Reflection Bay Golf Club was more than worth the wait.
A spectacular journey through the hillside and along the lake that is as memorable as they come.
When it comes to golf, it doesn’t take much for me to get excited. Watching it on TV, hacking around a course with my friends or even spending time in the backyard on the putting green with my kids, no matter what the situation, if it’s golf related it all seem to bring a smile to my face.
This past weekend I took my excitement to a whole new level when I played the newly reopened Reflection Bay, out at Lake Las Vegas, and had an outstanding round of golf!
Since its closure back in 2009, Reflection Bay Golf Club has been sitting dormant like a hibernating grizzly waiting for the snow to melt and reclaim its dominance of the land.
Luckily for all of us golf fanatics out there; this Golden Bear designed gem is back.
And, from what I’ve seen and heard it’s better than ever. I had heard several months ago (going back to early June) rumors mulling around the golfing world here in Vegas that Reflection Bay was possibly going to be making a return.
The thoughts of having another world-class course here in Vegas is without a doubt exciting but on a more personal level, knowing what the community of Lake Las Vegas has been going through since the financial fallout made the outlook of Reflection Bay returning even more appealing. Lake Las Vegas was in desperate need of Reflection Bay opening back up.
For the past month and a half, I’ve been eagerly waiting for the 2nd of November to get here. When I picked the game back up in December of 2009 Reflection Bay had already been shut down for five months, and since I never got the opportunity to play it before them closing the doors, this reopening was even more anticipated than I imagined.
Yesterday was the day, and after years of wanting to walk the rolling fairways of Reflection Bay, I finally got my chance to tee it up on Jack Nicklaus’s first Nevada designed course.
Reflection Bay Golf Club • Henderson, NV • 11/02/2014
If I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much. The course was left for dead and over the five years, there was bound to be some issues with the deterioration of the course. A vacant clubhouse, land that had gone without any maintenance and so on, the course reopening and not being at the level it was when it closed was certainly possible.
Had that been the case it would have been easily understandable. But remarkably the course was nearly flawless. Aside from a few areas where work was taking place (only one came into play) the entire course was in phenomenal condition.
The clubhouse was still under construction and not open.
I was told it was scheduled to open for business in a few days which I was glad to hear, the sooner, the better in my opinion. Regardless of the lack of a clubhouse, the staff on site was fantastic. Going above and beyond at every interaction, they were on the top of their game for sure. I wasn’t met one time without a smile and welcome. Every employee we encountered did everything they could to make sure we were able to experience the course and have a beautiful day. It was nice to see.
Vegas courses can quickly get caught up in the tourist trap and lose sight of the customer service experience. By that I mean the courses out here, because of Vegas being a destination town, don’t have to worry about filling up the tee sheet. With that mentality present, it’s easy to lose sight of taking care of the customer because tomorrow you have a whole new slew of golfers.
It was nice to see the staff at Reflection Bay going above and beyond. I can only hope they maintain the passion I saw on Sunday. Being the opening weekend, I’m sure they were well prepared to deliver the impeccable service, kudos to them though because they nailed it at every opportunity.
Other than the clubhouse not being open there were just a few small issues I ran across.
There were no yardage books available, and that was because they will, eventually, have GPS in the carts.
That made a few of the holes just a tad challenging. We didn’t see a flag from the tee box until the 4th hole ( a par 3), and there are quite a few others throughout the course where unless you’ve played the course before you have no idea where the right place to aim is. We just stuck with large patches of the green stuff and managed to get through the round.
The practice area is outstanding.
The range is a massive facility to warm up on with plenty of targets allowing you to warm up with all your clubs if needed, no short/small range here! Being the second day they were open the TaylorMade range balls were flawless as was grass we hit on.
The chipping and putting greens were equally impressive. Both spread out to accommodate plenty of players and offering many options for practice all kinds of shots when I got to the putting green though I was at a loss for words.
I couldn’t believe what I was walking on. It was what I could only describe as perfection.
I dropped my ball and putted a few times in complete awe of how well the greens looked but also at how perfectly the ball rolled. I asked the starter “Are the greens on the course just like this?” his response was priceless “No… they’re even better.” And he was right!
When I asked what the green were stimped at he said “right at 10.5” I knew I was in for a great round.
You wouldn’t believe how many starters I’ve asked that question to and gotten the blank stare.
Joe was another member of the Reflection Bay team that went above and beyond.
He thoroughly went through his routine of the course and did an outstanding job to ensure we had a great experience. The staff was fantastic without a doubt, but if the course didn’t match up to their extraordinary service, it would have left a seriously bad taste in my mouth. After just a few holes any thoughts of Reflection Bay not being able to match the outstanding customer service had rapidly vanished.
