Lake Tahoe: Bringing Out Your Inner Celebrity

By David R. Holland

STATELINE, Nev. – There he was in all his radiant glory. Tony Romo, cat-eating glue grin and all, was strolling down the 18th fairway at Edgewood Tahoe, within minutes of winning the 29th American Century Championship and hoisting a trophy he had lusted after for years.

All week he had told everyone who would listen he was dying to win this championship and that he thought his game was ready. He had finished second three times from 2009 to 2011.

Romo, retired Dallas Cowboys QB and now 38, was feeling comfortable on one of the most beautiful layouts in the USA. He said he would rely on fundamentals and he believed he was mentally tough enough to win. Just the week before the NFL analyst for CBS Sports won the Racine Tri-Course Amateur Championship by nine strokes.

“Obviously I’ve practiced for several months for this. My putting was solid and I made some big putts. Sometimes that’s the difference,” Romo said.

Edgewood Tahoe is one of those few courses where you can watch celebrities tee it up before TV cameras every summer and imagine you too are on the shores of Lake Tahoe. I know the dozen times played here I’ve had a blast and addressed many shots that I’ve seen guys like Romo line up and execute. This is a fun, must-play golf experience. Don’t miss it.

And by the way, Edgewood Tahoe is celebrating its 50th with golf/lodging packages and a variety of celebrations. The new Lodge at Edgewood, 154 rooms on the lake and ninth hole, will be bringing them in for the next 50 years.

Lake Tahoe has been home to countless celebrities and actually hosted the 1968 U.S. Men’s Olympic Track Team – one of the USA’s most iconic Olympic track teams that prepped for the altitude of the Mexico City Games at South Lake Tahoe. Bob Beamon, Tommy Smith, John Carols, Lee Evans, Dick Fosbury, Bill Twomey, Bob Seagren, Jim Hines, Willie Davenport, Al Oerter were all here.

Not to mention Squaw Valley hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics.

DIVERSITY IS THE RENO-LAKE TAHOE AREA    

The mixture of topography and variety of golf is significant here. Within minutes one can play High Sierra 70-degree golf among the Ponderosa pines and granite boulders at Coyote Moon, Old Greenwood, and Gray’s Crossing in Truckee or descend into the foothills and be challenged by ruggedly beautiful arroyo-forced carries and sagebrush rough in 90-degree weather at Somersett Country Club in Reno and Genoa Lakes in Carson City.

Pick from noted golf architects of the modern era – Robert Trent Jones Sr., Robert Trent Jones Jr., George Fazio, Tom Fazio, Robin Nelson, Arnold Palmer, John Harbottle, Peter Jacobsen, Johnny Miller, Fuzzy Zoeller, Hale Irwin, Dick Bailey and Robert Muir-Graves.

Here’s a capsule look at some other favorites:

Tahoe Donner Golf Course, Truckee, CA:

Loved this old-style and narrow course with tall pines, creek crossings and elevation changes with beautiful views. Tahoe Donner is the highest-elevation golf course in Tahoe and at 7,002 yards is challenging. Greens are quick and huge.

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.

PRIVATE COURSES

Gray’s Crossing, Truckee, CA

Jim Hardy and Jacobsen designed this mountain meadows beauty in the shadow of Mt. Rose. This semi-private gem was opened in 2007 and Old Greenwood is its sister course. Conditioning is top notch with a lengthy 7,466 yards but the par-4 sixth is a short, fun, 304 yards you can drive from an elevated tee.

Somersett Golf & Country Club, Reno, NV

Elevation changes, forced arroyo carries and panoramic views of Reno and surrounding alpine vistas can be seen from this private desert-like course designed in 2004 by Tom Kite, Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell. It rolls out at 7,252 yards at par 72 with five sets of tees, seven lakes, 62 white sand bunkers and 400-foot wide landing areas from the tees.

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.

DINING SUGGESTIONS FOR YOUR RENO-TAHOE GOLF ADVENTURE

JT Basque Restaurant; Wild Bill’s BBQ, Incline Village Mountain Course, Incline Village, NV; Edgewood Restaurant; The Lodge Restaurant & Pub at Tahoe Donner Golf Course; and Nakoma Resort Wigwam Room Restaurant.

LODGING SUGGESTIONS

The Lodge at Nakoma, Clio, CA; Hampton Inn & Suites, Truckee, CA; Twilight Ridge in Dollar Point, Tahoe Luxury Properties Vacation Rental, Tahoe City, CA; Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, Reno, NV; Holiday Inn Express & Suites, Minden, NV; Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Stateline, NV.

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