SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- When the network TV cameras are shined upon the golf courses of Reno-Lake Tahoe, it's on celebs such as Tony Romo or Dan Marino heaving footballs to spectators on the 17th tee of Edgewood Tahoe. Or it's the PGA Tour's Reno-Tahoe Open staged at private Montreaux Country Club.
While these events help showcase the destination as a coveted summer playground, they don't do justice to just how deep the lineup of courses is. Some of the world's best summer mountain golf can be played around Lake Tahoe and Truckee.
Then, just 30 minutes to the east and over the mountains in Nevada, golf -- generally more affordable -- can be enjoyed in Reno-Sparks and the Carson Valley all year long.
And the best part about High Sierras golf is that while there are a number of high-end resort and semi-private courses, golfers on any budget can get into the dry air and play some fine courses.
Depending on your checkbook, here is how you should plan your golf vacation around Lake Tahoe and nearby Reno-Sparks ...
On a high-roller budget, start at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, in the shadows of the casino hotels on the South Shore and boasting the area's only holes along Lake Tahoe.
After golf, enjoy a beer or dinner at Brook's Bar and watch the sunset -- it doesn't get much better on a clear summer day in the mountains.
Semi-private and resort golf on the North Shore is plentiful, too, where new developments are anchored by some seriously good courses around Truckee. Old Greenwood Golf Course and the Golf Club at Gray's Crossing are sister courses that both offer member-for-the-day, high-roller golf experiences on beautifully conditioned courses that are a joy to play.
Also, Shaffer's Mill (formerly Timilick Club) is one of the area's newest courses and features a John Harbottle/Johnny Miller design that is as good as the area can offer.
While Shaffer's Mill, Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing are more traditionally styled mountain courses, Coyote Moon Golf Course is jaw-dropping, up-and-down golf full of elevated tees and greens -- and no residential development attached to it.
For accommodations, visit the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands at Northstar, a 170-room luxury lodge and spa for all seasons that offers golf package deals to Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing.
For "mid-range" we're factoring morning green fees less than about $130. That prices you out of a morning tee time around Lake Tahoe and Truckee's best courses, though you can play 18 in the afternoon at Coyote Moon for $95 and Old Greenwood for $100.
Or head over the Kingsbury Grade from South Tahoe to the Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes, set on the eastern slopes of the mountains and was designed by John Harbottle, a popular name (with very good reason) around these parts, along with player designer Peter Jacobsen, who also had a hand in Gray's Crossing.
If you're willing to make the drive up to Plumas County (about an hour's drive from the north shore), play Whitehawk Ranch, deserving of inclusion among discussion of the area's best, that features both heavily forested and open meadow holes with panoramic mountain views. At $125 peak (or $95 after 2 p.m.), it would easily be more expensive if it were closer to Tahoe.
The Resort at Squaw Creek boasts a championship Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that costs just a shade less than $100 and plays under 7,000 yards. It's set on valley ground beneath the ski slopes with a smattering of wetlands.
For accommodations, check out Truckee's Cedar House Sport Hotel, a modern, European-inspired lodge with stylish accommodations -- and free breakfast -- within a mile of Truckee's town center. Or check out South Lake Tahoe for the larger casino-hotel vibe at a property like Harrah's or Harvey's.
Golf on a tight budget will price you out of most mountain golf courses worth visiting, but there is hope.
Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort offers a more classic golf course at the foot of the mountain, with a yardage up to 6,800 yards (rates are $50-$70) but offers resort amenities such as GPS. You can tee it up at the par 58 Incline Village Mountain Course, second fiddle to the Championship Course, for about $45-$75.
For a quick and casual golf fix, check out Tahoe City's historic nine-hole course opened in 1917 within a pitching wedge of the lake ($40).
The desert and valley side of the mountains to the east is where you'll find better value. LakeRidge is one of the better value plays, with one of the state's most memorable par 3s, which features about 200 feet of vertical drop to an island green.
Dayton Valley Golf Club recently assumed new ownership and is currently offering a $40 rate seven days a week. The course is a regular PGA Tour Qualifying host and has been every year since opening in 1995. The same ownership operates Wolf Run in Reno, which has rates from $45-$65.
D'Andrea Golf Club in Sparks is an always dramatic course rolling up and down desert foothills and features severe fast greens accentuated by the slopes they hang on. Morning rates peak at $69, while twilight dips less than $50.
RedHawk Golf Club features one private and one public course, and the pubic Lakes Course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with some let 'er rip fairways but tough approach shots and plenty of water ($40-$70).
For accommodations, check out a casino hotel in downtown Reno. There are scores of options all offering their own deals. In Lake Tahoe, small little inns and hotels surround the lake in just about every village, and rates can be found less than $100.
July 20, 2011