Golf Writer Andy Reistetter continues his exclusive "Play-Write" series this time with a weeklong visit to the High Sierra region of northern Nevada and California. Defined by Reno, Carson City, Lake Tahoe, Truckee and Graeagle, this golfing mecca is spread out just enough to capture all terrains and playing conditions. The 240-square-mile area contains over 40 golf courses. Two of them you know for sure—Edgewood Tahoe, home of the American Century Celebrity Championship, and Montreux CC, home of the PGA TOUR's Reno-Tahoe Open. Join Reistetter as he tries to play 11 golf courses in seven days in golfing heaven—the High Sierra.
I may have been hypnotized for my week of High Sierra golf. It seemed surreal as I looked out the window during my flight into Reno and saw the Sierra Nevada below me. Flying along in the wisps of clouds in brilliant sunshine above such grandeur takes one into a new state of awareness. My mesmerizing meditation became focused as I saw the magnetic magnificence of Lake Tahoe. Below, I could see where the golfing gods had walked through one day and left behind golf courses in their green footprints. I knew I would be playing many of those courses during a weeklong golf journey. I couldn't wait for the plane to land so I could get to the first tee.
Like any spinning wheel in a Nevada casino, my golfing journey went clockwise from Reno to Dayton to Lake Tahoe to Truckee to Graeagle. The terrain went from the mountain to the valley to the lake to the meadows to the really high mountains. Going around the High Sierra golfing wheel in seven days seemed like a magical and heavenly opportunity. With unlimited tee times at 40 courses how many could I play in seven days—maybe I could roll that lucky 7-11: seven days, 11 courses?
My first round of golf was at Montreux CC, a private real-estate enclave and superb Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. You know it as the scenic course that hosts the annual Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA TOUR, the tournament J.J. Henry won this year. Nestled in the Ponderosa pine trees on the gentle eastern slopes of snow-capped Mt. Rose, Montreux was a good first experience of High Sierra golf. With pine trees are taller than Jack's beanstalk and dramatic views all around, Montreux offers a very different golfing experience. In this part of the country it is all about the altitude. I figured it out on the fourth hole after flying a wedge 20 yards over the green. I thought it was my superb and powerful ball-striking abilities. That it was not; it was high-altitude golf, a plus for anyone's game and attitude!
The next day we golfed at Dayton Valley, a solid Arnold Palmer-designed facility. As a prequalifying site for the Reno-Tahoe Open, Frys.com Open and Q-School, this golf course provides all the challenge one golfer needs. If the wind kicks up, as it did for us, it becomes more of a challenge than a foursome of golfers needs. The rain never came but a rainbow did appear in the distant cloud-enshrouded mountain tops. My playing partner and I persevered through the weather to post an 8-under par 64 scramble score. Needless to say it was one of the best ball-striking days of my life as evidenced by the driver to five feet for eagle on the 323-yard 15th hole. Okay, so it was downwind and from the whites, but the putt was no gimme!
On the third day (and you know where I am going with this seven-day odyssey) the drive up to golfing heaven was spectacular via the NV 207 Kingsbury Grade Road from Minden. Once we rose to the elevation of Lake Tahoe, we played along its shore and in a nearby forest at Edgewood Tahoe, home to the American Century Celebrity Classic. This is the "Major," where sports and entertainment celebrities compete for the right to be called the best nonprofessional golfer in America. This year, that honor went to Dan Quinn, a former NHL center.
The course design is really a Fazio Plus with Uncle George doing the original design that opened in 1968, and nephew Tom renovating the course for the 1998 season. The first nine leads the golfer up a gentle slope through towering pine trees while the second nine brings you quietly down to the lake. In a tranquil state one plays the par-3 16th with lake right and putts out on the final green as gentle waves slap along the shoreline.
To complete your experience at Edgewood Tahoe find the hidden hallway down the stairs behind the bar in the Brooks dining area. Check out the fascinating golf pictures of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and John Daly when they played junior events at Edgewood Tahoe.
When one is on a golfing pilgrimage to the High Sierra one must drive along the edge of Lake Tahoe. From south to north on the east side of the lake, it is spectacular. Like a tap-in birdie, one must stop to pause, take in the view and remember the feeling of awe and satiation.
After Montreux, Dayton Valley and Edgewood Tahoe, it was time to experience a unique combination of golf near Truckee—the closely mated twosome of Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing. The terrain is gradual, meadows abound and the land well-suited for parkland golf courses.
I walked Old Greenwood, saw some deer and tried to stay out of the chaparral. Taking notice of Old Greenwood's logo, which depicts a golfer in knickers, and the Jack Nicklaus-designed course, a golfer knows playing here will be a memorable experience, and it was.
