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Tahoe – Reno Area: A new major U.S. golf vacation destination
by

Bob Goligoski

The Reno - Lake Tahoe area – where the number of golf courses has nearly doubled to 50 plus courses in the last 10 years – has quietly emerged as one of the top golf vacation destinations in the West. Golfing in the Sierra has become one of the main engines driving the economy of the region as thousands come for the golf, scenery, entertainment and gambling.

“We’ve always been best known in Tahoe for having some of the best ski resorts in the country,” said Larry Windsor, “but now this area is getting a reputation as a premier golf destination too. There are a number of championship-caliber courses here.” Windsor is communications director of Golf The High Sierra, an organization of 20 golf courses in the Tahoe-Reno-Carson City area.

San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver and other major Western cities are the main feeding grounds for these Sierra golf havens. Some, like Edgewood at South Lake Tahoe, Whitehawk Ranch near Clio and Coyote Moon outside Truckee, are household names to diehard duffers. But many others, including Grizzly Ranch, Carson Valley, Silver Oak, Wildcreek and Eagle Valley, remain undiscovered by the masses of golfers who have not ventured too deeply into this region of 10,000-foot peaks, river-bottom valleys and high-desert plateaus.

Having just returned from an initial swing through 14 of the Reno – Lake Tahoe courses, it is not hard to see why the region’s golf courses are attracting thousands of new fans every year. The region now competes handily with other major Western golf locales including Phoenix, Palm Springs and Monterey. The 50 plus golf courses are all within an hour or so of the lake or Reno.

There is golf here for any budget. I played on courses where – depending on location, the time of day and time of the year – green fees range all the way from $20 to $225. Many of the low-budget courses are in the Carson City area while the top rate of $225 can be found at Edgewood, the grand dame of Tahoe courses. Edgewood brings the national spotlight to Tahoe each year when it hosts the annual, nationally televised American Century Celebrity Championship – an event that drew a plethora of professional athletes and movie-television stars when it was held earlier this month.

Many golfers from around the U.S. will be traveling up to the Sierra July 30 – August 5 to watch the pros tee off at the ninth annual PGA tour event at the exclusive Montreux Golf and County Club in Reno.

“There are probably three major factors responsible for the success of golf in the Tahoe-Reno area,” according to Chaco Mohler, publisher and executive editor of Tahoe Quarterly Magazine. “First, the region has attracted lots of famous golf architects who have designed these courses.

“Another key attraction is the diversity of courses. You can play on all kinds of courses including links-style, high desert, mountain and valley. And the third factor here is the weather. The climate is perfect for golf for five to six months a year.”

While many courses typically remain open through October, several operate year-round, especially on the Nevada side of the Nevada-California border.

The golf designers who have left their mark on the Sierra landscape at various courses include such luminaries as Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr., Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Johnny Miller, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Weiskopf, John Harbottle III and Tom Fazio.

Golf carts are usually recommended on most Sierra courses as the terrain plays at elevations of 4,800 to 6,300 feet. Depending on which golf course pro you talk to, the thinner high-altitude air give golfers an added 5 to 10 percent distance with most clubs.

By far, most golf courses in the region are public. A few of the private courses, such as Grizzly Ranch near Portola, CA, and ArrowCreek in Reno, are open to the public at various times.

Truckee, CA, has become the focal point of golf interest this year with the opening of three new private courses – Timilick, Gray’s Crossing and Martis Camp. Dayton Valley, a public course in the Carson Valley, is adding a nine-hole public course to its 18-hole spread and expects the new course to open next year.

Although locals brag about the consistently good weather conditions, golfers should be aware that strong winds kick up fairly frequently at some courses, especially those close to the eastern flank of the Sierra in Nevada. Make your tee times there in the morning as the winds usually arrive in the afternoon.

A capsule look at several of the most talked-about courses in the region:

Edgewood Tahoe – Sprawling magnificently on the south shore at South Lake Tahoe, this eye-catching masterpiece traditionally is rated one of the top courses in the country in golfer surveys.

Whitehawk Ranch – A remote paradise of a course in the Mohawk Valley, 38 miles north of Truckee. The course is sculpted into compelling terrain that includes streams winding through pine forests, postcard ponds and waterfalls to soothe the soul after slicing one in the rough.

Northstar at Tahoe – This ski resort course features a mountain nine with tight fairways and a friendlier meadow nine with wide, inviting open spaces. Golfers flock here for the instructional programs which include free clinics for those 17 and older, women’s specialty clinics and junior camps for kids under 13.

Coyote Moon – On the outskirts of Truckee, Coyote Moon boasts probably the most memorable hole in the Tahoe region. The par 3, 13th hole, features a sharp drop of about 140 feet off the tee to a green fronted by a stream. Hitting the green here is akin to hitting the jackpot in a casino slot machine.

Grizzly Ranch – One of the newest courses in the region, this 7,407 yard long adventure is a true, mountain experience with highly-touted scenic views of nearby peaks. Look for it near Portola, CA.

The Golf Club at Genoa Lakes – A links-style course near Genoa, NV, that is usually included in magazine rankings of the best courses in Nevada. A challenging entity planted in a superb setting along the Carson River.

Carson Valley Golf Course – Rated the “best course for beginners” by Tahoe Quarterly Magazine, this 18-hole prize has a series of forward tees so that young children, teenagers and parents with varying abilities can all play together. The parking lot is often full in the evening because after 5 pm, golfers can play 9 holes for $10 providing that there is one child in the group.

The Golf Club at Genoa Lakes and Carson Valley are members of the Divine 9, a consortium of nine courses in the Carson City area that have banded together to attract golfers to the area. The other members are Dayton Valley, Eagle Valley (West and East), Empire Ranch, Genoa Lakes Golf Resort, Silver Oak and Sunridge.

Tee times, lodging and golf vacation packages can be arranged in the Carson City area by calling 877 – 697 – 4653 or by going to www.divine9.com.

The Golf The High Sierra association, with its 20-member courses, also offers a centralized booking operation for tee times, lodging and golf vacation packages. The web site is www.golfthehighsierra.com and the phone number is 877 – 332- 4465.

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Bob Goligoski, a ski and travel writer based in Sunnyvale, CA, has visited more than 90 ski resorts around the world and has written stories for numerous publications including Ski Magazine, Ambassador, California Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and the San Jose Mercury News. He formerly worked as a ski columnist and reporter for the Mercury News and the St. Paul Dispatch for 18 years. bgoligoski@sandisk.com. (More about the writer.)

 

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