Bear’s Best Las Vegas is a treat to play
Play golf in Montana, Arizona and Mexico on the same day
In science fiction theory there is a parallel world somewhere in the universe. This parallel world already exists in Las Vegas, or to be more specific, the Bear’s Best Golf Course. Jack Nicklaus, the Golden Bear, has designed 200 golf courses around the world. His company, Nicklaus Designs, has eight offices in six countries and has created 350 courses. Golf World magazine has rated this Las Vegas course in its Top 50 Public Golf Courses, while Golf Digest lists Bear’s Best in its Best Places to Play. There are two Bear’s Best golf courses, with the second course in Atlanta, Georgia.
In creating this unique golf course, the best 18 desert holes were selected from courses in Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and California. Many of the courses are famous PGA courses such as Castle Pines in Colorado and the private PGA West in La Quinta (Palm Springs), California. Nicklaus insisted that each hole replicate the original hole based on the topography of the original location, right down to the trees that come into play. ClubCorp of America was responsible for the actual construction.
A real treat
Bear’s Best has the Red Rock and Kyle Canyons on one side and the Las Vegas Valley and Strip on the other side. The course bills itself as a high-end daily fee facility priced from $129 to $249 and focused on corporate entertaining, golf outings and tournaments. If you can afford the green fee or win big at the casinos, Bear’s Best is a real treat.
This upscale golf course comes equipped with a bag drop and attendants, a 75,000-square-foot all-grass practice facility, a 10,000-square-foot clubhouse, a well-stocked pro shop, a beer cart and a staff that can handle tournaments, meetings and weddings. Each golf cart has a full-colour INFOREMER GPS unit displaying the entire hole, hazards and distances to the flag. Push the correct button and Jack Nicklaus is heard explaining how to play the hole.
A challenging front nine
With the opportunity to play the course, it was now time to step to the first blue tee (par 72 at 6,628 yards, CR 71.3, slope 130).
The front nine proved harder than the back nine. The first hole (par 4, 370 yards) replicates No. 6 at PGA West, a private course in La Quinta, California. Water lines the entire left side, with a narrow fairway and three deep bunkers guarding a sloping green.
Hole No. 4 (par 3, 195 yards) is actually No. 7 of the Old Works Golf Club in Anaconda, near Butte, Montana. What is unique about this hole is the black sand tailings found in the bunkers, supplied by the Anaconda Copper Mines.
Hole No. 5 (par 4, 414 yards) is based on No. 10 at the El Dorado Resort in Cabo Real, Mexico. It is the No. 1 handicap hole on Bear’s Best. A waste area lines the entire left side, with a deep bunker to the right of the green.
Hole No. 9 [par 4, 393 yards] is a copy of Hole No. 6 at the Desert Mountain Geronimo Course in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a difficult hole, dogleg left, with a well-placed fairway bunker on the left. The shot to the green needs to carry over an arroyo that fronts an elevated green protected by two bunkers. All the greens slope towards either water hazards or the Strip.
Hole 10 and beyond
At the turn, the fast greens were still causing me problems. I thought the lunch special of a hotdog and beer for only $7 should correct the problem.
As I stepped onto the 10th tee feeling refreshed, a monster stretched before me. Hole No. 10 (par 4, 392 yards) is a duplicate of No. 10 at PGA West. There seems to be two fairways. A massive bunker and deep waste area splits the fairway in two, with three deep sand bunkers surrounding the green. Just stay out of the left green bunkers!
Hole No. 11 represents No. 2 at the Old Works Golf Club and has more black sand. Holes No. 11 through 14 are very reasonable and are birdie/par holes. Holes 15, 16 and 17 are all from the Desert Mountain courses in Scottsdale, Arizona, and not too difficult.
Hole No. 15 (par 3, 211 yards] mirrors Hole 5 of the Desert Mountain Chiricahua Course. There is little fairway and much desert wash and vegetation. Two bunkers guard the green.
Hole No. 16 (par 4, 392 yards) has a bunker right in the middle of the fairway and re-creates Hole No. 4 of the Chiricahua Course. Two massive bunkers extend along the left side of the 17th green (par 5, 516 yards], making it the longest hole on the course.
Finally, I arrived at the finishing hole feeling a little tired. It is really the second handicap hole on Bear’s Best. Hole No. 18 (par 4, 439 yards) is No. 18 at PGA West’s Resort course in La Quinta. This is a strong finishing hole. A sand area and pond run along the entire right side. A sloping green hugs the water. Even the pros can have trouble on this finishing hole, which is a par 4 at 463 yards and full of trouble.
Play 18 signature holes
The course is intimidating and daunting, yet exciting and challenging. Bear’s Best gives you very little and any birdies or pars are well-deserved. A Nicklaus course usually has wide fairways, large undulating greens and deep bunkers. Bear’s Best deviates from that with some small greens, narrow fairways and grass bunkers. The greens were running around 9 on the stimpmeter.
What you must remember is that you are playing 18 signature holes. Put together the hardest 18 holes from 18 different golf courses and you have a picture of Bear’s Best.
My only criticism about the course is that the traditional red, white and blue flags are not used on the greens. With the large greens, the distance from front to back pins can be substantial. Other than that, the staff was very pleasant, the course beautiful and the members I played with were friendly and helpful.
Par 72, 7,194 Yards, CR 74.0, Slope 147 (back tees)