- Reno and Lake Tahoe aren’t just about winter sports
Travel just about anywhere in the U.S. and you can find pockets of great golf in the public sector.
While for most of us, the ability to play many of the iconic private courses – think Cypress Point, Pine Valley, Oakmont, Augusta National – is just a pipe dream and a daydream, there is no shortage of quality, memory-providing public venues out there.
For those of us who can’t drop $600 or more to play Pebble Beach, there are plenty of destinations nationwide – Myrtle Beach, Phoenix/Scottsdale and Florida quickly come to mind – that offer great bang-for-your-buck public golf.
One destination that might not spring to mind when thinking about golf travel is the Reno and Lake Tahoe region of Nevada/California.
The area is best known for its winter sports offerings like skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. It’s also a mecca for warm-weather activities such as hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and ziplining. However, Reno and Lake Tahoe shouldn’t be overlooked as a golf destination.
With majestic views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and of Lake Tahoe, a visit offers a distinct golfing experience at elevations unseen in the Mid-South.
Beyond golf, there also is an Old West feel to many of the towns and villages that dot the region. Throw in a thriving brewing and culinary scene, and there are plenty of reasons to think about Reno and Lake Tahoe for a family vacation, a couples getaway or a buddies’ golf trip.
The one downside to the golf aspect of Reno and Lake Tahoe, it’s that the golf season is a short — from about Memorial Day until mid-October. But one thing is certain, the weather is mostly glorious those months, with July being the hottest with an average high temperature of 80 degrees. Lows are mostly in the 40s and 50s throughout the season. Also, humidity levels are low, so it’s a perfect respite from our Southern weather.
One other thing to consider when planning a trip, most of the courses are not a stone’s throw away from each other. There often is a bit of a drive from course to course, so consider that when planning your trip.
Where to play in Reno and Lake Tahoe
Lake Tahoe Golf Course
This William Bell design is located in a natural mountain meadow with spectacular views of Mt. Tallac, Twin Peaks and the top of Heavenly mountain. The par 71 course plays to 6,741 yards with the Upper Truckee River winding throughout the property. One of the best holes on the course is No. 17, a 134-yard par 3 fronted by the Upper Truckee River and flanked by tall pines on either side of the green.
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Resort
Although there is great golf throughout the area, Edgewood Tahoe is considered the region’s crown jewel. Built by George Fazio in 1968, the Edgewood Tahoe course consistently is ranked in the Top 100 by Golf Digest. It’s best known for hosting the American Century Championship featuring celebrity athletes and entertainers each July. It has hosted a U.S. Senior Open. The course is carved through pine forests and open meadows Two memorable holes are Nos. 16-17. The 16th hole is a well-bunkered par 5 that plays down toward Lake Tahoe, while the 17th hole is a par 3 that sits adjacent to the lake. Both offer magnificent views of Lake Tahoe.
Coyote Moon Golf Course
This is mountain golf at its finest, playing at an altitude above 6,300 feet. Designed by Brad Bell and opened in 2000 near Truckee, the course is carved through hundreds of Ponderosa pines and granite bluffs. Crystal clear Trout Creek comes into play on a number of holes. The picturesque par-3 No. 13 is one of the most photographed holes in the region. Listed at 206 yards from the blue tees, the severe drop-off from tee to green means the hole can play as much as three clubs shorter than the listed distance.
Tahoe Donner Golf Course
Near Truckee, Tahoe Donner underwent extensive renovations in 2020 to the tune of $2 million and reopened this year. Renovations included a re-do of the greens, tees, drainage and cart paths, all of which helped make the course more playable. Tahoe Donner features extensive elevation changes. No. 8, dubbed “Panorama” is a long par 4 with a spectacular view of Mount Rose.
The Resort at Squaw Creek
A Robert Trent Jones Jr. course, The Resort at Squaw Creek places a premium on accuracy, not length. The front nine plays through the surrounding hillside, but the back nine winds through the valley’s wetlands. For the most part, the course is a tribute to target golf. There is little room for wayward drives. The signature hole is No. 6, a 176-yard par 3 that requires a complete carry over water.
Incline Village Mountain Course
Who says all golf needs to be played on a championship course? The Incline Village Mountain Course is a short course, playing to par 58 with 14 par 3s and four par 4s. No hole is longer than 399 yards, and the par 3s range from 113 yards to 200 yards. At 6,800 feet above sea level, the Mountain course is the highest course in Nevada and the Tahoe Basin. It opened in 1968 and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Genoa Lakes Golf Course, Lakes Course
One of two courses at the facility, the Lakes Course is a Peter Jacobsen/John Harbottle III design crafted in the heart of Carson Valley. The links-style course offers beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada mountains and framed by lush wetlands and the Carson River.
If you play Genoa Lakes, make sure to stop by the Genoa Bar and Saloon just down the road from the course. Built in 1853, the Genoa Bar and Saloon is the oldest “thirst parlor” in Nevada. Among those who have bellied up to the bar for an adult beverage are Mark Twain, President Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt, actors Carol Lombard and Clark Gable, and many others.
Where to stay on Reno and Lake Tahoe
The region features a plethora of options for visitor. Campgrounds are plentiful and so are rustic rental cabins. There are sprawling casinos in Reno and at Stateline, Nevada, that offer plenty in the way of nightlife, and the region is dotted with mom-and-pop-run motels that blend perfectly into the landscape.
Here are a few suggestions for where to stay when planning a trip to Reno and Lake Tahoe:
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe in Stateline, Nevada, features 525 suite-sized rooms with two bathrooms and a 24-hour casino with table games and a sports book. (https://www.caesars.com/harrahs-tahoe)
Granlibakken Resort in Tahoe City features a variety of lodging options from bedrooms, studios and suites to eight-bedroom townhouses. (granlibakken.com)
The Peppermill Resort Spa Casino is just minutes from Reno’s airport and a perfect spot to start your trip. Peppermill features 1,621 guest rooms, including 600 all-suite rooms in the Tuscany Tower. There are nine award-winning restaurants on the property, as well as a spacious casino and a smattering of bars and lounges. It also has an indoor pool and spa.
Carson Valley Inn in Minden, Nevada, has accommodations at three different locations. A full-service hotel has 149 rooms including 11 suites. A 74-room motor lodge offers park-near-your-door convenience and value. The RV park has 59 spots with full hookups.
Pro tip: Before settling on accommodations, map out what golf courses you want to play. Unless you want to play and move on every day or so, find a central location that offers a reasonable drive to your destination courses.
Gregg Dewalt is the editor of Alabama Golf News
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Featured image of Coyote Moon Golf course: courtesy Rod Hanna