Bear’s Best Las Vegas: Nicklaus’ layout in Sin City lives up to its name

By Bill Bowman
Courtesy of

Face it, we’ve all played golf courses where each hole looks similar to the previous one — or the next one. But that’s not the case at Bear’s Best Las Vegas, a Jack Nicklaus-designed course.

You’ve got a wide selection of the Golden Bear’s designs from places such as Old Works Golf Course in Montana (complete with black-sand bunkers), Castle Pines in Colorado (complete with pine trees) and many more that will tantalize the senses.

And best of all, it’s at one golf course located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.

“It’s just an amazing design concept by Mr. Nicklaus,” said Jim Stanfill, general manager. “It differentiates itself from everything else out there. Mr. Nicklaus took some of his best designs and put them together right here in Las Vegas.”

So let’s take a breathtaking trip and play some of the best golf holes from some of Nicklaus’ top designs — all within a four-hour round.

Bear’s Best Las Vegas: On the course

Bear’s Best Las Vegas’ opening and closing holes are two of the best around — one from the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West (the first) and one from PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course (the 18th). The opening hole plays 413 yards from the tips. There’s a huge pond on the left that adds to the challenge as well as the beauty. The second shot is into an elevated green, so make sure to hit enough club as a false front filters short shots down some 20 yards.

The finale is one of the toughest players will face anywhere. At 463 yards, it’s a monster. With a massive pond guarding the entire right side of the hole (as well as lapping up to the right side of the green), staying left is a must. The second shot will be a hybrid or long iron (unless you’re a really big hitter) into a large green. There’s bailout area to the left, but there’s also a bunker there that comes into play. It’s a tremendous finishing hole that can certainly make or break the round.

“No. 1 puts you on alert immediately,” Stanfill said. “It just screams Jack Nicklaus. If you’re a little short on the approach, you’re in a bunker or worse — have rolled back into the lake. It really sets the tone for the round. And the round culminates with no. 18; that is one of the best closing holes not only in Las Vegas but just about anywhere. It’s got length water, sand, out of bounds … there’s just no quit on this hole.”

In between are 16 holes that Nicklaus has weaved over, around and through arroyos. The holes include replicas of his layouts at some of the finest resorts in the West: Cabo Del Sol (Mexico), Desert Highlands (Arizona), La Paloma (Arizona), Las Campanas (New Mexico), Palmilla Golf Club (Mexico) and others.

“It’s kind of like going down to the Strip,” Stanfill said. “When you’re there, you can go from Italy to France to the South Pacific. It’s the same type of experience here.”

The most truly unique aspect of Bear’s Best Las Vegas is the black-sand bunkers on the fourth and 11th holes, replicas of Nicklaus’ design in Anaconda, Mont. The bunkers lie in stark contrast to the white-sand bunkers around the rest of the course.

“Jack shows you no mercy if you’re not playing well or not playing the right set of tees as there are a lot of bunkers and forced carries,” said Brad Davies, who has been playing at Bear’s Best since Day 1. “It’s just a great course, and all of the holes are stunning.

“And it’s not a course players can — or need — to overpower. “You really have to think your way around the course,” Davies added. “But it’s beautiful, and it’s a challenge, and that’s just what you want in a course.”

In the Bear’s Best Las Vegas clubhouse

A spacious, 10,000-square-foot clubhouse welcomes players before or after the round. A wide selection of apparel, clubs and accessories is on hand, as well as Jack’s Place — the ideal spot to grab a bite to eat (inside or outside).

There’s also enough room for any private events that may come into your life, whether it’s a wedding, retirement party, graduation or just about anything else (with top-of-the-line catering available).

Bear’s Best Las Vegas: The verdict

Bear’s Best really screams Las Vegas. It’s just minutes from the Strip, but it’s a course that literally spans the West with the variety of holes selected from some of his top designs.

Whether it’s just a quick round of golf or a stay-and-play package, Bear’s Best will challenge players from the first tee shot until the last putt drops.

Bear’s Best Las Vegas

Bear’s Best Las Vegas is a unique golf experience that brings together 18 of Jack Nicklaus’ favorite holes into one Las Vegas golf course. Nicklaus and his design team scoured…

More News from Bear’s Best Las Vegas

April 19, 2016

Las Vegas World Amateur includes golfers from 30 states, 40 countries

Read More