LAKE LAS VEGAS, Nev. — One never truly knows when a kid makes the decision about his life’s work, but, for Eric Dutt, it’s a safe bet that he was in the gallery watching the PGA Tour’s Sahara Invitational in the 1970s when the light bulb went off.
Dutt, whose family is considered one of the most influential in the Las Vegas golf scene, was going to be in the golf business.
Today, he is manager of operations for Reflection Bay Golf Club, seeking to transition the 1,000-acre resort community project on Lake Las Vegas, including private SouthShore Golf Club, to profitability.
The real estate recession of 2008 nailed the opulent subdivision in Henderson. One day foursomes were teeing it up, the next day no one was. Reflection Bay, a Jack Nicklaus beauty, and The Falls, a Tom Weiskopf design, were closed for business.
Paulson and Co., an investment company founded by American hedge fund manager John Paulson, reopened Reflection Bay in 2014. The purchase included The Falls, too, but a decision was made to not reopen that course.
So the irrigation system was fixed and the water turned on, and about half the brown grass came back to green. While getting 100 percent grass coverage was being addressed, Nicklaus came back and removed about a dozen bunkers and changed 20 more for playability purposes.
Then Dutt, who was brought on in 2017, told Nicklaus he was going to switch the nines. That was a bit controversial because the new No. 1 requires two forced carries over water.
“Yeah, I know a lot of golfers don’t like that, but I’ve got plans to soften that area of the golf course,” Dutt said.
So who is this guy?
Dutt won the Nevada State Amateur as a 17-year-old, then went to Purdue University to help the Boilermakers win the 1981 Big Ten Golf Championship and advance to the NCAA Championship. After college, Dutt returned to Vegas and began building his legacy.
Hole No. 9 | Par 5. [Photo: Reflection Bay Golf Club]
He’s in the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame and was a visionary for growth at Badlands Golf Club, Rio Secco Golf Club, Cascata, Las Vegas National Golf Club, Caesars Entertainment and the Butch Harmon School of Golf. Not to mention he has run the Wendy’s 3-Tour Challenge. In 1996 he generated 51,000 rounds at Badlands.
At Reflection Bay, Dutt is looking for excellent, pristine conditioning for a fun day on the golf course. He is also looking to expand a vision of providing state-of-the-art resort golf instruction scenarios to make good golfers reach loftier heights.
“I hope the Lake Las Vegas Golf Academy will take, say, a very good junior player and give him or her additional skills that will move them to become a college golfer,” Dutt said. “And I’m hoping we will become the place to come in Las Vegas for golf instruction.”
All the newest technology will be here, including indoor hitting bays with TrackMan, and two PGA Tour professionals to guide you on a journey to become the best you can be. Craig Barlow, a Henderson native, and Jim Gallagher are the two PGA Tour players who have been hired as teaching instructors.
Barlow had a storied amateur career in Las Vegas, winning every amateur title before turning professional in 1995. He made 170 cuts in PGA Tour events and has played in six U.S. Opens, one PGA Championship and one British Open. Barlow's most heralded course record is a 63 at Cypress Point Club that is shared with Ben Hogan.
Gallagher grew up in Indiana and attended Ball State. His brother Jim and sister Jackie both played the professional tours. Jeff turned professional in 1987 and won twice on what is now the Web.com Tour — the 1991 Cleveland Open and the 2000 South Carolina Classic. He still competes on the PGA Champions Tour.
Interesting, even though The Falls was closed, several holes have been designated for practice. The facilities include practice holes, bunker areas, putting and chipping and pitching greens as well as on course instruction.
“I think one should focus on scoring areas of the game, 100 yards and in,” Barlow said. “I also focus on proper set up, lack of tension, and great rhythm.”
Reflection Bay Golf Club, built in 1998, is set on luxurious Lake Las Vegas, located 20 minutes east of the Las Vegas Strip. The 320-acre, man-made lake is the centerpiece of this high-end residential resort community.
Five holes stretch along a mile and a half of shoreline, with greens connecting the hillside property of the Westin Lake Las Vegas, which has been remodeled and offers stay-and-play packages. The 200-yard, par-3 eighth, showcases a peninsula jutting out into Lake Las Vegas.
The pace is slow at Lake Las Vegas and the starry skies tell you that you’re 20 minutes away from the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip.
David R. Holland is a senior writer at Golf Vacations Magazine, an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. He resides in the southern Colorado mountains.