Lake Tahoe – World Class Golf in a Winter Wonderland

Lake Tahoe. Just the name elicits a reverence for outdoor recreation. World class skiing, hiking, boating and now golf dominate one of the most beautiful areas in the world.

On a recent trip to Lake Tahoe my home base was in Truckee, CA at the north end of the lake. Truckee lies a few miles to the west of the California/Nevada border and just a short drive to the lake. This northern Tahoe area is home to most of the area’s top courses and only a half hour drive from Reno or an hour and a half from Sacramento.

My first stop for golf was Coyote Moon. Located just north of Truckee in a secluded mountainous hideaway, it is hard to believe anyone could build a golf course here. This magnificent Brad Bell design has no homes infringing on its pristine setting.

From the first hole, the snow capped Sierras in the distance, this layout takes a rollicking roller coaster ride through hills, valleys and every imaginable type of golf hole. Beautiful vistas, rock outcroppings the size of buses guarding greens and a downhill 200 yard Par 3 that can best be compared to going to the observation deck of your local skyscraper and launching a shot to a green at street level. Amazing!

Days two and three were spent at the sister properties of Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing. While the terrain is tamer than at Coyote Moon, the challenges of great golf are still present. Old Greenwood is a Jack Nicklaus Signature layout nestled in a family oriented community with 600 acres of soaring pines and mountain vistas. The course is fair yet challenging for all players. Generous fairways lead to less forgiving green areas with plenty of water and sand hazards to keep your attention.

Gray’s Crossing is a short drive away and has a more open feeling to it than Old Greenwood. Currently, only a few homes border this Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy layout giving one the feel of playing through the solitude of a mountain meadow with towering pine lined fairways. With driveable Par 4’s and unreachable Par 5’s this course will make you hit all the clubs in your bag.

Before our fourth day of golf we had an amazing dinner on the north shore of Lake Tahoe at the Wild Goose in Tahoe Vista. From the Adirondack chairs on the firepit deck to the glass enclosed (radiant heated) outdoor dining room, this is that rare restaurant where the quality of the food and service was equal to the stunning mountain lined lake views.  The menu featured great homemade soups and desserts with an eclectic collection of wonderful entrees. Truly an evening to remember.

Our final round of golf was at Schaffer’s Mill. This private community allows very limited outside guest play and I must say this is one of the prettiest golf courses I have seen. The final ten holes equal the best anywhere. The front nine meanders along the tree lined meadows of Martis Valley while the inward nine climbs and then tumbles through the foothills of the Northstar Resort area. This Johnny Miller/John Harbottle collaboration features white sand bunkers set against the deep green forests, fairways and greens of this amazing place. The course is fair yet very challenging and demands your attention while testing every shot in the book. If you can keep your mind on the course and not get lost in the scenery (a VERY tough task) you will be rewarded with a golf experience of a lifetime. Simply magical!

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