By Mike Henle
With some golf courses facing tough times in Southern Nevada recently, there’s one that disappeared long before others had time to say adios.
In the summer of 1996, construction was announced on the development of a championship course near the entrance of Kyle Canyon with a soft opening set for June of 1997.
The course was the talk of the golf world; so much so that a long list of noted golfers — including PGA star Tiger Woods – played the course. The 3,200 yard, par-35, nine-hole layout would be built below Mount Charleston Hotel off State Route 157.
An avid golfer and a native Las Vegan, Frank Mummey was bound-determined to tell the world that Southern Nevada had the ideal setup that included a nine-hole golf course on Lee Canyon, where the temperatures in the summertime were 15-20 degrees cooler than in Las Vegas.
“Mount Charleston is so beautiful year-round and we want to provide our locals with more recreational experiences and an opportunity to further enjoy this magnificent mountain,” said Mummey, who was hired to bird-dog the construction of the course.
The layout wasn’t an easy one, but it certainly was a beautiful sight. Developers envisioned turn-away crowds during the summer’s highest temperatures.
Director of Golf Jeff Bruckner added, “The course is not crudely imposed on a defenseless mountain top. We spent countless hours studying the aerial photographs and (topographic) maps were evaluated to make certain that each golf hole fit the existing terrain.”
The plan was ideal and as Mummey said, it was the perfect setting for Las Vegans looking for a retreat from 115-degree summer temperatures.
Prominent Southern Nevada golfer KJ Howe, now 80, played the course; and worked for the group, too. The land was owned by prominent Las Vegan Allen Nel, who had even bigger ideas and was planning an Alpine Village with a skating rink and commercial shopping.
“Allen had big plans,” Bruckner said recently. “It was going to be like the Alps with little restaurants.”
Bruckner shared Nel’s belief that the area was destined for more development. He occasionally mixed with the golf staff of the Paiute Reservation east of I-95 to cross promote the two golf courses. Also, an additional nine holes was needed to fulfill the popular golf course.
However, the additional nine holes were not available, Nel ran into problems getting his land rezoned for commercial usage and the course died an early death in 1999 when Nel sold the remaining land to the U.S. Forest Service.
“The owner decided to forget about it because we couldn’t expand it to 18 holes,” Howe said. “Something happened that precluded the other nine holes. I helped run it for about six months. The course was open for a few years. We had cross-country tournaments and had the toughest Par 3 hole in the entire world, according to the Chisolm Rating Service from Scotland. I was lucky if I had a few pars on it. Some of the holes were very difficult and some were very easy.”
In fact, the Chisholm Rating Service rated Mount Charleston’s 7th hole as the third most difficult hole in the world at the time.
An amateur ice hockey player, Howe said “We had a lot of local men’s league players that played the course. Tourists heard about it and played the course. It was a good test of golf.”
Howe said the additional nine holes were disallowed by the Clark County Commission.
“Some of the residents on the mountain didn’t want it,” Howe said.
The popularity of the course was never-ending drawing interest from locals and tourists along with members of the media.
“It was crazy,” Howe said. “There was no golf course like it anywhere.”
Long-time television sportscaster Ron Futrell said he played the course one time.
“They had a media event for its grand opening,” said Futrell, who then worked at KTNV TV-13. “I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t long or a tough course, but the out of bounds area was tops. If your ball went off the course, there was no finding it. The holes were built into the mountain side.”
As the golf course continued to gain momentum, it was determined that another nine holes were necessary to handle the popularity and continued enthusiasm.
However, the Clark County Commission – under scrutiny for a variety of reasons – voted down the additional nine holes.
Upset by the decision, Mount Charleston golf course executives decided to scrap the entire endeavor and close the golf course all-together.
“They were making money with the course,” said Howe. “We had great activity and people travelled from all over the world to play the course, which attracted some prominent people.
“It was the perfect addition to Southern Nevada in the summer. We had cross-country tournaments that were an absolute blast.”
The 55 year-old Bruckner, a 27-year resident of Las Vegas who hails from Chicago, concurred with Howe.
“Allen sold the land,” Bruckner explained. “He had very unique ideas and had great relationships with everyone. There really were not a lot of people against the idea of the golf course.”
However, when expansion of the area to include a winter wonderland surfaced, the Clark County Commission drop-kicked the idea even with all of its positives.
Overall, Mount Charleston Golf Course was in business until December of 1999. It had a short, but memorable lifespan with endless hours of memories and fun times that even included golf in the winter time.
“This could have been a wonderful addition to Mount Charleston,” said Howe. “It was one of those sure bets that could have been used just about year-round.
“So many proposed ideas fall before their time, but this one was a Winter Wonderland that could have been enjoyed by a lot of people.”