Sierra golf: Lake Tahoe is home to breathtaking holes
Playing golf in the Lake Tahoe Basin is an experience like none other. Imagine stepping up to the tee box, the lake to one side, the mountains to the other and the smell of pine all around.
Because of the American Century Championship, and the sheer beauty of the hole, when most people think about Tahoe golf, No. 17 at Edgewood is what comes to mind.
During the ACC, the beach along this par-3 is one giant party. Boats line the shore, the beach is packed with spectators and celebrities often interact with the fans.
“The 175-yard hole [from the blue tees] has treated golfers to the magnificence of Lake Tahoe up close as a memorable end-of-round golf experience,” said Phil Weidinger, a spokesman on behalf of Edgewood. “A solid shot is required to cover the stretch of natural beach sand between the tee and green as well as the fronting bunker. A wayward shot to the right and its lake plus,” Weidinger said. “The backdrop on television serves as an annual reminder to an international audience of Tahoe’s celebrated beauty.”
While this one is no doubt both beautiful and iconic, there are dozens of golf courses around the basin that offer breathtaking views and challenging play.
We’ve collected some of Tahoe’s “best” holes. Avid golfers and pros from various courses weighed in on what they thought their best holes are, whether it be best views, unique features or fun game play.
Yes, hole 17 is iconic but No. 16 is a hidden gem. George Fazio originally designed the course in 1968. His nephew, acclaimed designer Tom Fazio, added alterations over the years.
Hole 16 is 564 yard par-5.
“Upon exiting the 15th green, golfers turn westward and from the tee, the lake presents itself at the end of a chute of trees that frames the length of the hole,” Weidinger said. “It combines all that is special about a round of golf at Edgewood with a narrow fairway, a towering Jeffrey pine to be negotiated in the right center of the landing area with fairway bunkers on either side.”
A cross bunker gives golfers a challenge about 100 yards from the green and sand lines the hole the rest of the way.
“The green, just yards from Lake Tahoe, innocuously slopes from back to front adding the final challenge to a hole recognized by many as one of the most spectacular in golf,” Weidinger said.
Incline Village Championship Course
“If you were going to choose one signature hole at the Championship Course, it would have to be hole seven for a number of reasons,” said Head Golf Professional Kyle Thornburg.
The Championship Course was opened in 1964 and has consistently been rated as one of the top courses in the Tahoe area by GolfAdvisor.
There are many things that make hole seven interesting.
“First and foremost, the view: Perched at one of the highest points on the course, golfers tee off directly at Lake Tahoe, with the lake and surrounding mountains clearly visible over the tall pines along the course,” Thornburg said, adding many golfers can be seen taking a mid-round selfie on this hole.
However, the view isn’t the only thing that makes this 393-yard par-4 unique. There is a downhill tee shot to a fairway that ends with three strategically placed bunkers.
“Rumors have always swirled that course designer Robert Trent Jones Sr. designed these bunkers to resemble the letters ‘USA’ so that the view from the tee box is of ‘Lake Tahoe, USA,’” Thornburg said.
The tee shot has to be good enough to put you in position to get to the green. It has to be precise and long enough to get to the corner of the dogleg fairway while avoiding the creek, the bunkers and all of the out-of-bounds and penalty areas that run parallel to the fairway. The approach shot requires a high-draw in order to stop the ball near the pin on the severely side-sloped green.
“Hole seven is challenging and beautiful – just like the rest of the Championship Course,” Thornburg said.
Montreux Golf & Country Club
Sure, Montreux isn’t technically in the Tahoe basin, but just a short drive down the hill into Reno, this course is well-known amongst golf enthusiasts.
The course was designed in 1997 by legend Jack Nicklaus.
Hole 17 is a 464 par-4 that offers one of the most aesthetically pleasing views on property while also offering a challenge. It starts with a 138-foot drop from the tee box to the fairway.
“The demanding tee shot will require you to find the small fairway nestled in between Galena Creek and tall pines,” said PGA Director of Golf Zach Jonas. “Your second shot will not be any easier as you have the creek running in front of the narrow green and wraps around the right side with bunkers both left and long right.”
Clear Creek Tahoe
Clear Creek Tahoe is a nationally-ranked course nestled just off the hill between Tahoe and Carson City. The course was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. Each hole was carefully named and the course as a whole tells a story.
“The 13th hole at Clear Creek Tahoe, aptly named Contemplation, can be stretched to 635 yards from the back tees and provides the player with a variety of shot making options to consider when selecting a route,” said Director of Membership Chris Appling.
There is strategic bunker placement and a tree-lined fairway that follows the natural contours of the terrain.
Appling said these, “lead to an infinity style green and an extremely dramatic view of the Carson Valley on this breathtaking Coore and Crenshaw designed par-5.”
Incline Village Mountain Course
“The 18-hole, par-58 Mountain Course might be a lot shorter than its big sister course down the hill – the par-72 Championship Course — but don’t underestimate the challenge this course offers or the fun you can have teeing off at Nevada’s highest elevation golf course,” said Head Golf Professional Ashley Wood.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and it plays off the elevation changes, streams and other natural obstacles and Wood said the course “has something for every golfer.”
“No hole embodies that more than hole No. 15, a par-3 that starts at the highest elevation tee box on the course (approximately 7,100 feet) and drops off dramatically to a green that’s almost 50 feet below,” Wood said. “Hitting this short shot downhill is tougher than it seems and I usually recommend golfers try not to overthink it. Just take about 10 yards off your typical tee shot, and then enjoy watching the ball fall all the way down to the green.”
Coyote Moon sits on 250 acres of secluded rolling hills amidst towering pines, enormous granite outcroppings, wildflowers and Trout Creek in Truckee. Designed by Brad Bell, it takes advantage of all of its natural surroundings. Hole 12 uses the natural beauty with a granite outcrop that surrounds the green.
Ed McGargill, PGA general manager, describes the hole as a “reachable par-5.”
The 492-yard hole drifts to the right and if you hit it just right, the green can be reached in two shots. However, the green slopes severely from back to front so the shot onto the green needs to land in the center.
Sure, Northstar is most known for its wintry slopes but it also offers a great golf experience in the summer. The course, designed by world-renowned architect Robert Muir Graves, is described as a “tale of two nines.”
The front nine plays through Martis Valley while the back nine takes you up into the mountains.
“The par-4 fifth hole skirts the hillside to the west, and the elevated tee offers expansive views of the Martis Valley,” said Director of Golf Pete Smith.
“A drive placed left center offers a mid/short iron into the deep left to right sloping green,” Smith said. “A miss to the left will be knocked down by the huge pine guarding the green.”
It’s hard not to get distracted by the snowcapped Sierra crest that looms large as a backdrop.
“Northstar golfers enjoy the wide-open views and scoring opportunities here, a prelude to the challenging true mountain golf awaiting on the back nine,” Smith said.
Editor’s note: This is by no means a complete list of courses and holes so we encourage exploration of the entire basin to find some of the other “best holes” that are not mentioned. This story appeared in the 2021 summer edition of Tahoe Magazine and is reprinted here with the golf season opening in the basin.
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