juxtaposition of the desert area in contrast with the verdant green turf areas does add to the experience. There are stunning views and being able to focus is certainly needed at different times.
Much is made of the final holes at South Shore. You finish the round on ground quite severe and being able to adjust to the heights encountered and the wind velocities that can pick-up considerably during certain times of the year can be a tough chore.
SouthShore is the quintessential desert golf playground. Classical golf lovers may find it lacking given the necessity of power carts. However, the holes provide a range of exhilarating moments. Jack also provided a slew of interesting greens -- several of which have false fronts that need to be handled with solid execution and precision. The same can be said for the vexing internal contours on a number of the greens.
It amazes me when people talk about Vegas golf -- there's few who mention SouthShore. That's a clear statement of ignorance because the design maximizes a fun quotient that clearly motivates people to return and try their skills the next time.
The mark of any redeeming course is the wherewithal to capture one's attention.
SouthShore clearly does that.
M. James Ward