The top 10 golf courses in Reno-Lake Tahoe



RENO, Nev. -- The newly named Barracuda Championship might not be one of the most recognizable golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, but it's played in one of the best golf destinations in the country.

The setting for the July event is the private Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno, which isn't accessible for most recreational golfers. As good as Montreux is, however, there's no shortage of great golf in the area, which stretches from Reno to the Lake Tahoe area just across the California/Nevada border less than an hour away.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of my top 10 golf courses in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area:

No. 1: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course; Stateline, Nev.

Home of the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic, the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course not only gets my top slot for the Reno-Tahoe area, but it's also one of my favorite golf courses in the U.S. The pristine setting of crystal-clear Lake Tahoe reflecting the nearby mountains is a big part of the reason, but the 1968 George Fazio layout is super interesting as well with elevation changes, cool doglegs and plenty of water hazards. The par-5 16th plays right into the lake and starts one of the best finishing stretches in golf. Actor Jack Wagner, a perennial favorite in the celebrity event at Edgewood, says he doesn't play any other courses in the area; Edgewood-Tahoe is that special.

No. 2: Coyote Moon Golf Course; Truckee, Calif.

With no homes in sight and one of the most dramatic par 3s you'll ever play, Coyote Moon Golf Course is a must-play for any visitor to the Lake Tahoe area. The 13th is a 227-yard par 3 with a 200-foot drop. That could be an 8-iron for a good player, but you have to get it right because short is unplayable due to a creek that runs in front of the green, and long usually doesn't work out too well, either. The 13th is hardly the only highlight, though. There are elevated tees everywhere, howling coyotes and a tough finishing stretch, highlighted by the par-4 17th, which plays over a lake and doglegs around the trees.

No. 3: Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club; Truckee, Calif.

If you're in the area, be sure to save Monday for Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club (formerly Timilick) near Truckee. That's because it's a private club only open to the unaccompanied guests on Monday. This beautiful Johnny Miller and John Harbottle III design -- with its superior practice facilities, clubhouse and impeccable conditions -- is really a tale of two golf courses. The outward nine weaves through a meadow, and the back nine showcases a mountain look with elevation change up to 400 feet.

No. 4: Old Greenwood Golf Course; Truckee, Calif.

If you want to play a U.S. top-100 course designed by Jack Nicklaus in a spectacular setting, this is it. Originally built as a private club, this premium semi-private facility has the views, conditioning and layout that warrant its $200 green fees. Old Greenwood Golf Course is fairly player friendly as far as Nicklaus layouts go, but tackle it from the maximum yardage of around 7,300 yards and it's all the golf most players can handle.

No. 5: The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing; Truckee, Calif.

The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing, another semi-private course with impeccable conditioning and views, is Old Greenwood's sister course. Like Old Greenwood, it opened as a private club in 2007. Designed by Jim Hardy and player consultant Peter Jacobsen, this wooded course with Mt. Rose as its backdrop stretches to 7,466 yards from the way backs, but there are six sets of tees for everyone to enjoy. One of the highlights is the driveable par-4 sixth, which plays 304 yards from an elevated tee.

No. 6: The Dragon at Nakoma Resort; Clio, Calif.

The only reason I don't have The Dragon higher on my list is because it can be so darn difficult. If you're on your game, though, it's not only a great test, but this Robin Nelson design, which has been softened somewhat after it went through difficult times and an ownership change, is an incredible journey through the mountains. It's also one of the better deals in the area, up there with courses that charge two or three times as much in the Truckee area. From the first hole through the 18th, the views never stop.

No. 7: Lakes Course at Red Hawk Golf and Resort; Sparks, Nev.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the Lakes Course is one of two excellent golf courses at Red Hawk Golf and Resort, which also includes the Hale Irwin-designed Hills Course. The Lakes is arguably the best public-access course in the Reno area. It tips out to nearly 7,000 yards with natural lakes, springs, cottonwood trees and more than 100 bunkers. The signature hole is the par-3 17th, which can play 240 yards -- completely over water. Opened in 1997, it also has outstanding practice facilities, including a short-game area and 10,000-square-foot putting green.

No. 8: The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch; Clio, Calif.

Carved from the High Sierra's Mohawk Valley, The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch, a Dick Bailey design, has streams and only a few homes, which are set back above the golf course so they're hardly noticeable. Another semi-private club built within a residential development, the course is always in excellent condition, has excellent practice facilities and can be played for considerably less than courses like Old Greenwood and Schaffer's Mill. But it's arguably almost as good.

No. 9 Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes Golf Club & Resort; Genoa, Nev.

There are two courses at Genoa Lakes Resort -- the Lakes and the Ranch -- and both of them are excellent and, more important, different. The Lakes Course, designed by John Harbottle III and Peter Jacobsen, is laid out on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with the Carson River coming into play on 14 holes.

No. 10: The Links at Squaw Creek; Olympic Valley, Calif.

Laid out along the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, the Squaw Creek golf course is a nearly 7,000-yard par 71 played at an elevation of 6,200 feet. The front side climbs along the mountainside through trees and narrow fairways, while the back nine winds through the wetlands of Squaw Valley with tall grass, marshes and wooden cart paths. In other cases, it's target golf requiring accuracy off the tee and approaches.

Also worth mentioning

If you ask me tomorrow, I could easily shuffle my top 10 or switch out another course or two. That's how much quality golf there is in the area, and all of it is played in stunning environments. Courses like the Bob Cupp-designed Grizzly Ranch Golf Club, Plumas Pines and Incline Village, all in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area, are also worth checking out. And Tahoe Donner, one of the oldest courses in the area, as well as Lake Tahoe Golf Course, which is one of the better munis in California, are also must-plays for anyone with an extended golf vacation in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area.

Jul 24, 2014



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Mike Bailey

Senior Staff Writer

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before joining the TravelGolf Network team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.