This might be the only course in the country that merits a two-digit phone code – as in Area 51.
Technically, Coyote Springs lies just outside “The Box,” the legendary zone of restricted air space north of Las Vegas comprising Nellis Air Force Range and the Nevada Test Site. There, where mushroom clouds once flourished, civilians still dare not wander and only UFOs enjoy free reign. The ground immediately to the east has been zoned for a massive planned community: 43,000 acres (67 square miles), on a tract straddling Clark and Lincoln counties, with schemes on paper for as many as 159,000 homes and 16 golf courses.
So far, there is only one 18-hole layout, Coyote Springs – The Chase, designed by Jack Nicklaus. Construction has started on a second (yet-to-be-named) layout, co-designed by Nicklaus and Pete Dye. A partnership with the PGA of America on a teaching center and associated housing has, as of the new year, been dropped. Developer Harvey Whittemore plans to go it alone.
As for evidence of those homes and planned schools, shopping areas and community centers – well, not yet a trace. Director of golf Mike Sizemore reverted to real-estate language when he said of impending construction plans, “We hope to go vertical soon.”
The trick will be to do that before they go horizontal. This is, after all, a long way out, 50 miles northeast of downtown Las Vegas. There’s nothing around but eerily beautiful and empty desert landscape. If you make the trek, you had better stop off at the nearest Starbucks or Subway, 45 miles away, or bring food with you.
People seem to be coming for golf – 10,000 rounds strong in 2009, its first full year of operation. The setting is magnificent, along a broad valley framed by the Arrow Canyon Range to the east and the Sheep Range to the west. And the price ($85-$150) also is attractive compared to prevailing rates in Las Vegas.
The par-72 course, 7,471 yards from the way-back tees, has mogul-like ground movement, all of it shaped (and sometimes overshaped) out of the naturally mild west-to-east slope. At an average elevation of 2,400 feet above sea level, Coyote Springs affords plenty of carry. There’s also a lot of playing width throughout, with alternate paths off the tee demarked by diagonally protruding bunkers and the occasional mid-fairway hazard. The long views of the surrounding arid terrain make each tee-fairway-green corridor look like a verdant cutout.
Perhaps with subsequent construction, the viewscapes will be compromised. But that’s another reason to make the hike from The Strip now.
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Rater’s notebook: Coyote Springs – The Chase
1.) Ease and intimacy of routing: 6
Out and back routing of returning nines, clockwise front and counterclockwise back, with large clusters of future home sites arrayed within loops formed by several holes.
2.) Quality of shaping: 4
The result looks like ski moguls everywhere, some more pronounced than others, with no pretense of anything looking natural. Bunker faces are far too busy and unsettled.
3.) Natural setting and overall land plan: 8
The stark beauty of the place is what a golfer will find appealing, but future development likely will change everything.
4.) Interest of greens and surrounding chipping contours: 4
In the aftermath of doing Sebonack Golf Club with Tom Doak, Nicklaus has gotten a bit carried away with green contours. The first five greens are tame; thereafter, they get too convoluted.
5.) Variety and memorability of par 3s: 6
Good mix of holes in both directions, with shots ranging (for me, from 6,807 yards) from 7-iron to 3-hybrid. Best of them was the longest, the eighth hole, 233 yards from the back, with room to work the ball in left to right between a forward bunker and a flanking pond.
6.) Variety and memorability of par 4s: 7
Fine mix of long and short holes, many of them defined by split-fairway options around central bunkers. Too bad the ninth and 18th holes are weak clichés: mirror holes around opposite shores of the same lake.
7.) Variety and memorability of par 5s: 7
Big, wide and with lots of options on second shots, ensuring interest all the way.
8.) Basic conditioning: 8
Superintendent Luke Solem and crew have done a fine job establishing consistent turfgrass throughout: perennial rye tees, fairways and roughs, as well as A-4 bentgrass greens. No need to suffer awkward overseed transition here, which means consistent quality year round.
9.) Landscape and tree management: 8
Small, scrubby vegetation and native trees ensure color and a diverse habitat, but nothing that it is vertically obtrusive.
10.) “Walk in the park” test: 7
A vigorous and engaging hike, with each nine up and back including about 150 feet in elevation change and the occasional crosswalk around (future) development.
Overall rating: 6.0 (not cumulative)
Solid, if at times overdesigned, and a bracing walk on the wild side of otherwise forbidden ground. Golfweek’s Best course raters rightly deemed Coyote Springs – The Chase the No. 10 best new layout of 2008-09.
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• Par 72, 7,471 yards
• 3100 State Route 168, Coyote Springs, NV 89037
• 702-422-1400 / 800-742-8455
• Green fees: $85-$150 (optional cart included)
• Caddies mandatory before 11 a.m; walking optional after 11 a.m.