Black Mountain Golf and Country Club: The Affordable Alternative
HENDERSON, NV - About 10 years ago, Las Vegas decided it was going to become a major golf destination. Developers from Henderson to Summerlin brought in big name architects like Tom Fazio, Pete Dye and Jack Nicklaus to design upscale daily fee and resort courses that cost a casino's worth of earnings to play.
Wither the common man and his golf game, were it not for golf courses like the Black Mountain Golf and Country Club.
Black Mountain is an old golf course - the third oldest in Vegas -- but you'd never know it. The course conditions approach those of the higher end courses, and the service is accommodating without being overwhelming. Technically, Black Mountain is classified as semi private, and it has the 460 members to prove it.
But Jeff Jensen, Black Mountain's Director of Marketing, eschews the label for a more democratic moniker.
"I like to call us a blue collar country club," Jensen says. "We are definitely the affordable alternative. The dues are very low, and the outside play for residents and nonresidents is affordable. We offer better conditions and service than the county owned courses, but we don't pretend to be Reflection Bay."
Affordable, however, is a relative term when it comes to Las Vegas golf.
Compare this with the 200 plus clams it takes to get on one of Sin City's newer, snazzy tracks, and Black Mountain.
"I think we can safely say that for the money, you won't find a better course," Jensen says.
And for that money, you'll find a very traditional golf course (for the desert, at least), and a challenging test of golf that belies the course's humble 6,550-yard length.
"The layout is very difficult," Jensen says. "People who play here everyday will tell you that shooting a low score is difficult. The most difficult part of the course is the greens. They break all over the place and they are tough to putt. We also grow the rough high for everyday play and tournaments."
Black Mountain has a history of hosting a number of qualifying events, including the U.S. Open, Pub Links, and the Mid Amateur.
"The players often post higher scores here than at the course hosting the next level," Jensen says. "When the wind is up, Black Mountain will give you all you want."
Older, venerable golf courses like Black Mountain that sport interesting layouts, excellent conditions and friendly service have a way of defying time and the marketplace. Black Mountain clings to these three essential ingredients, unwilling to lie down and play dead for the lavish modern courses that have sprung up since the late 1980's.
Black Mountain's original nine holes opened back in 1957 in what was then, the middle of the desert. Bob Badlock, the original designer of record, added the back nine in 1965. The notion of building a golf course in the middle of nowhere was actually the dream of a cadre of local businessmen who just wanted a nice place to tee it up during the warm desert winters. The entire tract came at an affordable price courteousy of the Bureau of Land Management, and Black Mountain's owners even pitched in to help Badlock with the land clearing.
Black Mountain's front nine is wide open, and allows the average golfer to recover from errant drives and missed greens to have reasonable shots at par. Out of bounds markers are few and far between, and golfers that actually manage to find the white stakes get exactly the punishment they deserve.
The back nine is tree-lined and much tougher from tee to green. Driver is a risky club to pull on almost every hole on the ride in, and the greens are undulating and much tougher to putt.
The back is also home to Black Mountain's toughest stretch of holes - No.'s 10, 11, and 12 -- which Jensen refers to as his course's version of "Amen Corner."
"In the U.S. Open Qualifier, this is where guys either ended up winning it or losing it," Jensen adds.
The 391-yard par 4 10th hole sports out of bounds to the left and right, and is easily the most difficult driving hole on the course. The green is an upside down tee cup that slopes off all four directions. Adding to the hair pulling difficulty that is well-bunkered and even slopes gradually down from front to back.
No. 11 is a 430-yard par 4 that is the longest two-shotter on the course. The hole normally plays about 450-yards into the prevailing Black Mountain winds. It takes a Herculean drive and a Davis Love III-like long iron shot to reach a green with all kinds of break.
Just when you think Black Mountain will back off after these two nail biters, Badlock trots out the course's No. 1 handicap hole, the 180-yard par 3 12th. You could play golf once a week your entire life and not find a one-shotter that is rated as the most difficult hole on the course. But the 12th is that once in a lifetime exception, primarily because of the prevailing wind (right into your teeth), a Lilliputian putting surface, and deep bunkers to the left and right of the green.
Some locals actually consider the 357-yard par 4 16th hole to be the "sneaky" toughest on the course, but Jensen says that decent players should be able to move on to the penultimate hole with nothing worse than a five.
"In my opinion, that is not that difficult a hole," he says. "The green slopes back to front, but with a good long drive you'll only have a wedge into the green, so the slope isn't really a factor."
And the locals are more than happy to surrender the argument to Jensen, what with the killer deal they are getting on greens fees. Produce a Nevada driver's license and you can get around on Black Mountain on the weekends and holidays. Jensen also reminds players that twilight rates are available year around.
"Our members are 9 to 5'ers, for the most part, so the atmosphere here is fun and informal," Jensen says. "We offer a value-related product, but we're not a 'muni'. Our customer service levels are equivalent to that of much higher-priced clubs in the area."
Course Location/Rates/Travel Information
Location: Black Mountain Golf and Country Club is located in Henderson. From I-515S, take the Horizon Drive exit (#59), turning left onto East Horizon Dr. Turn left onto Greenway Road. The course is on your right.
Black Mountain offers discount rates in addition to their normal rates, including resident, member guest, senior, junior, twilight, and summer rates (June through September). Always call ahead for details on rates and overseeding.
Travel Information Closest Airport: Las Vegas (Mccarran) Int'l (Las) 14.3 Mi. Stay/Play Packages: Currently none available.
December 7, 2001