Alpine golfing destination in majestic Sierra Nevada
Lake Tahoe needs no introducing in the winter months. Travelers regularly arrive from around the country and internationally, making the gorgeous Tahoe basin their home for a week or more.
Tahoe has the largest concentration of alpine ski resorts in North America with 14, and roughly a dozen cross-country ski centers in the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains. While world-renowned as a ski destination, once the ski resorts shut down by late spring, the focus switches, ushering in another popular sport that receives its share of attention by tourists throughout the summer months.
Golf has gradually moved up the charts in popularity due to the number of excellent courses in Lake Tahoe and surrounding region. Tahoe is home to white sandy beaches, plunging cliffs, rocky coves, glacier-carved granite peaks, and an array of beautiful and challenging golf courses that will not disappoint any level golfer.
The summer weather in Tahoe is typically Chamber of Commerce-like magnificent, providing visitors with ideal temperatures for any outdoor pursuit. And there are plenty of those, including scenic hikes, mountain biking, swimming in the 12-mile wide lake, paddle boarding, horseback riding, fly-fishing, kayaking, tubing, jet skiing, boating and more.
Thinking about a golfing vacation? Put the Tahoe region on the vacation planner. Golf season begins in May and typically lasts until late October. In summer, the region is arguably the best mountain golf destination in the U.S, featuring approximately 44 courses in Tahoe, Reno, Carson Valley and Graeagle. There are classic mountain courses that can only be played with a cart and venerable walkable nine-hole tracks that have been around for more than a century.
All one needs to know about golf in the Lake Tahoe region is the who’s who of course designers. The list includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Robert Trent Jones Sr. and Jr., Johnny Miller, Peter Jacobsen, Tom Weiskopf, and the Fazio family.
Below are three golf courses that are examples of the Lake Tahoe region’s tremendous diversity.
A gentle wind and crisp mountain air engulf the early risers on this gorgeous June morning. The low hanging sun is starting to warm things up a bit as foursomes of golf-happy folks head off the first tee at picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Thanks to the popularity of the annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, Edgewood is easily the most recognizable course in the greater Reno-Lake Tahoe area. During the celebrity tournament Edgewood’s natural beauty makes it a fantastic advertising vehicle for the Tahoe tourist industry.
What’s not to like? The course plays along the shimmering blue waters of Lake Tahoe, which was formed around 25 million years ago and is the second deepest lake in the country (1,645 feet). The remainder of the course is nestled among towering pines trees, including several that are strategically placed in the middle of fairways.
“Edgewood is a fantastic setting and everything about it is totally unique,” said Mark Mulder, who has won three times at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, a three-day tournament (July 12-14) with A-list athletes and celebrities.
Although the course is generally tucked away near the water, it’s right in the heart of South Lake Tahoe, a brief walk or short drive from many of the casinos and major hotels.
Edgewood Tahoe is a beautiful amphitheater of tall trees, features snow-capped mountains as a backdrop early in the season, and provides a major showcase of the famed lake. The views are spectacular and so is the golf. The layout has its share of challenges, but the George Fazio design is fairly straightforward and the greens are readable for even first-time golfers.
Recommended Lodging – There’s simply no better place to put down roots in South Lake Tahoe than the Edgewood Tahoe Lodge. Be prepared for some serious pampering at the Edgewood, where the hospitality is arguably second to none in the region.
The rooms are spacious, feature unique architecture and furnishings, and deliver spectacular views of the nearby lake and the surrounding mountains. The property is enhanced by an extravagant pool area that will have guests relaxed and never wanting to leave. Edgewood also has a terrific spa where men and women can be coddled and experience several hours of total relaxation.
The dining options include an elegant restaurant, a bistro for grabbing a bite, or the bar and deck where one of the regular bartenders may entertain guests with magic tricks and tasty cocktails.
There’s a significant natural beauty throughout the 18-hole trek around Clear Creek in Carson City. The natural ambiance may be second to none in the region, and that is one profound statement considering the intrinsic beauty that many of the Tahoe area golf courses inhabit. The views throughout the round are spectacular.
Clear Creek Tahoe is a Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw collaborated design, located just 20 minutes from Lake Tahoe and 35 minutes from the Reno airport. Crenshaw had a fantastic career on the PGA tour, winning19 events, including two major championships. Judging by Clear Creek, he’s also an extremely talented course architect, creating a memorable landscape that’s breathtakingly gorgeous and presents quite the challenge to any level golfer.