On the fifth day I played Gray's Crossing (Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy design) with Ed Leinenkugel, a grandson of the brewery founder, and Joe Starkey, the voice of the 49ers. If Peter Jacobsen can have "Jake's Takes" on NBC golf broadcasts, I can have an "Andy Dandy" on one of his golf courses. After I hit a great tee shot on No. 3, Joe makes the call "what a bonanza," and after the round Ed gives me a bottle of the family's best Summer Shandy. Does it get any better than that for a golf travel writer of average golfing skill? Did I tell you this is a great golf course? And I haven't even mentioned PJ's casual indoor/outdoor restaurant and bar (yet).
Are you counting? That was five golf courses in five days. I was definitely the "slacker" of the group. I picked up the pace on the sixth day driving up to the Graeagle area to play The Dragon and Plumas Pines.
Playing the Dragon was a good and unique experience. I loved it! When you drive up to the clubhouse and it is a Frank Lloyd Wright design, you know it is going to be a special day. I played with a guy that last played it when the course opened and he said it is much more playable now. That is how I found it to be. Fairways and greens is good course management. Spray it a bit and you will pay the price though it will be lots of fun!
What can I say about Plumas Pines? There is no nicer Golf Professional (Brandon Bowling) in the world. The Superintendent (Mark Callahan) rides around with his dog in the golf cart. You feel like family the moment you step onto the property. The golf course is a good test of golf and a fun time if your girlfriend or wife can play along too! Have time to stay for dinner at Longboards as the slow-roasted baby back ribs are outstanding!
The seventh and final day of my High Sierra golfing trip came, and I saved the best for last—Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club! Now how can I say that after sharing the previous seven courses with you? Well I shot a two-birdie 73 from the 6,500 yard three-hawk tees. This is no cream puff of a golf course, but it is so picturesque that you are totally relaxed. In that state I believe you play some of your best golf, at least I do. I guess the 126 holes I played the previous six days helped a little too.
High Sierra Golf is not an ordinary golf trip. Perhaps it is the refreshing mountain air, the scenery or the elevation. Altitude maybe but attitude for sure—there is a certain personality and camaraderie to the area that makes the trip a lot of fun on and off the golf course!
While I did not play that lucky 7-11—I only played eight golf courses in seven days—I hope to return next year and play eleven!
To customize your golfing trip to the High Sierra go to the following website:
Where I Stayed:
Atlantis Casino in downtown Reno- FUN!
Carson Valley Inn in Minden- comfortable, scenic and everybody loves this casino!
Chalet View Lodge- this is a hideaway with all the amenities! Stay as long as you can!
Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe- loved my mountain view. It is a suite!
Hyatt Incline Village near North Lake Tahoe- what a view!
Larkspur Hotel Truckee Tahoe- very personable and convenient to everything!
Where I Dined:
The Chocolate Bar near downtown Reno's Riverwalk- who doesn't love chocolate? The chocolate milkshakes were awesome!
Campo Italian Restaurant on downtown Reno's Riverwalk- I recommend the salumi and charcuterie board for an appetizer and the Dover Sole with Prince Edward Island Mussel sauce for the entrée.
The Basil in Carson City- great Thai restaurant with unbelievable food, presentation and atmosphere. I recommend the fresh mango and Bangkok spring rolls for an appetizer and spicy cashew nuts with shrimp for an entrée.
Ciera Steak & Chophouse inside MontBleu Resort & Casino in South Lake Tahoe- the staff goes out of its way to make this a fine dining experience. My treat was dining with Al Barkow and hearing Jack Fleck stories about his U.S. Open win over Ben Hogan in 1955 at Olympic Club. Al wrote a book entitled The Upset and the U.S. Open was the next week at Olympic!
Lone Eagle Grill in Incline Village- wow, this is one of Annika Sorenstam's favorite places when she is at her home in Lake Tahoe. She was there earlier in the evening but I missed seeing her. The beef tenderloin from their signature mesquite-fired grill is to die for! They are doing a $1.3 million transformation later this year so Lone Eagle is a must do for 2013!
PJ's at Gray's Crossing- here is nothing like relaxing after a round of golf outside in big comfortable leather chairs with a fire blazing to take the chill out of the air as the sun sets over the mountains.
Fifty-Fifty Brewery in Truckee (a chip shot from the Larkspur Hotel)- you win either way with great food and great local brews. I recommend the six craft beer taster and the seared Ahi BLT.
Longboards Bar & Grill at Plumas Pines in Graeagle- ditto above. Miss the second nine if you have to but don’t miss the slow-roasted baby back ribs at Longboards.
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