Golf Writer Andy Reistetter continues his exclusive "Play-Write" series playing his first round of golf on a High Sierra golf trip at a course you have undoubtedly seen on television and wondered what it would be like to play. Montreux Golf and Country Club is a private gated community located between Reno and Lake Tahoe and soon will be hosting the PGA TOUR's Reno-Tahoe Open for the 14th time. Join Reistetter as he flies into Reno-Tahoe, plays the exclusive Montreux and gets the inside story to this year's Reno-Tahoe Open.
There I was sitting in my window seat flying up from the south to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO). I can't tell you what seat I was in because I was aboard a Southwest flight. There are seat numbers, but who looks on Southwest? I found a window seat with a "C" boarding pass, so I knew this was going to be a good trip. When l first saw the High Sierra Mountains, I entered into some sort of mesmerizing meditation knowing I was coming to play Montreux Golf & Country Club where the PGA TOUR pros will be playing in exactly five weeks on August 2 in the Reno-Tahoe Open (RTO).
The High Sierras start 100 miles or so north of Los Angeles and progressively crescendo through the Sequoia and Yosemite national parks to the magnetic magnificence of Lake Tahoe. Once you see Lake Tahoe from above—and you cannot miss it—as it is the largest alpine lake in North America you know you are getting close to landing in what is unequivocally known as the living, working and playing paradise of Reno-Tahoe.
With golf on my mind, I looked out the window to see green footprints of the golfing god of my golfing heritage. She walked with care though leaving her imprints of golf courses on the beautiful terrain. One course safely nestled in the foothills of a valley below, another on the barren terrace along the ridge northeast of Reno, and a third I could see in the Ponderosa pine trees on the gentle eastern slopes of snow-capped Mt. Rose-Montreux!
Once landed, the hypnotic state inverts itself. Instead of looking down on the glorious mountains and lakes, you are in the flatness of a high desert valley looking up to the peaks of what must be one of God's greatest creations.
The view from the ground is a montage of stunning beauty in all directions. I missed experiencing Reno when I came to the Fire Science Academy at the University of Nevada Reno almost 30 years ago. Fighting fires all day requires sleep at night. Now my eyes seemed to be open to a dynamic community in a majestic setting.
From RNO, I headed south 15 miles towards Lake Tahoe on an expressway. It seemed as though I was standing on the tee of the opening hole at Montreux quicker than Kevin Na waggling his way to fame at The PLAYERS or Jason Dufner waggling his way to two PGA TOUR wins!
With only a 9-iron approach and an easy 2-putt par on the first, I was thinking my game is in the best shape ever. On the second, I am reminded I am playing a Jack Nicklaus creation as the forecaddie notes its 267 yards to the gigantic Ponderosa pine in the middle of the fairway. I blew it by the tree into the left fairway. Feeling really good about my game, a thought came to mind of getting to the last Q-School before the PGA TOUR makes the Nationwide Tour the only ticket to the BIG tour. Not a realistic thought, mind you, like freshman Jordan Spieth of the National NCAA Champion UT Longhorns golf team. After all, I meet the age requirement for the Champions Tour!
Then it dawned on me in the middle of the afternoon when I flew my wedge 20 yards over the green on the fourth hole. There's a reason "High" is in High Sierra. I was playing high altitude golf and didn't even know it. I guess golfing in the Reno-Tahoe area has one very special advantage—added length.
The playing experience of Montreux is incredible—views of snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and the majestic pines lining the fairways. The most dramatic elevation change presents itself on the tee of the 421-yard par-4 17th hole (Montreux tees are a short 6,539 yards).
The adjective "picturesque" does not do it justice. The criss-cross mowing pattern of the flat fairway 138 feet below attracts your eye and hopefully your golf ball. You need to be in this fairway to find the smallish green tightly tucked into a side hill accented with tall pines and guarded by a gushing creek short and right. Sadly, I still had not learned to judge my distances and my ball came to rest over yet another green.
After the round, I joined the full contingent of golf travel writers for a reception at the Chocolate Bar and dinner at Campo's in downtown Reno. On a Sunday night, the activity level was bustling for "The Biggest Little City in the World." Reno really isn't that little as it is the largest Nevada city excluding that other gambling and entertainment mecca. I highly recommend the chocolate shake at its namesake bar and the Dover Sole/Prince Edward Island Mussel Sauce entrée at Campo's. Travel golf writers tend to be a sociable sort of people especially when intermingled with local public relations and sales and marketing folks.
I had the remarkable pleasure to meet Jana Smoley, the Executive Director of the Reno-Tahoe Open (RTO). Since becoming the skipper of a rising boat in lowering economic times, she, her team and partners have made changes in the RTO as dramatic as the Montreux golfing experience. In our ten minute conversation my thoughts were not about adding a women's touch to professional golf. My thoughts were simply that getting a natural leader and someone who really cares into the right position is a tremendous catalyst for change probably anywhere on this planet.
The RTO will become the only PGA TOUR event using a Modified Stableford scoring system starting with their 14th rendition in August. Weighted heavily towards sub-par scoring on each hole, the format encourages a "go-for-it" attitude which makes for exciting golf on an inspiring golf course!
Jana, the mother of two young children and an obvious adventure athlete is bringing Annika Sorenstam to the RTO for the second year in a row with a Women's Day leading into the tournament on Sunday, July 29th. She is also switching the playing of the nines at Montreux to showcase the mountain views of the closing holes for the millions of golfers around the world watching on TV.
The Reno-Tahoe Open and Montreux Golf & Country Club are making their imprint on the PGA TOUR no different than the golfing god's golf course footprints on the High Sierra landscape. Both are inspirational.
Want a tip on where to schedule your next golfing vacation?
My tip is head for RNO, watch the RTO at Montreux and golf, golf, golf- there are over 50 golf courses in the Reno-Tahoe area. You may not remember your seat number but I bet you will remember every golf hole you played.
Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. He spends time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.
Reistetter resides within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and the home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach.
A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.
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Contact Reistetter by e-mail at AndyReistetter@gmail.com