PORTOLA, CA – It’s June and there’s a distinctive golfer pointing down the 18th fairway at Grizzly Ranch, a scenic golf haven on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
“Just look around, this is a pretty cool deal, the spot you want to be. There’s our iconic covered bridge in the background, we’re downwind, down sun today, some clouds and blue skies – it’s good golf.
“Come visit – forget the suitcases, we’ll sell you some clothes, bring your golf clubs and tee it up – you will have some fun.”
The golfer speaking is Van Batchelder, winner of the 1994 Arizona Open, and Director of Golf at Grizzly Ranch Golf Club. He’s forever wearing a Cowboy hat and he can play in boots. He can also sell you a pair of boots in the pro shop.
Batchelder is just one of the characters that makes the Reno-Lake Tahoe area one of the more special places on earth for teeing it up – whether it is in the High Sierras, on Lake Tahoe, or the rough, beautiful landscape around Reno and Carson City.
One of the impressive things about golf in this amazing country is you can drive and find an awesome golf course just miles away. Some might think Grizzly Ranch is in the boondocks of Plumas County (population 20,000), but it is only 50 minutes from Reno-Tahoe International Airport and 50 minutes from Truckee along Interstate 80.
Here’s a capsule look at the golf courses I played on a fun week in the High Sierras:
Edgewood Tahoe, Stateline, NV
Must say this is my favorite place to play out west other than Cypress Point. Edgewood Tahoe is unmatched in lake and mountain scenery and it hosts the American Century Championship in July that features Justin Timberlake, Steph Curry, Charles Barkley, Tony Romo, Emmitt Smith and Aaron Rodgers. It is a fun golf course, not punishing, and now boasts a $100-million hotel to spend the night – The Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe right next to the new ninth green. This impressive hotel was decades in the making.
Lake Tahoe Golf Course, South Lake Tahoe, CA
This is one of the more affordable golf courses in the area — located in a natural mountain meadow just minutes from the southern shoreline of Lake Tahoe and the golf course is located in Lake Valley State Recreational Area. This William Bell design has photo ops throughout, including the Truckee River, natural habitats and a mountain backdrop. This is a great layout for the entire family.
Incline Village Golf Courses, Incline Village, NV
Incline Village has two golf courses on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. The Mountain Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., is fun for the entire family. The Championship Course was originally designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., but Kyle Phillips did the $4.5 million 2003 facelift. My first round of golf here was memorable — Joe DiMaggio was standing on the first tee box.
Old Greenwood, Truckee, CA
Old Greenwood, originally a private club, could be the most playable Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf design I’ve ever played. The golf course is the centerpiece of a premier four-season resort community in North Lake Tahoe. Situated near the historic town of Truckee on 600 acres of towering pines and blue-sage covered hills, the public can play it and also select lots for custom-built homes and fractional residences. It’s also home to the Golf Academy at Old Greenwood.
Grizzly Ranch in Portola, CA
Grizzly Ranch was originally a private course, but now this Bob Cupp gem is open to the public. Cupp was given a thousand acres to route this No. 1-ranked course in the Sierra Nevada by Golf Digest (2014). Golfers love the endless combination of shots and it is bordered on two sides by protected federal land. It’s part of a low-density private gated community.
The Dragon at Nakoma Resort, Clio, CA
This Robin Nelson design has been softened somewhat after its original owners called on Nelson to build the most difficult course imagined. The Wild & Scenic Feather River can be seen in a canyon left of the fourth fairway, but views are at every turn. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Nakoma teepee design makes a must-visit clubhouse with incredible restaurant. And the 42-room Lodge at Nakoma is all new and comfy.
Genoa Lakes Golf Club, Genoa, NV
There are two courses at Genoa Lakes — the Lakes and the Ranch — and both of them are fun and different. John Harbottle III and Peter Jacobsen designed The Lakes Course, with the Carson River coming into play on 14 holes. The Ranch, formerly Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch, was designed by Johnny Miller and Harbottle. Over 300 feet of elevation changes, more than 100 bunkers, unpredictable mountain terrain, afternoon breezes and a waterfall challenge players.
Schaffer’s Mill Golf & Lake Club, Truckee, CA
Even though Schaffer’s Mill (formerly Timilick) is private there are some Monday tee times open for the public. This fun and scenic Johnny Miller and John Harbottle III design has two distinct nines. The back nine displays mountain holes with elevation changes of 400 feet and the opening nine takes you through a beautiful meadow.
Clear Creek Tahoe, Clear Creek, NV
After consulting with the usual suspects, Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were selected to build their first alpine setting golf course on a 1,600 acres parcel of land. It’s in the eastern shadows of the Carson Range with rugged white-sand bunkers, elevation changes and slopes that will confound you. The first time I hit the middle of a green with an approach and watched it trundle off the green I knew – beautiful and deadly. Clear Creek is located in the center of the fictional “Ponderosa” of Bonanza fame, and has been utilized for over 150 years by various cattle operations.
Montrêux, Reno, NV
This private jewel is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature design in Northern Nevada, and home to the The Barracuda Championship, slated this year July 31 – August 6, 2017 (formerly the Reno-Tahoe Open). Elevation drops are frequent among towering pines and flowing streams. Nicklaus considers Montrêux one of his top five courses. Looking for a luxury home? Discover Parc Forêt at Montrêux, an outstanding community of old world craftsman homes.
Dining suggestions for your Reno-Tahoe golf adventure
Carson Valley’s Basque Restaurant; Edgewood Restaurant; Alpine Union Restaurant at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino; The Grille at the Chateau at Incline Village Championship Course; and Nakoma Resort Wigwam Room Restaurant.
Grand Sierra Resort & Casino, Reno, NV
Carson Valley Inn, Carson, NV
Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel at Heavenly, South Lake Tahoe, CA
Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort, Tahoe Vista, CA
Donner Lake Village Resort, Truckee, CA
The Lodge at Nakoma, Clio, CA
Story by David R. Holland