After meandering through the hillside and playing some truly impressive holes, I was so pleased with how the course was in impeccable shape I wanted to get out of the cart and just openly applaud the efforts it took to bring this course back to life.
Like I mentioned the greens were flawless.
The fairway and rough were close to perfect as you can get but the sand in the bunkers was all my friend, and I could talk about afterward.
Out here in the desert air, a legitimate bunker is more of a mysterious figure than an actual feature of the golf course. Most if not all of the bunkers in the Vegas valley get beat up by the dry air and wind, and that makes them very had to manage, and I’m sure it’s not cheap either. Without a doubt, this was the best bunker sand I have ever hit out of, and I mean anywhere!
The only thing I can even come close to comparing it is the beach sand bunkers at Bandon.
My playing partner called it “flour” most of the day and honestly I’d have to agree with him, it was beyond fluffy, and the club gracefully pierced it all day long. I can only imagine this is what it is supposed to be like to play out of the sand; it was quite a new experience for me.
Even with the unique layout going up and down the hillside and along the lakes there is a set of tees for every player. Five sets of tee’s to be exact starting from 5,166 yards for the ladies and going all the way back to 7,261 (74.8/148) for those who like a challenge.
We decided to play from the middle tee’s that set up at 6,391 (70.3/128), and I found the course to be very stimulating. (I got the slope and rating numbers from the SkyCaddie website. The USGA does not have Reflection Bay listed as of yet and their scorecards don’t have the figures either)
The front nine was a blast to play and the three holes that close out the front I’d play over and over and over again.
The 7th is a very challenging par 4 with a small canyon that bisects the fairway. I thought for sure I had hit it into the ditch with my tee shot, but I was quite surprised when we rolled up to it, and I saw my ball on the other side. This is one of the instances had the GPS been installed or had a yardage book common sense would have prevailed, and I would have chosen differently what I did on the tee.
The 8th is a par 3 that brings Lake Las Vegas into play.
The groundskeepers were kind enough to throw out a Sunday championship pin placement for us to make the hole just that much more challenging. I was up to the task taking my 5iron from 180 to the center of the green, what water!
The 9th hole continues using the lake to shape the hole. A dogleg to the left makes a perfectly placed tee shot almost mandatory to get on safely to the heavily guarded green.
To the back, we go.
The back nine didn’t disappoint going back up into the hills with some rather treacherous holes and then concluding with the 17th and 18th running alongside the Lake. When we returned to the clubhouse, we were greeted by one of the attendants, and he posed the question “Which hole was your favorite?” I looked at my counterpart, and he looked back at me as we both struggled to find the right answer. “Ummm… 1 through 18??” I know it was lame, but it’s all I could come up with being put on the spot like that! Normally I have a few hours to reflect.
Looking back at it now three holes stood out to me the most, the first being the par 5, 5th.
It played 494 from the tee’s we were on, and there is little room for error. I hit one of my best drives of the day and still had 240 to the green. The green is protected like a medieval castle with a creek to the right and massive bunkers in front; it was Jack’s work at its finest.
The par 4 7th I mentioned earlier was another one that stood out to me after reflecting on the round. It was such a great design. Carry the canyon and have a downhill lie to green that’s protected by the lake long, and bunkers all around or layup and have a much flatter, longer shot into the green.
There are of course the signature 8th, 17th & 18th holes that are sure to get talked about for years to come.
But, if I had to pick just one to play over and over again, it would be the par 5 15th.
It features a highly elevated tee box that has a fantastic view of the surrounding mountains. Again another carry over an enormous canyon is required to have any attempt at getting your second shot near the green, or for me the second fairway back across the same ravine although it was much more manageable for the second shot.
With your third shot, you’re transformed from a desert target course to bunker heaven with the breathtaking beauty only the likes of Mr. Nicklaus could have found in such a barren place. I left the course saying to myself “Wow that was awesome!” and I’ve only experienced that feeling a few times (Shadow Creek, Streamsong and most recently Pacific Dunes at Bandon).
It’s hard to argue against the fact Reflection Bay has returned to its glory days.
I never got the chance to play before it closed but from the few folks I talked to at the course they all seemed to agree that it’s in better shape now than it ever was before the shutdown. Let’s all hope they’re able to maintain the excellent start to the reopening and continue to provide patrons with outstanding service and unbelievable golf.
Bravo Reflection Bay, Bravo!
Visit the Reflection Bay Golf Club website to book your tee times, I promise you it’s a golf outing you’ll be talking about for years to come!