Lake Las Vegas a women's golf paradise in shadow of Strip frenzy

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nev. - LPGA sex symbol Natalie Gulbis chooses to live in this man-made lake town 20 minutes and a few worlds removed from the Las Vegas Strip. Worldwide pop singing star Celine Dion made the same decision.

Lake Las Vegas - Women Shopping
The shopping in Lake Las Vegas' European-styled village is just one of the off-course attractions for women golfers.
Lake Las Vegas - Women ShoppingReflection Bay Golf Club - No. 8Hyatt Regency - PoolReflection Bay Golf Club

This is no mere rich and famous coincidence. Not in Las Vegas where there are enough sky high luxury condos on The Strip to house busloads of Hollywood celebrities. Caesars Palace built Dion her own theater. You don't think they would have thrown a killer multi-level penthouse into the deal if asked?

Here's betting Lake Las Vegas is home for Gulbis and Dion thanks in no small part to this: It gets golf for women.

Whether you're a pro like Gulbis or a dedicated amateur like Dion, finding a great golf experience is no easy task for most women. If the forward tees placement doesn't show all the forward thinking of a cave man, the clubhouse staff does.

From needlessly hassling marshals to Herculean forced carries, there are plenty of potential obstacles between golfing gals and any golf paradise.

Including, some guy calling them gals too often.

These are things you don't have to worry about at Lake Las Vegas. Instead, like any other golfer, women are free to obsess over making birdie. You know, the easy stuff.

Lake Las Vegas has two high-end public golf courses — the Jack Nicklaus-designed Reflection Bay and the Tom Weiskopf-plotted The Falls — an even more high-end and very private Nicklaus, a
new Tom Fazio
under construction, a Hyatt Regency, a Ritz Carlton, two casinos, a European-modeled village and a refreshingly progressive attitude.

"They don't treat you like you need to be shown which side of the driver to hit the ball with,'' regular Vegas visitor Barbara Linsky said.

Perhaps, even more importantly, the course designers — particularly, surprisingly, Nicklaus' team — didn't make the forward tees an after thought.

Playing Reflection Bay from the front red tees at 5,166 yards does not completely warp the strategy of the game, putting golfers right into hazards or leaving them with ridiculous second shots. That's usually one of women golfers biggest complaint about high-profile courses from celebrity golf architects — that the women's tees leave them in a virtual no-man's land.

Eileen Crawford, travel industry sales manager at the Hyatt Regency, meets with a group of professional business women golfers to play a Vegas course semi-regularly. While obviously biased by her hotel selling golf packages that include Reflection Bay, Crawford says that this Nicklaus is many in the group's favorite.

"A lot of professional business women have told me that they really love play Reflection Bay,'' Crawford said. "I usually have to think about it a little and say in mind, ‘Yes, Reflection Bay is a great play for women.' Sometimes when you're so close to it, you don't realize what an asset you really have here."

Golf for Women magazine thought about it and named Reflection Bay No. 33 in its latest Top 50 Golf Courses in America for Women. It's the only course in Nevada to make the list.

This is in part due to holes like No. 7. Playing at 300 yards from the forward red tees, this par 4 is the No. 1 handicap hole for women. But it doesn't completely take a forward hitter out of the game. The small stream dissecting the fairway is in a spot that still gives women golfers a chance to clear it with a good second shot to the green on a ledge along the lake.

Getting too much club on the approach here is liable to leave the woman golfer shooting back up at the raised green from a lowered sandy water's edge that is more beach than bunker. Just like it is for someone playing from a back set of tees.

Everyone's still playing the same game here. Man, woman, long hitter, short hitter.

This also applies on No. 8, a pretty, showcase par 3. This narrow hole is essentially its own peninsula complete with palm trees. It provides nice views of the lake and the Hyatt. And at 132 yards from the red tees, the same challenge of keeping your ball on the peninsula while shooting for the green with a mid-iron comes through.

"I just don't want to have to using a 3-iron from the forwards while the guy's hitting with an 8-iron from the mid tees," Linsky said. "You want to be faced with the same type of shots."

Who knew Jack understood women?

Off-course perks

One course does not make a women's golf paradise though. Lake Las Vegas shines as much for its off-course options as its high-end, forward-thinking golf. The Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas has a Moroccan-themed spa with nine treatment rooms and the sense to put men in their own separate relaxation waiting rooms with the big-screen TV, while the women's area is more tranquil with juices and herbal teas galore.

The Ritz Carlton has a 30,000-square-foot pampering palace that includes the option of a hydrating blue flowers treatment. Yes, you're getting blue flowers wrapped around your face.

The lake complex's Montelago Village is another attraction with pull. There's an exclusive European perfume shop, a gourmet grocery, custom-made jewelry shops and a store called Flights of Fancy that has more kites and wind chimes crammed into its space than most people see in a lifetime.

Think that's silly? You're probably in the wrong place.

Lake Las Vegas is a largely blissfully testosterone light zone. While most of Las Vegas is filled with young cocktail waitresses in near-bikini bottoms, guys trying to channel Vince Vaughn's character in "Swingers" and loud, loud bozos everywhere, Lake Las Vegas is more soothing pastel colors and starry nights (in the sky, not at the craps table).

Natalie, Celine and women golfers of all ilk surely approve.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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