Friday, February 16, 2007

No, it's not Myrtle or Monterey, but with an array of quality courses along with some of the sweetest air and most scenic eye candy in the nation, the two-state Tahoe and High Sierra region is one great golf venue. The area, straddling California and Nevada, has across-the-board appeal, thanks to the variety of golf-course designs, mountain-and-forest topography, and bang-for-the-buck packages. Unparalleled outdoor recreation plus nightlife and gambling on the Nevada side add to the attraction.Then there's Lake Tahoe itself. Any description of fewer than 10,000 words is insufficient to relate its grandeur and beauty. It is the third deepest lake in North America, its water nearly 99 percent pure -- virtually the same as

Edgewood TahoeEdgewood Tahoe's par-5 18th. John & Jeannine Henebry

distilled. It's said that a dinner plate can be seen some 75 feet below the surface. Ringed by snow-capped peaks in the 10,000-foot range, this 22-mile-long, 12-mile-wide inland sea 190 miles east of San Francisco is one of the choicest playgrounds in the West. The courses are all within a 90-minute drive of Reno. Nevada courses stretch south to Carson City and Stateline on the east side of Lake Tahoe; those on the California side are found near historic Truckee and in Graeagle.

Where to Play

Nevada Side

Tahoe tactics

Depending on location, the region's higher elevations add 10 percent more distance per club. Be careful: Sometimes the math calculations, club selection, and course strategizing can give you a headache. "I'm going uphill, but it's downwind, and I'm getting .10 percent more yardage -- holy moly, where's my calculator?"

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. www.edgewood-tahoe.com

Golf Club at Genoa Lakes. A John Harbottle-Peter Jacobsen design set along the Carson River, this 7,263-yard course is a nature lover's paradise, with mature trees, wetlands, and water on 14 holes. Several of the holes climb into hills; the remainder roll beside the shady river. The Sierra Nevada provide a dramatic backdrop. Recently treated to $8 million in improvements by new owners, enhancements include crushed white marble in the bunkers. Green fee: $95-$110. 775-782-4653; www.genoalakes.com.

Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch. Laid out in 1998 by Harbottle and Johnny Miller, this Western-themed spread, routed through a high-desert savannah, is walled in by 10,000-foot peaks and offers stunning views of Carson Valley. Opening holes trace the valley floor before climbing 350 feet into the sagebrush-covered foothills of the High Sierras. Green fee: $70-$90. 775-782-7700; www.sierra.nevadagolfranch.com.

White Haw RanchWhitehawk Ranch is a natural wonder. John & Jeannine Henebry

Dayton Valley Golf Club. Flat and windswept, this Arnold Palmer-Ed Seay creation is all there right in front of you -- no blind shots, nothing tricky. There's plenty of water, with several forced carries, notably on the par 3s. It's a lot of work, but fun work. It's also a first-stage PGA Tour qualifying site and a big-time test from the tips at 7,218 yards. Green fee: $75-$95. 775-246-7888; www.daytonvalley.com.

Lake Ridge Golf Course. A long-time area favorite located within Reno city limits, this hilly Robert Trent Jones design (1969) is known for its signature island green at the long par-3 15th, which drops 120 feet from tee to green. Great mountain and city views. Green fee: $80-$95. 775-825-2200; www.lakeridgegolf.com.

CALIFORNIA SIDE

Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch. A consensus must-play, this pristine and serene Dick Bailey design north of Truckee has it all -- alpine air, skyscraper pines, five lakes, lots of streams, sprawling meadows, and a morning fog that clings to the fairways like gray cotton candy. Whitehawk is roomier than other mountain courses -- you'll be able to hit driver here and you'll need it, too. Green fee: $85-$135. 530-836-0394; www.golfwhitehawk.com.

The DragonThe Dragon's par-5 1st hole calls for prudence, not power.. Joann Dost

Dragon at Gold Mountain. Glorious, fun, and woodsy, this semiprivate spread by Robin Nelson winds through the mountains, providing something different at every hole -- splendid views, towering pines, rock outcrops. It's tricky, too, requiring both knowledge and heart. The Dragon makes a statement and keeps you off-balance as it climbs and plunges. Six sets of tees, ranging from 4,611 to 7,077 yards, enhance playability. Nakoma clubhouse, originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920s for another club, anchors Gold Mountain. Green fee: $75-$130. 530-832-4887; www.dragongolf.com.

Coyote Moon Golf Club. Debuted to immediate acclaim in 2000, this Brad Bell-designed course meanders through the Sierra Nevada foothills in Truckee. A stand-alone track stretching to 7,177 yards, it rolls through 250 acres of pines, without a single home to disturb the view. A very fair test with few forced carries and great conditioning. Green fee: $140-$150. 530-587-0886; www.coyotemoongolf.com.

Where to stay

If you like the natural setting of Tahoe without the noise, smoke, and clatter of the casinos, check out Embassy Suites in South Lake Tahoe on the California side. It's a nice, quiet place only minutes from all the action. A three-night package, including golf with cart at Genoa Lakes and Sierra Nevada, is priced at $429 per person, double occupancy. Hotel is valid Sunday to Thursday; golf is valid Monday to Thursday. 800-988-9820; www.embassytahoe.com.

Through June 19, a one-night package at either Caesar's Tahoe or Harveys , including tower accommodations and one round at Edgewood Tahoe, is priced at $199 per person, double occupancy. Hotel is valid Sunday to Thursday; golf is valid Monday to Thursday. Web site bookings only: www.golfthehighsierra.com.

For more information on the region, contact the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority (888-HIT-RENO, www.playreno.com) or Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority (800-AT-TAHOE, www.virtualtahoe.com).

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