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Johnny Miller made mark in Las Vegas as golf course designer

Updated February 5, 2019 - 3:26 pm

Johnny Miller’s epic broadcasting career ended when NBC Sports’ third-round coverage of the raucous Waste Management Phoenix Open concluded Saturday.

Miller manned the 18th tower for NBC for 29 years and had an inimitable, no-holds-barred broadcasting style that earned respect and disdain from PGA Tour players, fans and media.

The same could be said for his design work at Las Vegas’ Badlands Golf Club, which opened in 1995 and immediately became known as one of the most intimidating layouts in Southern Nevada. Through no fault of Miller, Badlands was closed controversially in 2016 and remains shuttered as litigation continues among property owners, surrounding homeowners and the Las Vegas City Council.

Upon its opening, Miller told me Badlands was like an “E-Ticket ride at Disneyland” and that he was enamored with the topography of the land where the course was built. The rugged terrain and various target holes combined to exasperate many golfers, but also made a round at Badlands unforgettable.

Miller is a spiritual person who loves the outdoors. That side of him shined through during the Badlands’ design phase when he said the land spoke to him and helped guide hole routing.

“Thousands of years of watershed runoff from the mountains created a wonderful canvas for our course design,” Miller said. “With this natural landscape, we are able to route most of the holes along the natural cliffs and through the small gorges and depressions of the property. Clearly, the finished ‘painting’ is something very special.”

Eric Dutt, Reflection Bay Golf Club’s manager of operations, served a similar role at the Badlands and worked with Miller before and after the course opened.

“From my interactions, I think there were probably a lot of misconceptions about him because of his blunt broadcasting style,” Dutt said. “He was always very cordial, pleasant and accommodating to me and the staff. The public maybe didn’t always see that side of him during a broadcast.

“What always fascinated me about Miller is not only was he a great player who had the ability to score as low as anyone, which is an art in itself, but he was also a great broadcaster and course designer. He was among the best in each category, and not too many can say that.”

Harmon is Hall of Fame material

Golf Digest has started a petition at Change.org to get Las Vegas resident Butch Harmon inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Harmon operates his school at Rio Secco in Henderson.

Harmon’s legacy, which includes working with Tiger Woods, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Natalie Gulbis and many others, grew last weekend when Dustin Johnson won the European Tour’s Saudi International and Rickie Fowler won the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open. Harmon coaches both players, who are ranked among the top 10 in the world.

Weekly deal

An annual pass at Revere breaks down to $500 per month ($791 for couples) and includes unlimited green and cart fees.

The golf notebook appears Wednesdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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