TRUCKEE, Calif. -- It is perhaps a sad fact of modern golf course development that new courses are, in general, built as centerpieces of real estate developments.
Although some of these new courses are quite lovely, winding intricately through stately homes set well off the fairways, too many are cramped and claustrophobic mazes that punish the average Joe who slices and/or hooks the ball from start to finish.
So when you run across one of the increasingly rare tracks set off by itself -- wild and alone among the trees or lakes or mountain ravines -- it feels like you've hit the golfer's jackpot.
Such is the feeling at Coyote Moon Golf Course. As good as the golf is in the Reno-Tahoe vicinity (scratch that; as excellent as the golf is in the Reno-Tahoe vicinity), the vast majority of courses are surrounded by at least some housing.
Not so at Coyote Moon.
"There's not a single house out here," Head Professional Jarrett Bower assured me, "which is pretty rare in California."
This rambling, heaving 7,177-yard Brad Bell design doesn't even have any OB on the course. Instead, if your ball goes astray, you play the scrub brush or trees or ravine as a lateral hazard and drop with a one-stroke penalty.
Despite the isolated, untamed feel of Coyote Moon, including some dramatic elevation changes and heroic carries, it is nevertheless playable.
"We've done a lot of clearing to make it more forgiving," Bower said.
The result is an unforgettable round and one of the top par 3s you'll ever play.
Playing Coyote Moon Golf Course
Coyote Moon feels big, from the first tee to the final putt, from the fairways and elevation changes to the greens themselves.
Longtime California sportswriter Randy Youngman, an excellent golfer, describes Coyote Moon's putting surfaces as "the biggest, most undulating greens around," upon which, "you must find the right quadrant." Any and every two-putt is good on these greens.
One thing that makes the putting especially challenging at Coyote Moon is the way the greens break.
"The greens don't break in a certain direction," Bower said. "They all break differently."
Although your putting might define your score, it will be the drama of the tee shots and approaches that will remain in your memory of Coyote Moon.
"The biggest challenge is club selection, with all the elevation changes out here," Bower said.
This characterization is clearly accurate right from the first tee. Coyote Moon's 561-yard, par-5 first hole is perhaps the most visually striking opener in the Reno-Tahoe area, with an uphill tee shot past a tree and a boulder on the right to a left-to-right canted fairway. And when you get to the deep green, you'll find the description of the putting surfaces to also ring true: everything on the front breaks right to left, while everything on the back breaks left to right.
Picking just a few holes to write about is a daunting task when it comes to Coyote Moon. There are massive boulders strewn about the fairways and green complexes, and towering sentinel lodge pole pines that drop pine cones the size of cantaloupes down into the rough and sides of fairways. I kept asking if these every hit anyone, and all I got from the locals were smiles and nods as I wandered yet again back into the trees to punch yet another errant tee shot back into play.
When players get to the back nine, the beautiful landscape turns completely breathtaking, as every hole it seems features elevated tees and sweeping mountain vistas. The tees on the 468-yard, par-4 11th hole, for example, are easily 60 feet above the left-to-right doglegging fairway, tempting you to launch a drive over the trees on the left that might end up near the green.
The 227-yard, par-3 13th is one of those holes that burns itself forever into your golfing memory. With its 70-foot drop from the back tee to the green, over a rocky creek bed and the tops of 20- to 40-foot trees, it is simply one of the most -- if not the most -- gorgeous long par 3s I've ever seen. One of my own favorite golfing accomplishments was a perfectly struck 6-iron from the tips that sailed over the tops of those trees and down over the top of the pin to stick 7 feet behind it. (And one of the saddest remembrances will be missing that birdie putt.)
Coyote Moon closes with another rarity: a potentially driveable par 4. The 18th ranges in length from 341 yards down to 227, so depending on the tees you choose and the power of your long ball, you could wind up winning your match with a two-shot eagle.
Coyote Moon Golf Course: The verdict
Quite simply, Coyote Moon Golf Course is fun from beginning to end. With the lack of houses and the untamed landscape, you feel like a mountain man (or woman) taming The West.
The conditioning of the course is superb, and the service impeccable. Despite a somewhat higher rate than some other local courses, a visit to Coyote Moon should be on the itinerary of any visitor to the Reno-Tahoe area.
Accommodations and dining
If you're looking for accommodations with as much visual appeal as Coyote Moon, you can find the best of the best at The Resort at Squaw Creek.
Nestled among the mammoth peaks of Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, The Resort at Squaw Creek offers year-round outdoor adventure -- including skiing, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, an 18-hole golf course on site – and indoor comforts, including a spa, boutique shopping, and both casual and fine dining.
Even significant others who don't golf won't mind being left behind for the day at this world-class resort; they will find plenty to do, surrounded by stunning mountain views.