RENO, Nev. -- The gated community surrounding Montreux Golf & Country Club exemplifies what the city aspires to be: modern, classy and chic.
When the PGA Tour visits Montreux and Reno for the Barracuda Championship from June 30-July 4, the TV spotlight will shine a light on northern Nevada's answer to Las Vegas, a Wild West outpost that usually doesn't get the credit it deserves.
The stereotypical view of rundown Reno still exists in pockets downtown -- aging casinos with questionable characters milling about. Change is coming to combat the decline of the gaming industry. A local developer, the Don J Clark Group, has proposed a $1.2 billion downtown redevelopment over the next decade that would include the construction of the city's tallest building, a water reclamation system, gigabit internet, a central park and more.
Whether it happens or not, there is renewed enthusiasm that Reno is about to turn a corner for the better. The Truckee Whitewater Park is a great place for families to hang out downtown, and there's always big-name comedians and musicians visiting to entertain at the casinos.
Most importantly, Silicon Valley's money and influence are flowing over the mountains of the High Sierras. Companies like Switch, eBay, Tesla and Barracuda Networks (the sponsor of the tournament) are investing in the region and could eventually recruit thousands of new employees to become permanent residents. Maybe Reno's flashing lights will shine brighter than ever.
I visited Reno for the first time in early June for business and once later in the month for pleasure. Both casinos I stayed in -- the Peppermill and Atlantis Resort & Casino -- provided pleasant surprises. The rooms were spacious and updated. The food was quite excellent at the Peppermill. Of course, Montreux delivered another level of hospitality during two visits. The players can vouch, for one week anyway, that life behind its gates is pretty good. Here's a look inside:
Montreux: The community
The current homes inside Montreux blends tastefully with the natural surroundings.
The new homes being developed by Parc Foret will range from 2,800 to 4,500 square feet with all the modern tastes that attract affluent Californians to give up the ocean and pure year-round weather -- multiple fireplaces, a fire pit outside, open floor plans, high ceilings and walk-in pantries and closets -- at a fraction of the cost.
A fitness center and spa and community pool are located near the clubhouse, as are two restaurants. Trails have been cut for mountain biking and hiking. Skiing and snowboarding at Mount Rose is just a half-hour away. Lake Tahoe beckons in summer.
Montreux: The golf course
The private Jack Nicklaus design, dating to 1997, provides fun for its members and enough of a challenge to keep pros engaged. The mix of towering pines, bunkers, swings in elevation and mischievous greens is as intoxicating as the alpine setting on the edge of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, the largest in the lower 48 states.
Blasting a tee shot off the elevated 17th tee box, the ball will stay suspended in the thin air for at least eight seconds before landing again. The risk-reward, par-5 18th decides not only club matches but separates PGA Tour winners from losers. As far as Nicklaus courses go, it’s on my short list of inland favorites designed by the Golden Bear.
Not many people realize this, but there are ways to sneak inside the gates. At least one casino (Atlantis) offers some access for groups.
Montreux: The Barracuda Championship
The tournament's new date (June 30-July 3) in 2016 is due to the Olympics. The championship has always been opposite another tournament that attracts the world’s best players. This year, it's the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational.
Patton Kizzire is the highest ranked entrant at no. 63. While all the big names are in Akron, Ohio, other pros -- such as John Daly, one of four former major champions in the field, and defending champion J.J. Henry -- will do battle using Stableford scoring, where players accumulate points based on how many birdies and eagles they make. They lose points for bogeys or worse.
It's a unique format that's fun to watch and even more fun to play. Try it if you ever get the chance to play Montreux.