Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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Wide-open fairways at Lake Las Vegas

The renowned SouthShore Golf Club has been called one of the nation’s 10 best courses, and now anyone staying at Loews can play it

Image

Leila Navidi

Keegan Stokes of Walnut Creek, Calif., tees off at SouthShore Golf Club at Lake Las Vegas.

BY THE NUMBERS

$17,500

Once the price of first-year membership fees for SouthShore Golf Club. In a deal with Loews Las Vegas, the club is now allowing hotel guests to use the links. Lake Las Vegas and valley residents also can play.

$299

Package deal price for Loews hotel guests. Package includes the room, a round of golf, greens fees, and club and shoe rentals.

200

Number of golf members signed up since the course reopened in October under new management.

Lake Las Vegas

Pictured are condos sitting along Lake Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Lake Las Vegas ad from 2006

An advertisement for Lake Las Vegas from 2006.

Surrounded by multimillion-dollar mansions and such neighbors as Celine Dion, the SouthShore Golf Club has long been one of the most exclusive courses in the valley — so exclusive that it almost turned away Vice President Joe Biden in November.

Biden eventually got in as an “owner’s guest.” The club’s original members had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, at a minimum, to get access to the course. The first year of membership fees alone cost as much as a new car, and to be eligible for membership, you had to own a lot in the guarded, gated custom-home community. SouthShore’s roster touts the likes of pro golfer and model Natalie Gulbis.

But the walls of exclusivity are crumbling under the weight of the recession.

The club quietly signed a deal with Loews Lake Las Vegas last month allowing the hotel’s guests onto the course for the first time. It means a round of golf that used to cost $17,500 just in first-year membership fees now can be had for $299 — and that includes a hotel room, rental clubs and a glimpse of what remains of the good life at Lake Las Vegas.

The nearly 7,000-yard, lakeside course was designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus. Golf Magazine lauded it in 1996 as one of the top 10 courses in the country.

But last year, like so many other businesses, the course fell on hard times. After it was foreclosed on in August, it was acquired by Rhode Island-based Textron Inc. The course reopened under new management and new rules in October. The greens and fairways once only open to SouthShore residents became available first to any Lake Las Vegas and eventually any Las Vegas Valley resident who was willing to pay a year’s worth of $625 monthly membership fees. The $10,000 initiation fee was waived.

Since it reopened, the club has signed up 200 golf members and 45 social members (people who use the course restaurant and other amenities), says its director of membership sales, Mark Barrett.

“Golf courses need to look at how they can do their business differently, especially private courses,” Barrett says. “We need more rounds and more revenue.”

That’s why the course signed its 18-month deal with Loews Lake Las Vegas in late February. It’s also why the SouthShore Homeowners Association, “after much discussion,” agreed to crack open the gates to its once-private course. The group approved the deal after winning some concessions regarding how golfers would access the course within the gated community and designation of certain times for resident-only play, association President Vicki Hafen Scott says.

“It’s a benefit to the community to have a healthy, vibrant golf community,” Hafen Scott says.

The course needs the golfers and Loews needs the course. Lake Las Vegas’ two public courses, The Falls and Reflection Bay, went into foreclosure and closed last year. Loews and the soon-to-close Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas rely heavily on meetings and small conventions, spokeswomen for each of the properties said. And where there are meetings and business deals to be had, there are executives looking for golf courses.

“It’s definitely going to help with groups that are golf-minded, but I also expect it to help our leisure business just as much as our meeting business,” Loews spokeswoman Jennifer Duffy says.

Other private courses in town say they don’t need to partner with local hotels. A spokeswoman for Southern Highlands Golf Club said it is remaining private, and the Anthem Country Club, one of three clubs in the valley owned by its members, said it’s also doing just fine without the public guests.

Anthem Country Club, which has a $41,000 first-year membership cost, currently has about 400 golf members and 700 members who use the club for dining and social events, Paul Anderson, its general manager and chief operating officer, says.

Last year, in fact, was the club’s most profitable yet, he adds.

“People stayed home and used the club instead of going to San Diego for the weekend or taking a trip to Europe.”

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