With the Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA Tour and American Century Celebrity Classic, golf in the High Sierras takes center stage this week.
RENO, Nev. -- The High Sierra mountains open to some of the West's most spectacular settings, starting with the high-altitude, fresh-water treasure of Lake Tahoe.
But if you get away from the lake, little destinations within destinations spring out. The most incredible thing about this part of NoCal and Nevada? You're never far from a climate shift. The topography, from high desert to mountains and valleys, make the golf courses spectacular in nature, if entirely unexpected.
Here are five different ways to golf in the High Sierras:
Just north of Lake Tahoe's North Shore, Truckee has emerged as the area's best pocket of upscale, thanks in part to the real-estate boom. And it's a great public golf destination because of the subsequent housing freeze. Golf courses built as fully private now offer member-for-a-day experiences to all. The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing began offering public tee times this year, while its sister course, semi-private Old Greenwood Golf Club features a Jack Nicklaus design opened in 2004, plus club-worthy facilities and service.
Schaffer's Mill Club is, offering promotional public play daily, may rank as the best layout of the Truckee trio. Its amenities lag because of a temporary clubhouse, but the golf course, designed by John Harbottle and Johnny Miller, is fully mature and a mountain golf knockout.
Aside from Montreux Country Club, the private club that hosts the Reno-Tahoe Open, your coin goes a lot further in Reno compared to areas west in the mountains, where land commands a much higher premium. Reno's public courses don't feature standouts as much as a collection of very good plays, all for well under $100.
One such play, D'Andrea Golf Club, a tumbling, high-desert golf course with few flat lies and quick greens, tests any handicap. The Resort at Red Hawk Lakes, a low-lying desert golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., offers many water hazards to navigate.
Reno's signature hole may well rest at LakeRidge Golf Course, home to a 220-yard par 3 that plays from an elevated tee to an island green 140 feet below.
The South Shore party doesn't stop after July's American Century Celebrity Classic at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, right down the street from South Lake Tahoe's casino scene.
The only golf course that plays along the lake, Edgewood Tahoe cuts classically through dense pines and serves as a collaboration between a young Tom Fazio and his uncle George. The clubhouse features one of the great 19th holes in the game. It keeps the party going after the round and into the night.
Just don't sleep through your tee time the next day.
"We get our share of 8 a.m. no-shows," said Bryan Davis, marketing manager at Edgewood Tahoe.
The drive to Plumas County and Graeagle quickly turns remote, and when you arrive at Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club, you've found a surreal Mohawk Valley setting. The golf course gets better on every hole, weaving through forest and open meadows with long, panoramic mountain views.
The small village of Graegle provides another reason to make the detour to Plumas County. Graegle consists of little more than a street full of tiny shops. Pick up some local art or stop at a coffee shop. Or pump quarters into the jukebox at the Mohawk, a tiny, local dive bar near Plumas Pines Golf Resort.
Nevada's capital city sits about a half-hour drive south of Reno, and Carson City rates as an afterthought for most visitors. But that helps provide some tremendous values, and the golf courses usually remain open all year.
One of the PGA Tour's most reputable qualifying golf courses, Dayton Valley Golf Club, plays seven days a week for just $40. And while nearby Genoa Lakes moves through a pretty dense residential development, it features two resort-style golf courses in the foothills and sits just 20 minutes from Tahoe's South Shore -- if you don't have the cash for Edgewood Tahoe.
July 12, 2010