Home is where the heart is, but nobody ever said we couldn’t have more than one place that feels like home. –By Brian Hurlburt, Founder, LasVegasGolfInsider.com
Such is the case for some fortunate college golf programs that host tournaments in Southern Nevada, notably at Reflection Bay Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas among other courses.
Coastal Carolina has played host to the Lake Las Vegas Intercollegiate, and in 2022 the event featured 15 programs from around the country, including eventual champion West Virginia. Also playing were Pac 12 programs Utah and Oregon State, and Michigan from the Big 10.
The easy-to-get-to destination of Las Vegas and mostly mild weather year-round are two big reasons why schools and conferences host tournaments in Southern Nevada, but the overall Reflection Bay and Lake Las Vegas experience is certainly a deal closer. Lake Las Vegas is a resort and residential living community located in burgeoning Henderson, a Vegas suburb located about 25 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip.
The award-winning Jack Nicklaus layout and two resorts are located within walking distance of the 18 holes. The Westin Lake Las Vegas is perched above the course with views of the scenic holes available from most of the rooms. Plus, the expansive Lake Las Vegas High Performance Golf Institute and practice facility offers players and coaches the ability to fine tune their games prior to, during, and after the tournaments.
Reflection Bay’s amenities offer a one-stop shop and the experienced staff, led by manager of operations Eric Dutt, a former college golfer at Purdue, and general manager Jon Openshaw, are there to help with the details.
“The overall experience was first class,” says Jim Garren, Coastal Carolina’s coach from 2017-2022. “We run the General Hackler Championship tournament every year at our home course, but that’s at our home club and we know everybody. Because of that, it’s pretty smooth sailing. But you never really know when you start something new what you’re going to get. Unlike a football game or a basketball game, we can host a tournament wherever we want to as long as we have a club willing to do it. From the first phone call with Eric and his team, they were first class and they responded right away. They had answers and numbers very quickly. As it worked out, all we had to do was pretty much just invite the teams, get the field and set the pairings. They ran with everything else and it was great.”
Garren appreciated everything about the hospitality, but having the Westin Lake Las Vegas right there was better than he ever realized it would be.
“The coolest thing about it, other than they really know what they’re doing, is that you’re staying pretty much right there on site,” Garren says. “It was like our own little resort. Everything was just super easy for all the schools to get things done.”
Playing in the 2022 Coastal event was Rocky Mountain College. Their coach, Nathan Bailey, knows Reflection Bay and Lake Las Vegas better than most. In fact, both his men’s and women’s teams have played in events at Reflection Bay and enjoyed the experience multiple times. Bailey and Rocky Mountain also host the RMC Intercollegiate at Reflection Bay, a men’s and women’s event.
“The place is immaculate and is a wonderful place to go, visit and play,” Bailey says. “The people there have been so amazing to our program and they have helped us in many ways. The thing that sticks out is the community there and how willing they are to pay it forward. The staff has so much tournament experience and they do most of the work and everything goes off without a hitch and is streamlined.
“Every little thing is in place and the course is beautiful. It is one of those courses where if you are playing well you can score, but if you are a little off, you can be penalized. It is a very fair test for a tournament. Also, we have received so much positive feedback from other coaches about how much they enjoyed it. The event is run like a national championship and it is an elite event. The people there make everyone want to come back and the customer service is second to none. They definitely make you feel special.”
Besides playing in and/or hosting a tournament at Reflection Bay, the Rocky Mountain players have visited during off weeks to be custom fitted, practice, and learn at the High Performance Golf Institute, which is anchored by former PGA Tour professionals Craig Barlow and Jeff Gallagher. Plus club fitter Brendan Bergin.
“Craig made a very memorable comment to me one time about how he spent decades learning what he is trying to teach our kids, and if he had had an opportunity like this, he probably would have been a better player,” Bailey says. “I believe he and Jeff really enjoy sharing their knowledge and helping junior golfers and college golfers maximize their abilities.”
Garren summed up the overall Lake Las Vegas experience succinctly, whether you are a coach looking for a place to play a tournament or an everyday golfer looking for a stay and play.
“There are a lot of great college events and all of us are trying to put on a show for the other teams,” Garren says. “The overall setting at Reflection Bay and Lake Las Vegas allowed us to impress everyone from the players to the coaches to the traveling families. Every coach had something very positive to say and they all want to come back. Lake Las Vegas is just a neat place. I think that as a guy who coached at New Mexico and Oklahoma and spent a lot of time in Las Vegas, not only working but spending time with my friends who live there, I didn’t know what all was out there. Usually when you go to Vegas, you stay on the Strip and you might never do some things, but I think Reflection Bay would be perfect for a boy’s or girl’s golf trip or it would be perfect for the family. There’s not a lot of places in Las Vegas that are like that.”
Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas. Making players, fans and coaches feel at home, one college tournament at a time.
This is the second in a series of articles highlighting the Reflection Bay at Lake Las Vegas experience and published in conjunction with the course.