TRUCKEE, Calif. - With apologies to Colorado, Lake Tahoe stakes a strong claim as America's best mountain golf destination in summer.
Why? Because Lake Tahoe is so big that different ecosystems line its shores. One minute you're playing in the mountains where only a cart can get you from hole to hole, and the next, you're playing a classic, walkable nine-holer that's more than a century old.
On the north end of the lake, you get the dizzying elevations and the evergreen forests of the High Sierra Mountains. You can get some of that in South Lake Tahoe on the opposite side of the lake, but just minutes away, you will run into the dry, desert landscape of the Carson Valley, which is typical of Nevada.
This variety gives golfers endless looks and enjoyment. There are more than 40 courses around the lake if you spread the wings of your GPS all the way east to Reno and Sparks in Nevada and all the way north to the ranch towns of Clio, Graeagle and Portola in California.
Although the season is short, Lake Tahoe is, without a doubt, one of the best summer golf destinations in the world. Pros and celebrity golfers invade the region every summer. The American Century Championship held at Edgewood Tahoe serves up a giant golf bonanza involving amateur swings from famous folks, good vibes, snowcapped peaks, spectators in boats and a party on the beach next to the course. NBC will televise this year's event July 13-15, beginning each day at 3 p.m. EDT. Following close behind are the PGA Tour pros, who play the Barracuda Championship at the private Montreux Golf & Country Club Aug. 2-5 in Reno.
Have we got your attention? Here's a photo gallery of some of the best 18-hole golf courses around Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe
If you can afford it, playing Edgewood Tahoe in Stateline, Nev., is a really cool experience from start (on the range with views of the lake) to finish (drinks and dining on the outdoor patio at Brooks). Most amateurs will love its hacker-friendly design (dogleg rights, galore) and its final three greens near the lake. The Upper Truckee River runs through the Lake Tahoe Golf Course, a more affordable muni run by the California State Parks. Its classic William F. Bell design in a mountain meadow is known for breathtaking views of Mt. Tallac, Twin Peaks and the top of Heavenly. Further flung in the Carson Valley are the Carson Valley Golf Course and the Ranch and Lakes courses at Genoa Lakes in Genoa, Nev., among others.
Golf Advisor named this artsy mountain town one of the "best little golf destinations" in America. A course boom brought a five-some of excellent tracks. Old Greenwood by Jack Nicklaus and The Golf Club at Grays' Crossing sit across the street from one another. You won't find prettier or more challenging alpine golf than Coyote Moon and Schaffer's Mill Club. The Tahoe Donner Golf Course plays through tight fairways at 6,200 to 6,500 feet in elevations, the highest in the region. The nine-hole Ponderosa Golf Course and Northstar Golf Course are other options.
The northern side of the lake mixes a pair of old nine-holers with more polished modern courses. The nine-hole Tahoe City Golf Course celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2018 and the nearby nine-hole Old Brockway Golf Course dates to 1926.
The Mountain and Championship courses at Incline Village contrasts with more modern golf on excellent terrain. The Mountain facility touts itself as a "country club of the future". Its mostly par-3s routing means you can play fast, while still facing a challenge. Don't overlook the Resort at Squaw Valley Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. course from 1991.
Driving north from Truckee toward Graeagle feels like you've landed in Montana. Cows graze in open meadows that stretch for miles until the mountain backdrop interrupts.
The Dragon at Nakoma and Grizzly Ranch are two of the prettiest courses you'll ever play, granted you're punished with some of the hardest holes you'll ever tackle. The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch is one of Mike Bailey's favorite courses in the area. Throwing in Graeagle Meadows Golf Course and Plumas Pines Golf Resort, which has no reviews below four stars on Golf Advisor, adds up to a golf destination worth a long weekend or more.
What's your favorite summer mountain golf destination in America? Tahoe? Colorado? Something else? Let us know in the comments below.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We didn't include any photos from Reno/Sparks and Carson City/Carson Valley courses, nine-holers or private clubs.