What if you stood salivating in front of a buffet, but instead of your favorite foods, everything you wanted in a golf destination was on the menu? That’s the Lake Tahoe-Truckee-Reno-Carson City region, a smorgasbord with lines on both sides of the California-Nevada border packed with nearly 50 golf courses combined — some appetizers, others the main course and a few oh-so-mouthwatering desserts.
The decisions are up to you. Local nine-hole tracks or destination bucket-listers. Desert, mountain or parkland courses (or all three). And endless amenities from waterfront hotels to private clubs, classic greasy-spoon burger joints to the finest of dining. Mixing and matching isn’t required up here in the high country, but it’s certainly encouraged.
That’s the takeaway from Episode 149 of the “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast as longtime Reno resident Vic Williams, former publisher of Fairways + Greens Magazine and editor of GolfTips Magazine, joins his old business partner Darin Bunch and co-host Mitch Laurance to highlight the area’s best in golf and travel.
You might start with something simple yet surprising. Old Brockway is a nine-hole course built in 1926 with square fairways and a unique design that gives off an old-school vibe. This course was host of the first Bing Crosby event that included guests like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope.
“I wasn’t even going to play it,” Bunch says. Old Brockway is located along two of the main roads in North Tahoe, which hinders its curb appeal. “Then you make the turn into the heart of the golf course and it is such a glorious, old-school, fun design with square fairways,” says Bunch.
But Old Brockway is more than just a fun course. “It is frickin’ hard,” Vic adds. Bunch also points out that he would play Old Brockway every single day if he lived in the area — that’s how much he loved it. And with green fees of $45 ($35 for twilight), it’s a perfect first taste of Tahoe (as is Spindleshanks, the course restaurant with one of the best names we’ve come across).
If you’re looking for another appetizer that might be a little more forgiving, you could dig into Lake Tahoe Golf Course. Located on the south end, this 18-hole “locals” course is a fairly flat walk with wide fairways and some beautiful surrounding mountain views. But one of the biggest features on the course was water in a few dramatic spots. “The par 3 with the river running is just fantastic,” Bunch says, “and when you get into that area of the golf course, it’s just a lot of fun to play,” says Bunch. With the affordable fees and public vibe of Lake Tahoe Golf Course, it should definitely be on the menu.
Next up, the threesome dive into the real meat and potatoes of a Lake Tahoe golf getaway. Or is swanky Edgewood Tahoe actually the topping on the dessert? It’s that good, especially after the addition of the Lodge at Edgewood, one of the best golf-resort boutique hotels in the United States. Edgewood, which features fewer than 200 rooms and also has a great spa, has been named one of the best resort/boutique hotels in the United States.
Although Edgewood is a lakefront property, it has what almost feels like a tip ’o the cap to links courses in how it connects the town (or the Tahoe “Strip” in this case) to the water. And now with so many amenities in addition to the big blue scenery that has long been the course’s main attraction (drawing athletes and celebrities to the American Century Championship for years), the entire property continues to soar higher and higher on golf travelers’ lists. Plus, both Vic and Darin believe the resort offers the best food on the lake as well. “The food at Edgewood itself is just legendary,” says Bunch. “I was literally stealing off other people’s plates it was so good.”
Heading away from the lake, the small town of Truckee, California, could be a full meal all its own with signature courses Coyote Moon, Gray’s Crossing and Schaffer’s Mill. Just 30 minutes outside Reno along Interstate 80 to Sacramento, these courses have put Truckee on the golf map in a way few golfers expected.
“This is just a beautiful, natural place to play golf,” Williams says.
Schaffer’s Mill is perhaps Truckee’s best golf course, hole for hole, but as a private club it’s a bit tougher to score an invite. The clubhouse pub atmosphere, food and beverage and scenery will match any course in the area. And the back nine at Schaffer’s Mill is one of the best you’ll find with its cliff-edge 17th and fun par-5 closing hole. “Every hole is better than the one before it,” Williams says. “If there was one place that I was going to be a member, it would be there.”
One final bit of decadence wraps up this golf-travel buffet: Clear Creek Tahoe, Another high-end private club with a checkered history, this course design by golf’s hottest architectural team, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, not only features beastly, doglegging 4-pars carved through mountains and forest and truly dramatic 3-pars, but the community complex in as good as you’ll find, including a pool with a cool waterslide, games and a food-and-beverage service to supplement a day trip of longer vacation quite nicely.
Lake Tahoe has always been a popular vacation spot for all ages because of its variety. But these days it can also be the golf getaway (or golf getaways) for which you hunger and thirst.
—Words by Darin Bunch & Zack Noll