Black Mountain Golf & Country Club near Las Vegas gets its finishing touches

By Mike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Often less is more. For proof, all you have to do is look at the recent changes at Black Mountain Golf and Country Club in Henderson, where this fall more than $2 million in renovations were completed.

Black Mountain Golf Course - No. 1
By replacing areas of irrigated turf with decomposed granite, Black Mountain has a better look and feel.
Black Mountain Golf Course - No. 1Black Mountain Golf Course - No. 7Black Mountain Golf & Country Club - Henderson

While many of the changes at this 27-hole, semi-private golf course included new tees and trees, the impetus for the new look at Black Mountain had more to do with removing turf, not adding it. Thanks to a turf reduction rebate program by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Black Mountain was able to help the environment while improving the golf course.

"Without the rebate program," Black Mountain General Manager Steve Goldstein said, "we wouldn't have been able to afford this."

Black Mountain received $2.7 million for eliminating 46 acres of irrigated turf and covering those areas with plant material and natural desert terrain. The water savings alone add up to 75 million gallons a year, and the rebate money plus the savings allowed Black Mountain to hire Arizona golf course design company Pro Turf International to oversee the changes that not only comply with the SNWA program but also improve the golf course, including the driving range as part of another 12-acre improvement. The course's maintenance crews also added decorative dry rock walls throughout the course, reminiscent of something you might see off the Yucatan Peninsula.

The majority of the changes occurred on the original Founder's nine of the member-owned, semi-private 27-hole club, which is open for public play. The club was founded in 1957, making it the third oldest Las Vegas-area golf course.

The Founder's nine, which opened in 1959, was designed by Bob Baldock. It now plays to a little more than 3,500 yards from the back tees and may be the most difficult of the three layouts. The first three holes all feature small, elevated greens that the club refers to as its own "Amen Corner." The original nine holes used to be pretty much wall-to-wall turf, with carries over deep rough on some holes and grass in some of the other out-of-play areas.

Black Mountain's second nine, the Horizon Course, opened in 1963. Designed by Baldock and then-superintendent Ira Cluff, it's more open than the original nine holes. Generous off the tee, Horizon rewards precise approach shots to well-bunkered greens. The two par 5s are well within reach of most skilled players, so the opportunity for birdies are there, Philips said.

The third nine, the Desert Course, opened in 2002. Designed by George Williams of Williams, Gill and Associates of Abilene, Texas, the latest layout is true desert golf. It really wasn't affected by the renovation. Most of the changes came on the Founder's and Horizon, including a new irrigation system that brought the course up to modern standards. The result is better, more efficient coverage that has translated into more vibrant turf.

Mostly on the Founder's nine, turf was removed in the out-of-play areas and in front of some of the tees, replaced with decomposed granite. The surface, which compacts over time, is easy to hit from and won't damage clubs. Now players who don't carry the ball very far won't find their balls in the deep rough. Instead, they can easily advance the ball, and the DG surfaces also provide roll they wouldn't ordinarily get.

For the better player, the new areas don't come into play unless they are around the greens.

"It's been an advantage to the less skilled player and certainly not a hindrance to the polished player," Director of Golf Joan Phillips said.

The program also included plant coverage according to a formula put forth by the SNWA. A series of trees planted on the Founder's 9, for example, helps protect the nearby homes in the area.

Pro Turf International also moved a few tees to set up better angles to holes and bring the surrounding Black Mountains more into play.

The second hole, for example, played 188 yards from the back tee. By moving the tee to the right, it gave players the option of fading the ball into the hole, which they couldn't do before because of the trees on the left side.

Another example is the seventh hole, which used to be a straightaway 350-yard par 4. A new tee situated more to the left makes it a more challenging dogleg left as the hole was lengthened to nearly 400 yards.

Still, another step was taken to make the course easier for some players. A new set of tees, positioned between the white and forward tees, was added throughout the course, giving those who played golf at Black Mountain decades ago the opportunity to experience the same kind of approach shots they remember.

Mike BaileyMike Bailey, Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.

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