Agostini: Can’t beat the beauty, challenge of Reno-Tahoe golf

06/24/2014 8:01 PM

06/24/2014 9:15 PM

The beauty and majesty of the Sierra Nevada forest. The lush wetlands of Nevada as it transitions into the desert. The 24-hour fun around Reno.

For a summer golf trip, how can you lose around Reno and Lake Tahoe?

The region has marketed its spectacular golf venues for about two decades. Anchoring this push has been two major events – the upcoming American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe and the PGA Tour’s Reno-Tahoe Open (more on them later).

As for yours truly, I was lucky enough to squeeze in 54 holes over 11/2 days earlier this month. The getaway covered some old ground and also broke in one impressive, private and relatively new golf address. I returned home slightly sunburned, beaten down by some nasty holes but thoroughly exhilarated.

Genoa Lakes (Lakes) – The Lakes course, not far from Minden, Nev., and the Kingsbury Grade that connects Nevada with South Lake Tahoe, always makes for a quick and successful golf excursion. Its companion Ranch course, the more linksy neighbor only two miles away, juts into the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada.

The late John Harbottle III designed both layouts with help from Peter Jacobsen at the Lakes and Johnny Miller at the Ranch. Harbottle also worked with George Kelley at Stevinson Ranch, and the similarities are hard to miss.

Both Stevinson Ranch and the Lakes sit on natural wetlands, and the holes bear resemblance. For example, two short and strategic par-4s – Genoa’s 11th and Stevinson’s eighth – present the same shot values.

Genoa remains a fair and testy challenge since opening to rave reviews in 1993. Fortunately for us, we got in our round early in the day before the afternoon winds sweep across the grounds.

Ample room is provided off the tee, but the approach shots are shotmaker’s delights. The Carson River and numerous natural lakes are factors on 14 holes. A personal favorite is the closing 18th, a beast of a par-4 that offers scenic views of the nearby Sierra.

New Superintendent John Fleming brings 30-plus years of experience from the Olympic Club. Say hello to Director of Golf Lou Eiguren, a Nevada native – his résumé also includes stops at Edgewood and Olympic – who survived critical injuries in a car accident last year.

Current rates span $110 per round but only $70 after 1 p.m. You can play this course for as little as $45 during the winter.

Red Hawk (Lakes) – Red Hawk, in the Reno suburb of Sparks, Nev., is straightforward golf envisioned in 1997 by Robert Trent Jones II. Like Genoa, the resort features another 18 holes in the newer Hills (2005), designed by three-time U.S. Open champion Hale Irwin.

You’ll save a few strokes on your scorecard, along with a few dollars in your wallet, if you avoid the many water hazards. More than 100 bunkers will challenge players of all skill levels. Choose the correct teeing areas before the round and look forward to a pleasant experience.

Several holes carry the promise of a par or a birdie, but the guts of the course are the tough par-3s. Most are long and require long carries over water. The best is the 17th, a stunning all-carry 241 yards into a headwind from the tips. Even the layup shot to the left is no bargain.

The A-4 bentgrass greens putt much faster than they look. Pay extra attention to any putt above the hole.

The greens fee over the summer is $65 during the week and $75 on the weekend, with corresponding twilight rates of $49 and $59.

Clear Creek Tahoe – Here is your summertime assignment: Find a friend, acquaintance or anyone who has a possible connection to this private Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw masterpiece. Travel down the Highway 50 grade between Lake Tahoe and Carson City, Nev., make a right and proceed to an almost perfect property in the forest, already a 4-year-old treasure.

Coore and Crenshaw, renowned for their minimalist land-moving philosophy, recently returned Pinehurst No. 2 – the site for the men’s and women’s U.S. Open earlier this month – to its sandhill North Carolina roots. Some of that look is seen at Clear Creek, which escorts the player to a full golf experience – long and short holes, some stout, some more lenient, all thoughtful.

The greens are huge and invite all sorts of strategies for approach shots. The short par-3 17th, no more than 150 yards from the back tees, is all-carry over a vast waste area not unlike Pinehurst.

Some of the short par-4s appear tame but require creativity. A miss with a short iron, however, puts you in deep holes in the ground politely called bunkers.

Clear Creek’s pristine condition (it’s maintained with recycled water) compares favorably with Martis Camp, the spectacular venue near Truckee that welcomed the U.S. Junior last year. There are only 112 members for a course open about six months each year because of snow. The practice facility is ideal.

When homes are built, they’ll be positioned away from the course. Former Stanford star Steve Schroeder serves as Clear Creek’s marketing and sales director.

The shag bag – The second session of River Oaks’ annual junior golf instruction program will be held July 8-30. Call Greg Silva, 667-7272 ... Stevinson Ranch opened The Grove, its new bar and restaurant, Friday. The course used temporary facilities since fire destroyed the original clubhouse and bar/restaurant last July 25. ... World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam already is the betting favorite as she makes her debut in the 25th annual American Century Championship, the world’s top celebrity golf tournament, at Edgewood Tahoe on July 18-20. Sorenstam is a partial hometown favorite. She still keeps a home at Incline Village. Also making his first appearance at Edgewood is Geno Auriemma, coach of nine-time NCAA women’s basketball champion Connecticut. For tickets, visit ... The Reno-Tahoe Open comes to Montreux CC south of Reno for the 16th time July 31-Aug. 3. The purse is $3 million for the event won last year by Gary Woodland. For tickets, visit or call (775) 322-3900.

Hole in one – Patrick Butrica, Ceres, 183-yard 17th at Dryden Park, 5-iron.

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