Coyote Moon Golf Course in Truckee: A piece of magic near Tahoe

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

TRUCKEE, Calif. -- Coyote Moon Golf Course is nestled into a serene setting on a thickly forested ridge some 200 feet above the town of Truckee, an historic train town on the eastern slope of the high sierra.

Coyote Moon Golf Course - 12th hole
Coyote Moon Golf Course's No. 12 is a long par 3 (227 yards) over water.
Coyote Moon Golf Course - 12th holeCoyote Moon golf course - 18th holeCoyote Moon Golf Course - 4th
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Coyote Moon Golf Course

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10685 Northwoods Blvd.
Truckee, California 96161
Nevada County
Phone(s): (530) 587-0886
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7177 yards | Book online | ... details »

Truckee is the jumping off spot from Rt. 80 to Lake Tahoe and as no new course will ever be built in the Tahoe Basin again, this is where the action is.

The course itself is located on the road heading up to Tahoe Donner and took nearly five years to complete. When it opened last summer, it drew raves from local golfers who were enamored with the serenity and challenge found here. The course was built for golf and not for real estate sales, a rarity in California.

Coyote Moon was roughed into the old logging tract in 1995 to a routing plan done by architect Homer Flint. The final touches to this plan were initiated by Brad Bell, a former PGA Tour player from Sacramento, and rushed into production in 1999 after finally securing water rights from the town. During construction, the course was called Truckee Falls but opened as Coyote Moon last summer. During its first year, locals took to the unique name of the course and the invitation to "meet me at the Moon," meant only one thing, a great round of golf.

This course is loaded with surprises as no view from the clubhouse or the large practice green lets on to the wonders that wait in the forest beyond. Coyote Moon flows through 250 acres of forest with great elevation changes found throughout the site. These changes and the additions of large rock outcroppings, the languid Trout Creek and the creation of several lakes, all add to the challenge and charm of the course.

"This golf course demands that you be able to shape your tee shots in both directions in order to really score here, which to me brings out the best elements of golf," explained Director of Golf Paul Martin. "You will also notice that if you miss the greens, there are so many varieties of options left to you to get close. You can pitch and run, hit flop shots, and just be very creative in your play around the greens. You will use all of your game here at Coyote Moon."

Coyote Moon is a demanding test and the ratings bear out this fact. The course plays to 6,211 yards from the white tees, 6,704 yards from the blues, and a healthy 7,177 from the black tees. USGA ratings set the course at 130 at the whites, 134 at the blues, and 138 from the tips. The demand of length and accuracy are the premiums. This course is not a walk in the park, but a test in the pines.

The course opens easily with an uphill par 5 that has a lone pine left in the right center of the fairway just past the landing area. Keeping the drive to the left side is crucial on this opening hole as the fairway slants hard to the right. The generous fairway really lets you rip your first shots of the day, which is nice as there is no driving range for warm up here.

The large green is backed by tall pines and a large bunker on the left is ready to grab a weak approach shot. The green itself is a large two-tiered affair with lots of break in it. This is commonplace for most of the greens at The Moon. Getting the ball close is important.

From this straightforward opener, you drift around the trees to the second tee and are transformed into the magic that is Coyote Moon. This hole is a 404-yard par 4 (447 yards from the tips) that is a slight dogleg right around another lone tree in the fairway. The view of Mount Rose from this tee and the lack of homes and roads allow the peace of the setting to take hold. You are transformed into the wilderness in a manner not equaled on many mountain courses.

The third hole is a par 3 playing at 156 yards from the blues and 207 yards back at the black tee. There are a few common themes coming into play here with a tree to the left that can catch errant shots, and a multi level putting surface to make you consider where you want to place your tee shot. This course is mountain golf all the way and the scenery may be the only thing to ease the pain if you start out slow here at "The Moon."

