Part of what I love about golf is that when I travel I can experience a region through the game of golf. I’ve always found golfers are full of fun stories and playing with locals is a great way to gain insightful information about the area as a whole. So, while attending a wedding near Lake Tahoe over Labor Day weekend I did what any good golfer would do, I packed my clubs and headed for the links.
With my travel plans set, I arrived a couple days early excited to play some golf in a region that boasts a reputation for having some fantastic courses. After a little research and working out the logistics time-wise, I decided to book rounds at the Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed Lakeridge Golf Course in Reno, Nevada, and the Jack Nicklaus designed Old Greenwood Golf Course in Truckee, California.
A Little More About The Reno Tahoe Area
A quick geography lesson, the entire region is situated on the California/Nevada border in and adjacent to the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. At an average elevation of 6400 ft, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States and trails only the Great Lakes in terms of total volume. Reno is located over the Mt. Rose highway to the northeast of Lake Tahoe and is at an average elevation of about 4600 ft, while Truckee sits just shy of 6000 ft and is located to the northwest of Lake Tahoe.
Playing Golf At A High Altitude
A quick note about golf at a higher altitude. As a Seattle, Washington area resident, playing at altitude is not something I’m used to and provides a fun additional challenge while on the course. I’d like to dive into the mechanics of playing at altitude in a later entry, so for now I’ll just say that once you understand a bit more about the physics and calculations to control for altitude, it isn’t as scary as it may seem to calculate the correct yardage.
The high desert climate of the Sierra Nevada’s is beautiful. Natural earth-colored surroundings, mountains and hillsides littered with multiple species of pine trees and mountain flowers set a gorgeous backdrop for any course you choose to play.
Lakeridge Golf Course
The first course I played was Lakeridge Golf Course. A semi-private course, I felt their staff took just as much care of me as they do their members. Tucked away no more than 10 minutes outside of downtown Reno, once you arrive at the course you’ll feel like you’re a world away.
The RTJ, Sr. course is an oasis in the desert. Green leafed trees are strategically placed throughout the property and offer a beautiful juxtaposition to the surrounding desert countryside. This course offers a demanding challenge with water coming into play on over half of the holes. It was not burned out and the greens were both receptive and smooth, always rolling quickly and true.
While homes and native areas lined quite a few holes on the course, there was ample room left and right of the fairways and I felt like they rarely came into play. Many of the holes offered great risk/reward opportunities, but none so impressive as their signature par 3 – 15th.
Picture this, you’re on the tee of a 235-yard par 3 that plummets 140 feet downhill with trees and native areas between you and an island green. The elevation is 4800 feet at the tee box and the wind is blowing into. Quick! What club do you hit?
Making it even more challenging, from the back tees this green is only partially visible. I did my best to pick a line and hoped I grabbed the right club. Fortunately, I hit a well-struck 6 iron that found the island. Landing hole high just off the right edge of the green was just fine for me. I did not mind leaving myself with a chip and a chance at par on this challenging par 3.
Old Greenwood Golf Course
The next morning, I said goodbye to Reno and headed 45 minutes west to Truckee, California and Old Greenwood Golf Course. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, as I left the highway and made my way into the course, I started to see some very nice homes and eventually parked outside a gorgeous clubhouse.
If you’ve played any of the other premier Nicklaus courses, you know to expect a high level of class and quality from the moment you arrive to the moment you pack your clubs in the back of the car and drive off.
From the bag drop, to the staff in the pro shop, to the starters and on-course attendants, the service once again was top notch. They even worked to keep all groups as close to on time as possible, as a late August frost delay had things backed up about 30 minutes. Being from a city at sea level, this was something I had not planned for at all.
Old Greenwood wove serenely through a forest of pines. I saw homes all along the course, but they never once came into play. There was a bit of water, but the challenge of this course came from native areas that lined the fairways, as well as the high-lipped, punishing fairway bunkers that made you take your medicine or risk further compounding the error you made off the tee.
Many of the greens featured deep faced bunkers, guarding the hole against errant approach shots. One of my playing partners who happened to be a long time partial resident to the area declared, “I’ve never seen pin placements this tough. Every pin is tucked away in a spot where you have to hit a near perfect shot to get close to!” Let’s just say you didn’t want to find yourself above the hole. Ever.
Golf In The Reno Tahoe Area
I covered quite a few miles during my trip to the Reno Tahoe area. I made a point to visit, or at the very least drive past a few other courses in the area. Even though I didn’t have the opportunity to go out and play more than the two courses I did, I wanted to get a better idea of the styles of courses you can find in the region.
In Reno, there were ample course options for the public. They seemed to be a bit more open and less tree lined than the courses I saw around Lake Tahoe and in Truckee.
Incline Village in north Lake Tahoe has two courses, the par-72 championship course that will test all levels of golfers, and a par-58 executive course fit for golfers of all abilities. Both looked to be in fantastic shape with white sand bunkers and rolling fairways.
If you want to splurge and treat yourself, check out the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. This course plays host to the annual Celebrity Golf Championship in June which welcomes 80 professional athletes and celebrities for an entertaining weekend of golf. Edgewood is located on the southeast corner of Lake Tahoe.
In the end, I had a fantastic time playing in the region. It is beautiful, the courses are challenging, the people are wonderful, and there are so many other activities to do outside of golf that you’ll be picking and choosing your itinerary very carefully. From casinos and fantastic food, to hiking the many trails and peaks, to relaxing at a beach on Lake Tahoe, you’ll never have a problem finding something to do next.