Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club in Clio: The High Sierra's remote golf escape
CLIO, Calif. -- It's the beauty and curse of Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club: Eighteen holes at this High Sierra standout flies by far too fast.
About a drive of an hour northwest from Lake Tahoe's north shore, Whitehawk Ranch serves as Plumas County's golf headliner. The golf course debuted 1996 as part of a small residential community built on 900 acres on former ranch land. These parts still ooze Old West, from the back-in-time vibe of nearby Graeagle's main street down to the Whitehawk's head professional, Van Batchelder, who still tees it up -- and goes low -- in a cowboy hat.
But between golf course-designer Dick Bailey's hole variety and the ever-changing surroundings, 18 holes ends before you know it, in large part because of the routing. The golf course starts with three holes in open meadows before turning into the forest for the remainder of the front nine.
The 10th kicks off a second round of meadow holes before it plays back into the forest until the 18th. Then the par-5 finale plays along a meadow stream with long Mohawk Valley views.
This continual back-and-forth comes as no accident, according to Bailey.
"When you have the opportunity to play back-and-forth from forest to open meadows," Bailey said, "it makes the long, panoramic views of the mountains that much more dramatic."
Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club checks in at less than 7,000 yards, mainly a result of some short par 4s on the front nine and only three par 5s for a par of 71. But make no mistake, plenty of holes can bite -- perhaps none more so than the par-4 fourth hole, a 481-yard dogleg right that heads gently uphill, lined with trees. It's tough enough that no bunkers are needed.
Bailey credits the design team of Tom Weiskopf and Jay Moorish, with whom he worked to develop Forest Highlands in Flagstaff, Ariz., for their love of the short par 4. And Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club features a couple of them. Big hitters, in fact, can nearly drive the second hole by carrying the pond on the left. No hole appears more salivating than the par-4 ninth hole at just 310 yards from the back tees with a very receptive green. A pond sits right of the putting surface, but that's about the only deterrent from aiming big after a tree that once guarded the fairway came down in recent years. Now, everybody goes for it.
A few holes on the front side wind through forest with small houses tucked behind. But after the par-5 eighth hole, civilization turns into an afterthought, and the Mohawk Valley views take center stage.
Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club's back nine, entirely void of housing along fairways, plays longer than the more finesse front side, thanks to some brawny par 4s. Each of the five measures more than 415 yards, and they play every yard of it, too.
Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club: The verdict
Scenic, remote and fun-to-play golf courses that offer a few birdie chances define destination golf travel for a lot of folks. Few do it better than Whitehawk Ranch. The club rewards those who make the drive, with a lower sticker price in comparison to the best golf courses in Truckee. But it's a golf experience as good -- arguably better -- than anything you'll find an hour to the south.
Scratch players may shoot a pretty low number here, as fairways generally forgive, and the front nine leaves a lot of wedge approach shots. But every handicapper enjoys Whitehawk Ranch. During the design phase, Bailey paid special attention to the forward tees. He asked his wife to hit shots from potential teeing grounds, ensuring that women faced a challenge similar to the men.
Replay rates at Whitehawk Ranch run $55, and you'll likely want to take them up on the offer, since the golf course ranks superior to anything nearby in Plumas County.
Stay and play in Plumas County: Chalet View Lodge
The Chalet View Lodge appears rustic but features all the modern amenities you could want, including spacious, comfortable rooms. Many of the accommodations come with two story lofts for added comfort and space. The hotel offers a full-service spa, pool and dining room with wine bar. If you're not up for a second 18 at Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club, check out the hotel's six-hole executive course.
Whitehawk Ranch also offers on-site lodge accommodations.
July 15, 2010