Folks from Southern Nevada and Northern Nevada are established rivals in pretty much everything, but at least one thing they can agree upon is both areas feature beautiful golf courses.
When it comes to the Northern Nevada, Reno, Carson Valley, and the surrounding Lake Tahoe and Truckee, Calif., areas, Southern Nevada Golf Association members who play in state tournaments and/or travel to the area have always appreciated the quality of golf available “up North.”
On a recent trip taken during a pandemic–safety protocols were in place throughout at the resorts, courses, restaurants, etc.–this writer experienced Northern Nevada and Tahoe first-hand. With safer outdoor activities booming nationwide (golf participation, specifically, is up double-digit percentage points year-over-year according to National Golf Foundation statistics), the area visitor bureaus invited several media members to “get away” and chronicle the region’s diverse offerings. Our trip was mid-week and area experts suggest visiting during these windows when it is less busy.
Also on the trip was my wife, Heather, a pediatric emergency room nurse, so giving her a much-needed distraction was a bonus to taking the trip during these extremely challenging times.
Besides the stunning golf courses that were stars of the trip, the Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe areas also feature world-class hiking, biking, kayaking, sightseeing, water sports and outdoor dining in the warmer seasons, and then phenomenal skiing and other seasonal outdoor sports and activities during the winter months.
The following is a review and guide to some top courses, lodging and activities in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe, Carson Valley and Reno. And with a special nod to our friends at the Northern Nevada Golf Association who get to experience these areas on a daily basis.
Many times, Las Vegas residents think first to Southern California when it comes to a getaway, golf or otherwise, but there are plenty of unique and beautiful options available right here in the Silver State. And it’s all within an hour flight to Reno or a seven-hour drive through several cool, historic small towns. After landing in Reno, it is about a 30-45 minute drive to Truckee, Carson and Lake Tahoe, depending upon final destination.
Probably very familiar to Southern Nevada Golf Association members is Genoa Lakes Golf Course, a Peter Jacobsen and John Harbotle design, that is located in Genoa, Nevada. The facility has a strong reputation for hosting high-level tournaments including U.S. Open qualifiers, state major tournaments and others.
Most recently, the Lakes course at Genoa Lakes hosted the Nevada State Match Play, won by Tyson Lund. The runner-up was Southern Nevada Golf Association president and former SNGA player of the year Kenny Ebalo, who still appreciates the course set-up, even after a difficult loss in the 38-hole final.
“It’s a really good match-play course because there are a lot of options and tee areas, plus the greens are smaller,” Ebalo says. “It’s nice for all levels of players–men, women, juniors and seniors–because it’s pretty wide off the tee and that makes it a second-shot golf course. It’s a course that is utilized in the right way to host tournaments of all kinds.”
For recreational players, Genoa Lakes offers two courses. The Lakes Course features many lakes and wildlife, while the Ranch Course is a desert-style layout highlighted by terrific views of the Carson Valley.
PGA of America professional Greg Enholm is the resident golf and packaging expert at the Carson Valley Inn, which is located minutes from Genoa Lakes. He played college golf at New Mexico State and now “tees up” golf knowledge for tournament hosts and those staying at the Inn during golf-buddie trips.
“Simplicity is the first thing that comes to my mind when it comes to reserving your golf packages and staying at the Carson Valley Inn,” Enholm says. “We are a one-stop shop. Guests can tell us when they want to play, how many in the group, if they want food and beverage events, and from there we do all the work. Golfers have been reserving packages at the Carson Valley Inn for 35 years and they love the quality and variety of courses in the area and we work with all of them, but Genoa Lakes is a main partner.”
While Genoa Lakes may be one of the most well-known courses to SNGA members, the Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe landscape is dotted with plenty of others that are more than worth the play.
About 30 minutes from Genoa Lakes is the private living community of Clear Creek Tahoe. In 2020, Golfweek ranked Clear Creek the top private course in Nevada and, overall, the layout ranks 87th of all modern courses. A modern course is defined by Golfweek editors as any course—private or public–built after 1960.
The Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore-designed course is the crown jewel of the 2,136-acre mountain community, of which 853 acres have been placed into a permanent conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy. Overall, the entire community blends nicely into the mountain scenery and the golf course weaves seamlessly throughout the homesites.
Clear Creek is located in the heart of the stunning “Bonanza” territory, home of the fictional television show’s Ponderosa Ranch. Residential lots from half-acre to five acres are available and the initial release of 125 was met with much excitement, part fueled by the changing world and Californians looking to relocate to fresh air, Nevada state tax advantages and amazing surroundings. Recently released were 46 lots in Overlook Estates, billed as “the most spectacular homesites at Clear Creek.”
Upon completion in 2009, Crenshaw summed up the Clear Creek golf experience as purely as he rolled putts during the prime of his career, including his Masters victories in 1984 and 1995:
“Clear Creek has terrific contours and a lot of diversity,” said Crenshaw. “And you feel like you’re in Tahoe. We opened up the vistas so that you could see the mountains and valleys. The whole place is wonderful.”
