The hub of the valley, Carson City, where cowboy hats and boots with spurs are standard garb, provides easy access to Lake Tahoe, Reno (the "Biggest Little City in the World"), and Virginia City, home of the legendary Comstock silver mine. So pack your sticks, throw an extra sleeve of balls in the saddlebag, and head to Carson Valley. With a smile from Lady Luck, you may even win your next green fee at one of the casinos.
Carson Valley courses are playable year-round, but cold air and rain can make winter golf a gamble. Spring, summer, and fall provide the best golf weather in Carson Valley and, 30 miles north, the greater Reno area.
WHERE TO PLAY
Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch (775-782-7700). Expertly carved from high desert south of Carson City, year-old "ranch" by Johnny Miller and John Harbottle has well-placed bunkers, ample water, unsurpassed panoramas. Downhill 618-yard ninth is a classic risk-reward par five.
Golf Club at Genoa Lakes (775-782-4653). Peter Jacobsen and John Harbottle collaborated on the design of this superb 7,263-yard, links-style layout near South Lake Tahoe. Perfect integration of cottonwood trees and wetlands.
Dayton Valley Country Club (775-246-7888). Regular site for Stage One of PGA Tour Qualifying School, this windswept Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay design southeast of Reno is rated 74.2/143 from the tips at 7,218 yards. Tour wannabes have averaged 4.5 strokes on the demanding 450-yard, par-four ninth hole.
Arrow Creek Golf Club/The Legend (775-850-4653). Located at 5,200 feet in foothills of Sierra Nevada, Arnold Palmer-designed course opened last March has verdant fairways rambling through giant rocks and high desert sage. Thomas Creek, a mountain stream, is a major factor on five holes.
Wolf Run Golf Club (775-851-3301). Traditional, semi-private layout opened in 1998, home to University of Nevada's men's and women's golf teams, makes brilliant use of rugged terrain and White's Creek. "Wolfpaw," a 110-yard par three, is a 19th hole to settle ties.
Sunridge Golf Club (775-267-4448). Stunning newcomer south of Carson City is a target-style 7,054-yard layout. Lakes, bunkers, ridges, and elevation changes create an unforgettable experience.
THE SECOND TIER
Red Hawk Golf Club at Wingfield Springs (775-626-6000). Springs Course, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout opened in 1997, has more than 100 bunkers, with several holes set in wetlands.
Wildcreek Golf Club (775-673-3100). Former site of Senior PGA Tour event in 1980s has six lakes, a creek, and a hilly back nine to keep things interesting. A local favorite. Also has a nine-hole executive course. (One Course, Two Course)
Empire Ranch Golf Club (775-885-2100). Inviting 27-hole facility located beside the Carson River has wetlands in play on all three nines. Great value. (Comstock/River Course, Sierra/Comstock Course, and Sierra/River Course)
Northgate Golf Club (775-747-7577). Breezy, links-style course by Benz/Poellot outside Reno blends tight, sagebrush-lined fairways with slick greens to offer challenge.
Lakeridge Golf Club (775-825-2200). Vintage Robert Trent Jones design in Reno. Signature hole is downhill par-three 15th, which plays to an island green.
BEST OF THE REST
Carson Valley Golf Club (775-265-3181). Back nine will test all your skills as you work through a minefield of water and cottonwood trees.
Rosewood Lakes Golf Club (775-857-2892). Target-style muni set in wetlands of Truckee Meadows is Reno's best value.
Eagle Valley/West Course (775-887-2380). Challenging 6,851-yard muni in Carson City offers a solid test. Facility's shorter East Course welcomes walkers.
WHERE TO EAT
Adele's in Carson City combines perfect cuisine with a showcase wine list. All casinos serve good food 24 hours a day at reasonable prices. J.T. Basque Bar & Dining in Gardnerville is a great place to experience authentic Basque dining. The Carson Nugget serves the best breakfast in the valley. El Charro Avitia, in Carson City, has memorable Mexican food at sensible prices.
Nightlife in Nevada never stops. Carson City's seven casinos offer live entertainment along with every imaginable way to gamble away your idle hours. Thirty minutes north of the capital city, the Reno Hilton, The Eldorado, the Flamingo Hilton, and Ascuaga's Nugget feature nightly shows with world-class entertainers. Jazz, rock, and country-western clubs abound.
The Turquoise Kiva, in Virginia City, features silver and turquoise jewelry. Across the street is Bogies Beer Collectibles, where you can buy, sell, or trade beer cans and bottles. Sun Mountain Western Wear Shop is home to more than 2,000 belt buckles. Looking for the perfect cowboy hat? The Red Garter has thousands of them hanging from the ceiling. In Genoa, the Crafters' Attic has items ranging from hand-made soap to wind chimes made from horseshoes.
Fabled boom town of Virginia City, where miners pulled a $400 million fortune in silver and gold from the ground, offers underground mine tours, a genuine boot hill, the V&T steam train ride, and museums along with shops, western saloons, and casinos. Genoa is a good place to stop for an ice cream cone and a stroll through the reconstructed stockade and museum commemorating the Mormon Station Historical Park, Nevada's first settlement in 1851.
Pinon Plaza Resort/Carson Station Hotel Casino (877-519-5567). Great Golf Package features two nights' lodging and a round of golf with cart, plus two breakfasts, dinner, cocktails, and casino coupons. Contact the Pinon Plaza Resort for current rates.
Hardman House Motor Inn (800-626-0793). Golf package, including two nights' lodging, two rounds of golf with cart, continental breakfast, and casino coupons. Call for current rates.
Carson Nugget (800-426-5239, ext. 250). Individual golf package features two nights' lodging, one round of golf with cart, food, gaming, bar and gift packages. Call for current rates.