"So I jump ship in Hong Kong, make my way over to Las Vegas at Bear's Best"
The name of Jack Nicklaus is synonymous with greatness. His career in golf will, in my opinion, never be matched. After golf, Jack has turned to golf course design and his skill as a golfer has transferred well into the design field. Nicklaus has over 400 golf courses currently with his name to them, in 45 countries and another 57 in development. The Bears Best golf course is 18 holes of Jack's favourite designs all put into one golf course. Although there are members here, the course is primarily a public, pay for play golf course. Let me tell you, it is worth every cent of the green fee. From the Stratasphere on the left, all along to the Luxor pyramid on the right, the Vegas strip is a sight to behold and this course will give you this view during your round from several points.
The golf course never lets up on you and the 1st hole, which is modelled on the 6th at PGA West is a par 4, that has a water carry to the fairway, then an uphill 2nd shot to a green guarded by bunkers short. Unlike a lot of golf courses, this one has no real bail out areas. The majority of the holes have a first cut, then you have desert shale and rock, so to score around here, you have to hit fairways.
The 2nd hole is modelled on the 12th at Cabo Del Sol in Mexico and this par 5 has trouble right off the tee, then plenty of sand around the green and short of it as well. Going for this in 2 will require 2 very long straight shots, so it is better to lay up if you want your par.
The 3rd is taken from the 8th at Desert Highlands in Arizona. You have to take it long and right off the tee to get a better view of the green which sits up the elevation and is guarded on the left by a deep bunker that runs the entire length of the hole. Take an extra club for your second here and you may make a birdie.
The 4th is the first par 3 here and is no easy one either. 209 meters downhill to a green with black sand in the bunkers front and back. The 5th is taken from Cabo Real, Mexico and is a 400 meter, par 4, that is uphill with a large bunker guarding the front right of the green. Another Mexican golf course, Palmilla is the inspiration for the next hole. The 363 meter par 4, has a waste area that you have to carry off the tee, then again as you hit your second shot.
The 7th is another long par 3 that requires an extra club off the tee. The 183 meter elevated green will not be kind to anything landing short, so take one more and be putting, instead of chipping. It was while playing the next hole that the members I played with, started to point out the million dollar property's that surround some of the holes here. The next 547 meter, par 5 framed them beautifully and it was quite a distraction looking at them while trying to concentrate on the job at hand. I hit it long into the bunker protecting the back and made a bogey.
The 9th is a 450 meter par 4 that doglegs to the left. There is a large waste area that cuts across this fairway about 100 out from the green. This is a really good hole with a tough green. There is a large fairway trap on the left and deep bunkers around the green, just to make it a little harder.
Jack starts the back nine as he started the first nine, with a hole from PGA West. This time, the 10th is the 10th and this 375 meter par 4 has a huge bunker in the middle of the fairway. You can hit to the left or the right and your second shot must get close if you want to make 3 as the green is tough to putt on.
11 is another hole with black sand in the bunkers, but try to resist the temptation of playing out of them. At only 289 meters, a good drive on this uphill hole will get you close enough to think birdie. The 12th is a 463 meter par 5 that requires placement. Unless you unleash a huge drive, play to the right to get the best angle in here. Par is a good score on this tough hole.
The 13th is a par 3 that is only 138 meters. It is downhill so club choice here is the only thing that will stop you hitting the green. Do not be short or long. The 14th is one of the best holes here. This long 421 meter par 4 has big trouble off the tee right as well as more sand left and right near the green. Depending on flag position, the green is tough to attack as it has a big step in the middle.
The 15th is another long par 3. At 210 meters, make sure you take plenty of club, but not too much as over the back is very bad. Left and right are guarded by bunkers and I found this par 3 to be the toughest one here. A bogey saw me sitting 5 over the card heading to the 16th tee.
The next 3 finishing holes I was told are the hardest holes on the course. The 16th has a massive fairway bunker on the left and another in the middle of the fairway. At only 380 meters though, this par 4 was the start of my comeback as I knocked it close to make birdie.
The 17th is a 491 meter par 5 and I was told it was reachable because of the downhill second shot. Pulling out the fairway wood, the members were correct and I landed on the green and 2 putted for another birdie. The hole itself has a large waste bunker that goes along the left side off the tee, but if you avoid the trouble, you should score well.
PGA West again has inspired Jack to re-create the 18th finishing hole to the tournament course. It's a 423 meter par 4 that has trouble right in the form of a hole long bunker and beyond that, water hazard. The green sits right on the water. Hitting it to a foot, birdie, birdie, birdie was a perfect way to finish this great golf course.
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1. Tees 14/15
2. Fairways 15/15
3. Bunkers 14/15
4. Greens 14/15
5. Design 15/15
6. The 19th 14/15
7. Price 8/10
Jack's Bear's Best is an unbelievably green oasis in the middle of the Vegas desert. The design of taking many golf courses and putting them together to create one gives the course a fun aspect that leaves you thinking this course is spectacular. Having not played PGA West, I'm unsure how accurate the re-design of the holes are, but if Jack has taken the best from it, I feel like I have played the best of it. The experience was first class from the beginning to end. I had no clubs, but was given a brand new set of Taylormades in a Taylormade Staff bag for only an extra $50. Special thanks to the consierge at The Bellagio for recommending this golf course, because it was pure bliss from drop off to pick up. There may be better conditioned golf courses in Las Vegas, but in my humble opinion, this golf course was one of the best ones I have ever played anywhere. The mixture of holes and the surrounding landscape of million dollar houses and desert sands and vegetation just makes this place very special. If you are ever in Las Vegas, go and play it!