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Play nine golf courses in one day? Divine Nine Road Trip near Reno now giving golfers that crazy chance

It sounds like something straight out of a sadomasochist's playbook. Which may make it perfect for your average golfer.

Divine Nine - Carson Valley - Golf Courses
You'll find plenty of tough nature scenes on the Divine Nine courses.
Divine Nine - Carson Valley - Golf CoursesGenoa Lakes Golf Club & Resort

You play two holes at nine different golf courses in one 12-hour-plus day. You travel between the courses on a 16-person shuttle bus full of other golfers like you - and one hunking big cooler stuffed with plenty of beverages to keep everyone "properly hydrated."

It's called the Divine Nine Road Trip, and until this year, it's been the province of golf writers only. It started as a crazy idea, an offbeat way for nine moderately priced golf courses in the Carson Valley area - about 30 minutes from both Reno, Nev., and Lake Tahoe, Nev. - to promote themselves and gain attention they might not otherwise generate.

So, they invited golf and travel writers from around the country to experience this marathon day of playing each course's best - and often toughest - two holes.

This year, for the first time, the Divine Nine's throwing its shuttle bus doors open to the public - turning a media-publicity-building lark into a full-fledged event. For an entry fee of $295, golfers get a two-night stay at the Carson Valley Inn (a casino hotel), a welcome dinner reception, an awards dinner and the main event, those two holes at nine different courses.

It will take place Sunday, Aug. 3 (the check-in, reception day) and Monday, Aug. 4 (the epic golf day).

"We figured, 'Why let the media have all the fun?' " said Phil Weidinger, president of the Lake Tahoe-based Weidinger Public Relations who helped think up the first Divine Nine years ago and has helped run it ever since. "Let's let regular golfers in on the craziness."

The magnitude and logistics of making the Divine Nine a public tournament figure to take it from a Peter Sellers level of wackiness to a Will Ferrell zone of zaniness. Each of the nine courses customarily asks the other golfers playing the course that day - the ones playing a traditional 18 - to step aside and make room for the Divine 9 groups as they hustle to get in their anything but conventional nine-course 18.

With four or five foursomes in a media tour, that's usually pretty easily achieved. This year, it's going to be a minimum of 12 groups playing through during the day.

Shuttle bus synchronization will be another factor. In the media tours, there was only one shuttle bus to worry about every year. And even then, encroaching darkness often became a factor in the scramble to complete the entire 18. This year, there's going to be a mini fleet of shuttles - full of paying customers rather than media glad-handers.

The rules are pretty simple for the day. Golfers keep their own score, with a required pick-up at net double bogey. Prizes - both serious and whimsical - will be awarded at the closing dinner.

"We'll have some prizes that are worth $3 or $4," Weidinger said. "And some that you'll actually want."

Mostly what everyone remembers from these days are the stories, anyway.

Garrett Dearborn - a local Reno sports anchor - calls the Divine Nine, "better than Christmas for me," exactly because of the quick camaraderie that builds on the shuttle bus and lasts past the 18-hole run.

As nice as Dayton Valley Golf & Country Club's island par 3 and Genoa Lakes Golf Club & Resort's par 5 lake monster may be, it's the guy who spins the most outrageous tall tale on the bus and the guy who drinks the most beer - or bloody marys - and ends up doing something crazy that will stick with golfers long after the sun sets.

On the Divine Nine media day that this golf writer went on a few years ago, 112 beers were consumed on one shuttle bus. And two Cokes.

"It's a long day in the sun; we have to make sure everyone has enough liquids," Weidinger said. "Seriously, we have thought about this. That's one of things we discussed. That we didn't want a bunch of people who'd been drinking all day getting into their cars and driving off at the end of the event.

"That's one of the reasons there's a hotel stay the night of the Divine Nine, too. That's part of the beauty of the thing. You're getting shuttled everywhere, and there's no need for anyone to drive."

There's also little chance of this kind of event being repeated anywhere else in the country. Carson Valley happens to have just the right number of public courses to make it two holes per - all just close enough to each other to make playing on nine different courses in one long summer day possible.

"I haven't heard of anyone else trying to copy it, and I don't know how they would," Weidinger said. "Carson has the nine courses, and there are no plans to build more. They're a few newer private courses, but they wouldn't be involved. I don't think it would work if a destination had 18 courses, for example, and tried to play one hole on every one in a day.

"It's unique to this area."

Now, it's no longer just for media members either.

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