Golf vacation options in the Reno/Lake Tahoe region

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

Reno and Lake Tahoe boast world-class golf courses in addition to gambling, outdoor pursuits like river rafting, top-notch restaurants and bistros, and those gorgeous mountain vistas. If you're planning a golf vacation to the area, let get you tee times on some of the area's best, including Lake Ridge Golf Course, ArrowCreek Country Club, D'Andrea Golf Club, Genoa Lakes Golf Club, Old Greenwood Golf Club and Coyote Moon.

LakeRidge Golf Course in Reno - No.15
The spectacular 15th, with its 145-foot-high island green, highlights a round at LakeRidge Golf Course in Reno.
LakeRidge Golf Course in Reno - No.15Arrowcreek Country ClubGenoa Lakes Golf Club - Lakes CourseCoyote Moon Golf Course - Forest
If you go

Reno is riding a wave of good publicity. Esquire magazine - that bible of hip - recently declared it the Real Vegas.

Which is nice. But only half right.

For Reno gives you more hardcore, less-flashy gambling than Las Vegas while also delivering an outdoor paradise like few others. This is anything but a town of just smoky, stale air. It's fresh air from the fairways to the mountains - and in greater Reno, that's not that far a trip.

Where else can you river raft in the morning and golf in the afternoon? Or vice versa. Or spend one night in a neon casino with suites that the fellows from Goodfellas would appreciate and the next in a rustic bed & breakfast/hunting cabin in a little California river town.

In the Reno high sierra mountains golf region which stretches into California and includes popular-vacation spot Lake Tahoe, that's all there on a moment's whim. This is a trip where you can eat a steak served by a beautiful blonde waitress in a slinky black dress one night and kick back at a low-key bistro where Paul McCartney sometimes hangs out another.

The sheer quality of the golf will surprise you. The vast differences in the types of courses you can play might astound you. There are courses like ArrowCreek Country Club that could intimidate an acrobat with all it high forced near-canyon carries. There are courses like Coyote Moon Golf Course where you're shooting against (though hopefully not off) hulking rocks that date to prehistoric times - and make that Indiana Jones boulder look like a wimp.

These aren't golf courses that every tourist in America has played either. You'll be able to brag to your buddies about having discovered great courses that they hadn't even thought of.

This helps makes Reno one of the easiest golf destinations to get to as well. The Reno airport is compact and a breeze to navigate. You'll never rent a car with less aggravation than at Reno-Tahoe International. You can get from the counter to your car and on the way to your first tee time in 10 minutes flat.

They don't call Reno "The Biggest Little City In The World" - a slogan you actually see in neon lights on the way into downtown - for nothing.

"You can play top quality golf courses here without a lot of the hassle you find in other destinations," said ArrowCreek membership director Drew Yardley.

You can also play pretty much year round. With all the snow that falls not far away in the ski region of Lake Tahoe, many people assume that Reno is similarly weather limited.

Instead except for a few snow closures for a matter of days here and there, you can golf throughout the year as long as you bring the proper gear.

With 45 courses within a 90-minute driving radius, there are plenty of options to chose from too.

LakeRidge Golf Course certainly qualifies as one of the more dramatic. Many courses have signature holes. Lake Ridge features an unforgettable postcard hole. It's No. 15 - a long par 3 (230 yards) with a tee box perched 360 feet above Lake Stanley. And that's just the start.

You're shooting down to an island green - complete with a walking-only footbridge crossing.

LakeRidge isn't a one-hole wonder though. It's a Robert Trent Jones II design with a 132 slope rating despite its 6,140 yards.

ArrowCreek Country Club is a Reno course that carries the feel of a private luxurious retreat. Its two courses - The Challenge Course and The Legend Course - are showstoppers with tons of dramatic forced carries and ball-devouring brush.

Swing wild here and you could lose more golf balls than Kevin Costner did into the water in Tin Cup.

Post a good score on ArrowCreek Challenge or Legend and you'll have something to brag about. This can be a man's man land with the clubhouse bar to prove it. As an added bonus, ArrowCreek's dining menu is a lot more inventive - and tasty - than your typical clubhouse fare.

All in a 23,000 square foot clubhouse that has steam rooms in both the huge men's and women's locker rooms.

D'Andrea Golf Club gives you views of both the big casino hotels only seven miles away and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It's a course close to the city with plenty of country - and desert obstacles.

It starts with a par 4 that has you shooting toward a mountain, includes a 553-yard par 5 that runs along a lake (No. 7) and has a back nine that can make you really feel like you're out in the desert. If there wasn't all that green on the fairways.

Keith Foster designed D'Andrea and at seven years old, it's in its prime.

Genoa Lakes Golf Club features two major golf courses in the historic Nevada town of Genoa (which is only a half hour from Lake Tahoe, 15 minutes from eccentric Carson City and 45 minutes from the Reno airport).

The Lakes Course brings plenty of water into play (it's on 14 of the 18 holes) and early in your round, you'll probably even see some cows through a fence. It feels like you're far from anybody's hustle and bustle - and it's easy to relax.

Former PGA Tour player Peter Jacobsen and John Harbottle III co-designed Genoa's Lakes Course and the rolling fairways have some interesting twists to them.

The Resort Course had colorful golf announcer (and Mr. 61 at Oakmont) Johnny Miller combining with Harnottle on the other hand and you can see Miller's influence in the tough shots coming your way. Genoa Resort Course has over 300 feet of elevation changes, more than 100 bunkers and at least a dozen oh-my moments guaranteed in your round.

For two of the best and most unique courses in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area, you need to visit Truckee. This little California town north of Tahoe on the river has turned into something of a hip outdoor lover's spot. This is the place Paul McCartney visits - and sometimes sings an impromptu set at the excellent Moody Bistro.

You'll also find Old Greenwood Golf Club - a Jack Nicklaus signature design through towering pines - and Coyote Moon Golf Course - a design from obscure PGA journeyman Brad Bell that quietly stands out as one of the best courses in California.

Old Greenwood has more forgiving fairways than many golfers expect from a Nicklaus course. You can let your driver fly and smile here. Of course, Old Greenwood also throws some tough water holes at you, particularly the 578-yard, par-5 sixth. This is a true risk-reward hole curving around a striking lake. Do you try and cut the water to get on in two? Or do you play it safe and go the long way?

There's no time to regret your decision either way. The next hole is a par 3 over water.

Coyote Moon stands out as a rarity in today's golf world - a recently built house-free course that makes you think back in time. Hulking rocks that date back thousands and thousands of years dot the course and surround a few greens.

It's not just about the rocks at Coyote Moon though. You'll be shooting up, down and around a forest wonderland. Sometimes you'll have to cut the corner on big trees, sometimes it's a forced carry over a little lake. Sometimes it's a downward look at a green that appears to have been swallowed by trees.

You're in Reno-Lake Tahoe and the golfing is good, as good as the scenery.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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