TRUCKEE, Calif. -- Mountain golf is a special kind of golf. Not only do the shots fly one or two clubs farther, but the elevation changes from tee to green can often be quite dramatic.
Such is the case when you golf the High Sierras, from Reno, Nev., to Lake Tahoe up to the Truckee area. The area is littered with dramatic holes, and some of them present some pretty interesting risk-reward opportunities.
And because the ball flies farther, and it doesn't seem to curve as much in the thin air, it seems more logical to take risks. After all, where you might have needed a 3 wood, a hybrid or long iron might do the trick.
Here are four examples of what kind of thrill rides you're in for when you play golf in the Reno-Tahoe area:
Have you ever dreamed of hitting a 227-yard 8 iron? Not only is it possible, but on the 227-yard 13th at Coyote Moon Golf Course near Truckee, it's the right club for many players.
In fact, that is what's so tricky about this hole. There is a 200-foot drop from the elevated tee. Short is no good, because in front of the green is a creek and a bunker. Long isn't much better, and if you're too long, you might not be able to find your ball.
This is where experience playing the course comes in handy. Picking the right club for first-timers is difficult at best. It's literally a six- or seven-club difference from the same shot at sea level without the dramatic drop.
Drivable par 4s help keep golf courses interesting, and the short, par-4 11th at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Greenwood Golf Club certainly falls into that category.
Long hitters will tempted to pull driver on 345-yard dogleg right, but they most likely will have to take it across the water that fronts the green. Make it to the green or just in front, and you've got an eagle putt and probably an easy birdie.
Fail, and you could be looking at double bogey or worse. Or you could simply take it down the left side and let your wedge game work for you -- decisions, decisions.
The signature hole at the Robert Trent Jones-designed LakeRidge Golf Course in Reno may also be one of the most difficult on the course.
At 239 yards, the par-3 15th plays much shorter than its indicated yardage because it's some 170 feet below the teeing ground. Even then, though, you're looking at pulling at least a 5- or 6-iron that will stay in the air for long time.
The green is fairly large, but it's surrounded by water. Come up short, and you're most likely wet. Mis-hit it, and you're wet. Pick the wrong club, and you're probably wet. You get the idea.
There are a lot of dramatic holes at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, site of the American Century Celebrity Championship each summer.
One that sometimes gets overshadowed and shouldn't is the beautiful, par-5 18th finishing hole. At just less than 560 from the blue tees, the hole is reachable in two with a good drive, but the green is, oh, so treacherous.
There's a pond left of this narrow green and not much bailout area between the green and Lake Tahoe on the right. Plus, there are pin positions where even if you hit in two, three- and four-putts loom, so it might be better to lay up, just to find the right part of the green.
Heck, what are we talking about? Nobody comes to Lake Tahoe to lay up, right?
June 27, 2011