Longing for playing golf in the High Sierra!

All photos courtesy of Rod Hanna

As we go through April, it’s the time of year I start planning my annual trek to the High Sierra region where I get the chance to play some of my favorite golf courses.

This year of course, that was all changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now instead of heading up in June or July, it appears it may be August at the earliest. An optimistic person by nature I will look ahead to the day when the courses are open for play again.

Whitehawk Ranch No. 13

On the positive side, the courses will be in immaculate shape and will be happy to see golfers as they have a limited season that will be at least two months shorter than usual.

The are no shortage of great courses you can play from both North Shore and South Shore, to Truckee, to Graeagle, to Reno, then on to the Carson Valley. These are my five favorite courses to play when blessed with the chance to get to the region.

I could make a great trip out of five other courses, but these will always be my go-to public courses.

No. 1 Edgewood (South Lake Tahoe): This has been my top course for years now I can’t see that changing in the future. The fact that you can see Lake Tahoe from virtually any place on the course makes it almost impossible to have a bad day. Hit a bad shot – take a deep breath, turn and gaze at Lake Tahoe, one of nature’s most beautiful sites. I love the entire course, but it really does save the best for last. Holes 16-18 is right up there with any other course for a closing three holes. No. 16 is a downhill par 5 that is reachable but requires two precise shots. The 17th is a wonderful par 3 right along the water.

Old Greenwood No. 6

When the wind kicks in of the lake, the tee shots needs to be started over the water and brought back. Not an easy thing to talk yourself into. Finally, No. 18 is another par 5 that is also reachable, but requires a second shot that often needs to carry the small lake guarding most of the green. Finishing while standing feet from Lake Tahoe is as beautiful as standing on the 18th green at Pebble Beach. Following the round, enjoy a beverage or two on Brooks Bar and Deck, one of the most beautiful 19th Holes you will find.

No. 2 Old Greenwood (Truckee): A Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, Old Greenwood is everything a Nicklaus course should be as he appeals to golfers of all abilities. Playing the right tees here is as important as any course I have played. The landing areas are wide open, very fair for players of all levels, with the approaches getting a lot tighter and more challenging. Located right off I-80, the way the course is designed, with banks separating the course from the freeway gives you a feeling of being far more isolated. There are some great holes on the course. My favorite stretch of holes is 6-8, with No. 6 a 568-yard, par 5 where water comes into play, especially after the tee shot; No. 7 is a 161-yard par 3 back over the same body of water; and No. 8 is a 334-yard, par 4 that you can reach by cutting the dogleg, but deep bunkers await if you try. At the end of the round, enjoy a refreshing beverage on the patio overlooking the finishing hole. The course is the new home of the Barracuda Championships, a PGA Tour event. It will be exciting to see how the professionals play the course as opposed to an 18-handicapper!

Coyote Moon No. 13

No. 3 Coyote Moon (Truckee): Always has been a favorite of mine for the tranquility of playing a mountain course with no development on the course. The natural boulders enhance the landscape and add to the drama of the course. The 13th hole is a downhill, 206-yard par 3 that is a blind tee shot and plays 1-2 clubs less than the yardage. The 14th plays only 291 yards but requires a two-shot approach to the green, hitting your first shot about 200 yards down a narrow fairway, before hitting back across a creek to the green. Fun hole. This another course located not too far off I-80, but as like Old Greenwood, you’ll always have the feeling of being out in the forest!

No. 4 Whitehawk Ranch (Clio): Located off Highway 89 in the Graeagle area, the course gives you a different perspective of mountain golf as you really are away from it all. Just a great, peaceful area that features some top-notch golf courses in the area. The course winds through the trees and through meadow areas. An even greater escape than most mountain courses as the wildlife comes to life out here. A good drive in from Truckee, bur one well worth it.

Genoa Lakes No. 18

No. 5 Genoa Lakes (Genoa): I love this course as it’s just over the Kingsbury Grade from South Lake Tahoe, making it easy to hop over, play the course and then head back to South Shore. The course is spread out and has the Carson River winding throughout the course, providing a wonderful, wetlands feeling to the course as the water comes into play on 14 of the holes. One thing overlooked on this course is how some tee shots are framed by the Sierra Nevada that looms over the course. It’s the perfect course for a getaway from it all and enjoy the natural beauty of the region.

By Dennis Miller