Falls Golf Club a demanding, top-flight Weiskopf design at Lake Las Vegas Resort
HENDERSON, Nev. - When the Falls Golf Club, the third golf course at the spectacular Lake Las Vegas Resort, opened in 2002, the front nine merely served as a prelude to what awaited golfers when they hit the slopes of the more dramatic back nine.
After all, course designer and former PGA Tour player Tom Weiskopf didn't have as much to work with on the opening holes as he did when he got to 10, and the scenery certainly wasn't as good. But that was six years ago. Since then, the course and its surrounding development have matured, and Weiskopf has returned to add a few touches here and there. Plus, a few of these opening holes have tremendous shot-value on their own. You just have to know where to look.
There's the 209-yard par-3 third, for example, which got a new water feature to go with its well-bunkered green. Then there's the par-4 fifth hole. At 448 yards, you almost have to hit driver off the tee, but there's a fairway bunker on the right side some 250 yards away and lake that runs down the left side once you get past it. A slight draw over the bunker - if you can hit your driver that far - would seem to be a good shot, except that the fairway slopes to the left, toward the water. Can you say demanding?
The 519-yard dogleg left par 5 is a terrific risk-reward hole that awaits gamblers who try to hit the green in two by cutting the corner of a mountainside to a small green protected by a creek.
Or the 427-yard par-4 ninth. If you can hit a big drive (playing from the appropriate tees), you risk fairway bunkers on the left or water as you run out of fairway. Lay back with a fairway wood and hitting a good shot to this well-bunkered green becomes that much more of a challenge.
How good is the front nine, really? General Manager and Director of Golf John Herndon says if he's just playing nine holes on a day, he generally plays the front nine.
"From a good player's point of view, I like the front nine, just because they're just such good holes," said Herndon.
The truth is that for the first couple of years, The Falls lay in the shadow of the other golf course open to the public, the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay, which has five holes on the back nine that follow the shores of Lake Las Vegas. Reflection Bay has been listed among the top 100 golf courses in the U.S. on many rankings, and many consider it among the three or four best golf courses in Las Vegas.
But in the last couple of years, as the front nine has filled in and The Falls has matured overall, players who play both are walking away split on which course is their favorite. The reason might be simple: The Falls is arguably the most fun of the layouts here. (A fourth Tom Fazio course is slated to open in the near future.)
The 7,250-yard par-72 is named for two man-made waterfalls behind the 11th and 17th holes, but that's not necessarily what grabs your attention. Once you get past a solid front nine, the real adventure begins, especially for the resort golfer, Herndon says. Just wait until you get to the par-5 12th hole.
It starts with an uphill, intimidating looking tee shot that has you wondering where this hole goes. Then, you have to figure out where to hit your blind second shot on this 553-yard gem that most players would not attempt in two. Even the third shot, which is hopefully a wedge, is anything but boring to a severely sloped green that sits perilously close to a falloff.
Next comes a 388-yard par 4. The view alone of the valley and the city is worth the trip up to this ledge of a tee box. Most players will lay back here. Driver brings in trouble as the fairway narrows before a narrow green that's tucked into a small canyon. Even with a wedge, this approach shot is anything but easy, but it does present a birdie opportunity for skilled players.
The fun continues on the 14th hole, a drivable 336-yard par 4, a Weiskopf trademark. With the tee box some 100 feet above the fairway, low humidity and air that's a little thinner than at sea level, (this shot probably plays 60-70 yards shorter than the posted yardage) Herndon recommends going for it if you've got confidence in your driver. Laying back in between four fairway bunkers might pose more of a risk.
These holes were anything but easy to create. Weiskopf didn't move much dirt.
"It was really cost prohibitive to start blowing up mountains," Herndon says.
Weiskopf had to stretch these holes out (walking here is not really an option), yet people don't seem to mind. It's the most talked about stretch on the course and perhaps in the development, with its mind-blowing elevation changes. Even if you make double bogey on a hole, just seeing your tee shot in the air for 10 or 12 seconds is worth the trip.
Like all the golf courses at Lake Las Vegas, The Falls has a well-stocked golf shop, full-service grill and large practice facility, including expansive putting and chipping greens as well as practice bunkers.
Probably the best way to enjoy The Falls is by booking a stay-and-play package at the resort. Located about 17 miles east of the Las Vegas strip, this 3,592-acre Tuscan-style destination has three world class hotels: The Ritz Carlton-Lake Las Vegas, which features a 30,00 square foot spa and three restaurants, Loews Lake Las Vegas Resort and MonteLago Village Resort.
May 30, 2008