BLAIRSDEN, Calif. -- Considering the notoriety two of its neighbors are currently receiving, it is easy to see why Plumas Pines Golf Course is sometimes pushed off the front page.
Older, established and lacking the flash of the newcomers, Plumas Pines can't match the pizazz associated with both The Dragon and Whitehawk Ranch. And frankly, that says more about the two new kids on the block in the Graeagle area than it does for Plumas Pines.
Because there is nothing objectionable concerning this golf course. Like this isolated area along Highway 89 toward Portola, it has aged gracefully.
In fact, Plumas Pines G.C. is still rated as a "Place to Play" by "Golf Digest," first making the list in 1998 and retaining that status ever since. Scenery wise, what's not to like? Carved out of the Plumas National Forest and bordered by the Feather River, Plumas Pines is quite picturesque.
Speaking of pictures, put a camera in the golf bag and use it occasionally. There are some pictures that beg to be taken. You won't have to look hard to find them. Virtually every hole is worthy of a shot.
"I love to play here just for the views," said Ed Lobaugh, who lives in a suburb of Sacramento, Calif., and makes a point of playing Plumas Pines every summer.
Considering this use to be thick with large pine trees, expect to see many of them still in existence. They are beautiful to observe. Yet they are not always friendly. In fact, they can be downright nasty.
Trees border practically every fairway at Plumas Pines. We're not talking wide-open fairways, either. The word here is tight, as in -- don't miss the narrow openings or you are hitting out of the trees.
"You need to hit the ball straight out here or else you are in trouble," said Mervin Metzker of Sacramento, Calif. "There are some very tight holes."
Accuracy is the key ingredient when playing Plumas Pines. Keep the ball down the middle and the shots don't have to be all that long. This is not a course that beats anyone up with distance.
Plumas Pines measures a mere 6,504 yards (slope rating 132) from the back tees, not a long way for a course that sits at about 5,000 feet elevation. The white tees are 5,894 yards and the ladies go 5,240 yards.
Val Lobaugh, Ed's wife, cautions golfers about not giving Plumas Pines the respect it deserves. "This is a nice resort course, but it is not a beginner course," Lobaugh said.
Many average golfers might get stressed by the importance of accuracy. However, stop for a moment, take a look around and listen as well. The dominating sound during a round is the trees blowing in the wind. An occasional wind chime being pushed about in a nearby backyard is also one of those sounds that make the round more relaxing at Plumas Pines.
"I just love this golf course; it's beautiful," Metzker said.
A word of caution: Don't get too greedy. It might be a good time to give the driver the day off, or at least consider it. The distance is not overpowering. Straight shots will result in some birdie and par putts.
One of those holes where distance is not a factor comes late in the round at No. 13, a short par 5. The course's signature hole goes 460 yards (all yards quoted from the back tees). The problem comes right away with a drive that must carry a good deal of water. Pass that test and you might be hitting an iron to the green.
Perhaps this is a makeup for the first hole, the longest on the course at 591 yards. A severe dogleg left bends sharply around a corner and is guarded by creeks on either side. Do not be fooled on the elevated tee shot. Cutting the corner is only an option for a few. Ideally, drive one a little right on the fairway and hopefully the next two shots will put you on the green in regulation.
If the score on the opening hole is a good one, savor it. The second hole is a tough one, a par 4 that measures 419 yards and is rated the toughest at Plumas Pines. The tight fairway is lined with trees and a long, accurate second shot is a must. Even a bogey here might make you smile.
Get by the second hole and another tough one awaits at No. 3. This par-3 goes 201 yards and is surrounded by trouble on three sides. The par-3 at No. 7 is a friendly, situated 157 yards away. Don't get too comfortable. Pine trees are in the back and water is also a problem.
One of the favorite holes here comes at No. 15. A tree must be navigated successfully to land on the green, which is a sizable. Any shot not close to the pin could wind up leading to the dreaded three-putt.
River Pines Resort may not be luxurious, but it is a great family spot. The cabins are modest, but so is the price. The price goes up a little more when kids are added to the equation, but it is worth it. The outdoor pool is the place to be for kids and adults. It has a shuffleboard table, ping pong, hot tub, restaurant and bar. Cable TV is another plus. The people who run River Pines are very friendly and so are their guests, many of them are families who return for a summer vacation year after year.