While Clear Creek is located 20 minutes from the Lake Tahoe shoreline, arguably the top amenity—there are so many at Clear Creek it is very difficult to choose a best—is the Clear Creek Twin Pines Lake and Ski House, which is located adjacent to the Edgewood Tahoe Resort and golf course. In the summer, the lakefront property with 180-feet of private beach is the perfect gateway for water sports (most supplied by Clear Creek management) while in the winter, it becomes a ski lodge for members and guests heading up to the Heavenly Mountain Resort slopes, which are located in the heart of Stateline and four blocks from the Lakehouse.
Stateline is located next to South Lake Tahoe and is the bustling Cal/Nevada-border burg that is home to several hotels and resorts including Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino, Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Resort and Hotel, Hard Rock Lake Tahoe Hotel and Casino, MontBleu Resort, Casino and Spa, plus another phenomenal course, the aforementioned Edgewood Tahoe. The 18 holes wind majestically through towering pines with several played along the Lake Tahoe shore. Edgewood was originally created by George Fazio and later renovated by his noted golf-architect-nephew, Tom, who actually gained his first architecture experience as part of George’s crew during the original construction in 1968.
Edgewood has become synonymous with the annual American Century Championship, when some of the world’s most famous athletes and entertainers gather for the nationally-televised tournament. Among the dozens who have played are Michael Jordan, Steph Curry, Tony Romo, Charles Barkley, Marcus Allen, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux, Aaron Rodgers and many, many more. The 1985 U.S. Senior Open was also played at Edgewood and was won by Miller Barber.
Onsite lodging is available at Edgewood or the other resorts are just a driver or two away from course, including the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, where we stayed. The resort is located a short walk to the lake shore and just seconds away from the Heavenly ski resort gondola, which operates year-round, weather permitting. Heavenly features 30 lifts located on both the California and Nevada sides and terrific ski-in, ski-out options. A two-room suite and breakfast buffet (bagged to go during coronavirus) are included with each reservation throughout the year.
Back across the lake from Stateline is Tahoe’s North Shore, a more subdued area without the glam and the Stateline sizzle. But in King’s Beach and Tahoe Vista, connected by North Lake Boulevard that runs along the lake, there is plenty to do, from quaint lodging, to quality dining, to water activities (see the off the course sidebar), to golf.
Across from North Tahoe Beach and Secline Beach in Tahoe Vista is the 9-hole, par 36 Old Brockway Golf Course, established in 1924 by Harry Comstock and designed by Scottish golf architect John Duncan Dunn. In 2019, Old Brockway was voted the top 9-hole course in America by the “Always Time for 9” blog. Golf Channel also rates the course as one of America’s best 9-hole layouts.
Over the years, celebrities and notables have played the course including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Joseph P. Kennedy. In 1934 and 1935, Bing Crosby hosted his tournament at the course, which later blossomed into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.
Golfers love Old Brockway for its charm and old school golf, with small greens and straightforward fairways shadowed by massive Jeffrey pine trees. For the last 30 years, the course has been owned and operated by the Lane Lewis family. It’s a sure bet that a member of the Lewis clan will answer the phone or check you in when you visit.
“The course is a classic layout with small greens and tight fairways and was the final course designed by John Duncan Dunn, who also designed Shinnecock Hills and two other courses where the U.S. Open has played,” Lewis says. “It’s such a serene environment with towering pines; it’s like walking back in history when you play it. There’s a unique feel, especially when you walk, and it has stood the test of time. Not only was it the final course he designed, but it is the only course of his that has not been renovated or change from the original.”
Recently, Spindleshanks, a King’s Beach institution since 2000, relocated to the Old Brockway clubhouse and features indoor (during non-pandemic times) and outdoor dining (on a patio overlooking the first tee.) The fun, casual atmosphere is accented by some of the best food in the area, including the Blackened Ribeye of Beef, which turned out to be the best ribeye this writer had ever eaten. Kudos to the chef. Other entrees include lemongrass brick chicken, Angus cheeseburger, the Spindle Shank braised pork shank, and griddled rainbow trout. The house margarita, concocted with Corralejo Reposado tequila, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and a float of Cointreau Noir, is the perfect start to dinner.
A short drive from North Lake Tahoe is the charming town of Truckee, California, another golf-rich area. On the itinerary for this journey was the Brad Bell-designed Coyote Moon. The course plays through 250 acres of secluded rolling hills amidst towering pines, enormous granite outcroppings, wildflowers and the beautiful Trout Creek. And not one home is located on the fairways to disturb the natural beauty.
A unique Coyote Moon characteristic is that the front nine plays right-to-left while the back nine is played left to right. Coyote Moon is like playing two-courses-in-one and provides distinct challenges throughout the round.
Other Truckee golf options include the Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy-designed Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing, Jack Nicklaus’ Old Greenwood (host course of the the PGA Tour’s Barracuda Championship), and Tahoe Donner.