The next few holes bring the terrain changes into play in a big way. The fourth hole is a 426-yard dogleg left from an elevated tee. The landing area tilts to the right and it is easy to let a slice take you right out of play here. Even after a good drive, you are left with a tricky second shot. The green is 30 feet above the fairway and with a medium iron in your hand from the undulating lies, it is a tough target to hit.

This green is one of the most level greens on the course but it slopes from rear to front and still doesn't give up an easy putt. After playing this hole, it is easy to see why it is the no. 3 handicap. Making a par is a feat to be treasured here.

The next few holes drift through the trees and you begin to get a sense of how cleverly it was set into the forest. Green sites blend into the trees and an occasional tree is left at the edge of fairways to add a sense of foreboding from the tee.

The par-5 seventh hole is a sweeping affair to the left. If you can take your drive down the left side, you can be in great position to get home in two. This green site is spectacular as it sits on the ridge and hosts great views in every direction. The green is bordered by large rock outcroppings that add to the setting.

The back nine at Coyote Moon Golf Course

When you finish the front nine, you are either whipped by the length or beaten up by the undulations in the greens, but you will definitely be looking for more. The back nine really is the meat of this golf course and provides some of the best holes to be found in the Sierra. Again, as you stand on the 10th tee, there is no indication of the dramatic holes that await.

The 11th is a downhill par 4 that plays to 436 yards from the blue tees. The trick here is to try to split through the two tall trees at the right edge of the fairway form this elevated tee. A good drive will leave you with as shorter approach into the green. This is a hole that begs for you to just rip the ball as hard as you can. Playing your shot safe, left of the trees, leaves you on an awkward downhill lie that makes the mid iron approach that more difficult. Again, the risk reward element is strong on the design of this hole.

The 12th hole is an uphill par 5 with the green tucked into a rock outcropping. This is one of the best green sites on the course and at only 492 yards in length, is one of the best scoring opportunities on the course. From this green, you look back towards the course and marvel at what great places we get to play this crazy game in. This is one of the best.

Next up is the dangerous 13thhole. This is a 206-yard par 3 with the green 88 feet below the tee box. A steep canyon protects the green with Trout Creek flowing through the bottom. Thick willows and aspens cover the canyon. Large boulders hold the green on the edge of the canyon and a gaping bunker and trees on the right all help to form an imposing target area. The green looks large but the trouble looms even larger. Club selection is tricky here. Big hitters can get here with a six or seven iron from the blue tees, but just make sure you take enough club so that you can make a smooth swing and don't try kill the ball. Hitting this green can make up for all of the bad shots you may have already had.

The 14th hole is the shortest on the course but you follow it up with a beast. 15 is a 567 yard long par 5 (601 from the tips) that is all uphill and plays into the prevailing breeze. Even if you crush a drive, you have to negotiate a deep ravine and the creek once again. The choice is simple; leave your ball short of the creek and you have 150 yards in and if you try to get over, make sure you get all of your ball to clear the wide ravine. There is that risk reward credo at play again. This hole will yield par only to three great shots.

But the best driving hole is yet to come. 17 is a 434-yard par 4 from another elevated tee. Before you are two lakes and the fairway running up the left side of the lakes. It is a 204-yard carry over the lake. You can play it safe down the left side but you will be left with a long approach. Tag it over the lake and you will get a big roll down the dip towards the green. But miss it just a little and you are wet. You will want to have another ball handy because this is another hole that you just have to try the tee shot again.

The finishing hole at Coyote Moon is a short uphill par 4 and it seems as though they just ran out of terrain when they realized that they needed another hole. After so many dramatic holes on the course, this one seems rather anticlimactic. Still the narrow sloping green puts a real premium on the approach shot and an easy two putt is not a given on this tough green. But holing out here will leave you with only one thought; when can I play this course again?

Doug Saunders, Contributor

Doug Saunders has covered more than 20 major championships and his unique perspectives on the game have appeared in numerous publications including Golf World, GolfWeek, Golf Course Management, Golf Course News, Golfdom, and the USGA Golf Journal. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, California Golf Writers, and the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association.

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