The historic Clear Creek Ranch property has had a connection to Lake Tahoe, Carson City and Virginia City, dating back to the mid-1800’s. For TV western fans, Clear Creek is located in the center of the fictional Ponderosa of “Bonanza” TV fame. Swift’s Station pavilion is also a part of the golf course, named for the wagon train stop that was located below the eastern summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The property was once a timber operation as well.
Great golf courses have a knack for taking the golfer on a journey. And that’s certainly the case with Clear Creek, which features great contours, severe elevation changes, and long scenic vistas. There are sizable holes that travel uphill and demand both length, skill and commitment. There are also short holes where imaginative shot-making is required and rewards creative thinking. The multi-tiered greens are big and challenging, so putting the approach shot in the proper location can be critical.
Note that Clear Creek has been a private community and club since its inception. It was recently ranked 22nd as one of Golfweek’s Top 100 Residential Courses in the U.S., and was rated No. 1 in Nevada.
The spacious homesites at Clear Creek Tahoe are much like the golf course – dramatic and diverse. Home sales has been picking up recently and the residents now have a terrific family-friendly summer recreation area that features an elaborate pool area that includes fire pits, bocce ball, tennis and pickle ball courts, and a water slide, all amidst the 100-year-old pine trees.
Recommended Lodging: There are 149 rooms, including 11 suites, standard rooms, deluxe rooms and handicapped accessible rooms at the Carson Valley Inn, located in Minden, NV. There’s a convenient business center, indoor pool, hot spas, fitness facility, and outdoor sun deck.
Although the motel has been around for a long time, it’s been modernized. All the rooms were remodeled during 2018 and early 2019 and are equipped with a small refrigerator.
The facility features a full-size casino that has both a Sports and Race Book. Carson Valley Inn takes bets on all major sports and horse race betting is available every day. There are three dozen 65-inch HDTV screens to feature sporting events.
Dining options include a Nevada-style steakhouse that serves dinner nightly. Katie’s is open 24 hours a day and specializes in hearty breakfast meals, a diverse lunch and dinner menu, and dining late at night that extends into the early-morning hours.
Unlike many hotels in the region, at the Carson Valley Inn there are no daily resort fees and parking is free.
Visiting presidents and celebrities were common place for several decades at Lake Tahoe’s oldest golf course. Dating back to 1917, Old Brockway has welcomed Presidents John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, mobster “Bones” Remmel, and the famed Rat Pack – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Sinatra once owned a nearby casino (Cal-Neva), but lost the ownership due to mob connections. Old Brockway was also the site of the first Bing Crosby Golf Tournament (1934-1935) that later relocated to Pebble Beach.
The Comstock family, the original developers of Kings Beach, wanted a golf course, so they hired renowned Scottish architect John Duncan Dunn, who later designed Shinnecock Hills, the New York course that has hosted five U.S. Opens. In 1924, Dunn designed Old Brockway without moving much dirt, keeping the natural landscape that’s never been changed.
The 9-hole track measures 3,362 yards from the back tees and delivers a notable challenge at many of its holes. It features two par 5’s, two par 3’s and five par 4’s. Once past the first hole and done with a nerve-wracking drive down the fairway that borders Highway 267 traffic, the course disappears into a beautiful wooded area with some hilly terrain.
Golf carts are frequently used at Old Brockway, but it’s also a terrific walking course. The small, turtle-back greens are challenging. Hit an approach shot in the wrong location and beware of the three-putt! The fairways are tight as a rule, highlighting the importance of keeping the ball in the short grass. Old Brockway is a fair test of golf at its three tee locations and many golfers enjoy it so much that they play another 9 holes following their original round.
Historic Old Brockway resides on the corner of Highway 267 and North Lake Boulevard. It has been family-owned and operated for over 30 years. Lane Lewis and his family provide a relaxed atmosphere that is welcoming to golfers at all levels. Old Brockway features a bar and grille that has outside seating and is a great place to unwind on food and beverages following a round of golf.
Recommended Lodging: An ideal spot when playing Old Brockway is the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe, a hotel located in Incline Village with lots of amenities. It’s a terrific lodging location for families or couples looking for an intimate stay.
The lodging provides a mountain getaway experience with spacious rooms, suites and cottages that often include breathtaking views. The tip here is book a Balcony King room that offers a private balcony for sitting and taking in views of the scenic resort property.
The Hyatt is across the street from Lake Tahoe, where swimming and boating is among the frequent summer activities. The award-winning Lone Eagle Café is the dining choice of many and is enhanced by its lakeside views.
Inside the Hyatt is a cool café to grab a snack. For gamblers, there’s a good-sized casino with numerous gaming tables and slot machines. Outside is a splendid heated pool area with hot tubs that attracts people of all ages year round.