Making the trip very timely as the world deals with so many challenges is what locals describe as the “mindfulness” of the entire Reno-Tahoe area. You really do start to feel refreshed and rejuvenated by the serenity and beauty.
“Mindfulness or wellness are the two words that come immediately to mind about this area,” says Liz Bowling, Director of Global Communications and Media Relations at the North Lake Tahoe Convention & Visitors Bureau. “I feel a deep connection to this area and I think most who visit also begin to feel connected. There’s just something about this place. I had to raise my family here because this area just kind of gets in your blood. There’s a depth to Tahoe that many people don’t realize. Obviously, water is a key piece to it and I tell everyone they should experience it in several ways. Enjoy on the shore, enjoy it from above on our hiking and biking trails or ski slopes, and then for sure take the plunge and feel the water. But there really is much more and the more time you spend here, the more you will discover. And while most people visit in either summer to enjoy the lake or winter for world-class skiing, taking a trip here in the ‘off season’ of spring and fall can be magical.”
And with a toast of Korbel Champagne—a trip sponsor—thanks for reading … and you should make plans for a trip to Northern Nevada and Lake Tahoe in the near future. Social distancing and all.
Off the Course Tahoe Fun
The trip was more than golf and here are some highlights from the trip and the off-the-course adventures.
On the Water
Kayaking Lake Tahoe is the stuff of legend. There are various kayak and snorkeling options in the area and we experienced two during the trip, Tahoe Adventure Company (North) and Clearly Tahoe Kayak (South). The deep blue and clear water of the lake makes for relaxing and interesting on-the-water ventures.
Located in the Tahoe Basin in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. It measures an estimated 1,645 feet at its deepest point, and besides extreme depth, Lake Tahoe is known as the “clearest” lake in America. The Keep Tahoe Blue organization continually monitors the lake and works with local constituents to ensure the clarity of the lake. Emma, our Tahoe Vista (North) kayak guide, told us that lake visibility measures up to 70 feet and it was on grand display during this trip.
According to Keep Tahoe Blue facts, “Tahoe’s clean air and water are the keys to the Lake’s dazzling blue color. The surface of Lake Tahoe is blue in part because it’s reflecting the sky, but there is more to this phenomenon. Water as crystal clear as Tahoe’s absorbs red light, leaving the rich blue color that we all see.”
Emma shared interesting Tahoe and King’s Beach facts throughout the tour, plus her favorite thing about living in Tahoe.
“You have to experience a sunrise because that is the most peaceful and best time of the day,” Emma said. “Also, people should see the lake from different levels. Being on it is amazing, but viewing it from above is something that needs to be experienced.”
In addition to the two Kayak tours, we also toured the Truckee area via mountain bike, embarking from Alder Creek Adventure Center. The Center is an amenity for residents and guests in Tahoe Donner, which is one of America’s largest homeowner associations, with nearly 6,500 properties and 25,000 members. The area features 7,300 acres in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Alder Creek features dining and drinks at Trailside Bar and horseback riding, mountain biking via Bikeworks, cross country skiing and snowshoeing and hiking. In all more than 60 miles of trails with many labeled like a ski slope is, with a colored system warning of difficulty levels, from beginner to expert.
Historic Tour and Experience
The Thunderbird Lodge National Historic Site features the massive home of San Francisco real estate magnate George Whittell, Jr. and is now a museum operated by non-profit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society. The lodge is also available for tours and private events, such as weddings, corporate outings or charity fundraisers. Given the current pandemic, activations are limited but 2021 events are being reserved.
The property, which was founded in 1936, is situated along the eastern shoreline and is highlighted by several quaint buildings, a gazebo area overlooking the lake, and is the home of the Thunderbird Yacht, one of America’s most recognizable wooden speedboats.
The Northern Nevada/Tahoe Guide
Clear Creek (Carson Valley) –
Coyote Moon Golf Club (Truckee) –
Edgewood Tahoe Resort (South Lake Tahoe) –
Genoa Lakes Golf Club (Carson Valley) –
Golf Club at Grays Crossing (Truckee) –
Incline Village Championship Course (North Lake Tahoe)
Incline Village Mountain Course (North Lake Tahoe) –
Lake Tahoe Golf Course (South Lake Tahoe) –
Old Brockway Golf Course (North Lake Tahoe) –
Old Greenwood Golf Club (Truckee) –
Resort at Squaw Creek (North Lake Tahoe) –
Tahoe City Golf Course (North Lake Tahoe) –
Tahoe Donner Golf Club (Truckee) –
Toiyabe Golf Club (Reno)
South Lake Tahoe/Stateline, NV
North Lake Tahoe
Tours and Experience
Bently Heritage Estate Distillery (Minden, Nev.)
Heavenly Mountain Resort – Gondola (South Lake Tahoe)
Korbel Champagne (Title sponsor)
Soaring Nevada (Carson Valley)
Tahoe Treetop Adventures (Tahoe City)
Thunderbird Lodge (Eastern Shore)