Sierra Nevada, Lake Tahoe golf trek is scenic, rugged

By David R. Holland, Contributor

CLIO, Calif. -- Eureka, Mills, Washington, Elwell, Smith, Penman, Beckworth and Crocker are the eight peaks that surround you, forming a panoramic vista from the elevated first tee of The Dragon at Gold Mountain.

The golf journey you are about to embark on is as rugged as climbing one of those landmarks that look down on the Wild and Scenic Feather River and this Robin Nelson-designed, 7,007-yard, par 72 gauntlet-like track.

The starter warns you of what is to come. "Watch out for the ravines, that's where the dragons lurk."

A golf trip to the Sierra Nevadas and Lake Tahoe area is as scenic as they come. Just venture south from The Dragon to take on Whitehawk Ranch, then Coyote Moon and Old Greenwood in Truckee and don't miss Edgewood Tahoe in South Lake Tahoe. You won't be disappointed.

Must plays

The Dragon at Gold Mountain stands out in the Sierras as a stringent test. Most first-time visitors will go away shaking their heads and a plus 100 on their scorecard. This is a tough round of golf. But it is also luxurious. The Villas of Gold Mountain are built in a tee-pee architectural style with fireplace, hot tub and scenery.

"When I design a course I hope the golfer leaves the 18th green and wants to play it again," said Robin Nelson, who designed The Dragon along with heralded Mauna Lani in Hawaii. "No. 18 at the Dragon is the best I've ever been involved with, but it's just part of including variety, fairness, presentation and challenge. My main idea is to let the site speak for itself, to take whatever the site has and transform it into a golf course, if at all possible.

Whitehawk Ranch Golf Club, just minutes south of The Dragon in Clio, is rated one of the top 20 courses in California by Golf Digest, and is set in the scenic Mohawk Valley, once a cow-patty field, with flowered meadows and narrow fairways lined with pines, cedars and quaking aspens. Ponds and streams also dare you to be brazen from the tee. Dick Bailey designed this beauty and the 18th, a par 5, is a winner. The fairway splits on this 558-yard hole, but keep it in play and you will have a birdie chance on this double-tiered green.

"Whitehawk Ranch is a real pleasure to play," said Gary McWilliams, a San Antonio physician. "Water comes into play on eight holes, so be sure when you lay-up not to go too far, but this a course that allows you to enjoy your surroundings."

Coyote Moon in Truckee sits in a tranquil mountain setting at more than 6,300 feet above sea level, a 7,177-yard, par 72 designed by former PGA Tour player Brad Bell. It includes 250 secluded acres of rolling hills, granite boulders the size of houses, towering Ponderosa pines and wildflowers without a single home to spoil the view.

"Truckee was a real surprise to me," said McWilliams. "It offered outstanding views for Coyote Moon and Old Greenwood. Coyote Moon has dramatic changes in elevation, forced carries, sloped fairways that always seemed to slope in the opposite direction of the dogleg, and multi-tiered greens. The real beauty of the course begins on the back nine, where the par-5 No. 12 had the pin tucked on the upper left of the green, just in front of a large trap and huge boulders."

Old Greenwood, a Jack Nicklaus Signature design, is North Lake Tahoe's newest four-season resort community. It is only minutes away from world-class skiing and offers luxury cabins and town homes for purchase. The course is a hefty 7,518-yard, par 72, and was christened on August 30, 2004, by the threesome of Nicklaus, Jack Nicklaus II and Peter Jacobsen.

"This fun layout overlooks the Truckee River and features generous landing areas and approachable greens," said McWilliams. "By the time you make your way up the climb to the 18th green, you know you've been both tested and treated. This will be a course you'll want to play many times."

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is simply one of the most strikingly beautiful golf courses in the world. Bumped up against the south shore of Lake Tahoe, it is the site of a televised celebrity tour event each summer.

Measuring 7,445 yards at par 72, it was first designed by George Fazio and updated by his nephew Tom. No. 17 is a beautiful 207-yard par 3 on the banks of the lake and the finale is a risk-reward award-winner of 572 yards. Rated by Golf Magazine as one of the "Top 500 Holes in the World", this reachable par 5 dares you to go for eagle, but anything less than perfect could be a double bogey in the lake which fronts the final green.

Solid seconds

The Resort at Squaw Creek rolls through meadows close to the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. This Robert Trent Jones Jr. design is an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary due to the commitment toward natural, no pesticide greens-keeping methods.

Plumas Pines Golf Resort in Graeagle is a more affordable layout on the edges of the Feather River. Tall pines, smooth greens, a restaurant and golf packages highlight your visit.

Graeagle Meadows Golf Course is just down the road from Plumas Pines and is another pasture golf experience next to the Feather River. It's affordable and scenic but watch out for No. 6, English Gold, which provides views of the Mohawk Valley and snowcapped Sierra from the perch of the tee. Drive the ball left of the fairway bunker and play a mid-to-short iron second shot downhill to a small green.

Incline Village has two golf courses on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. The Mountain Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., rises above all other golf courses in the area. through its location and challenging layout. Designed by the Mountain Course intertwines the beautiful settings of Lake Tahoe and Incline Village. It's short, but tricky. The Championship Course just finished a major $4.5 million facelift.

Dining out

The Wigwam Room at The Dragon at Gold Mountain is stunning, located in the Frank Lloyd Wright designed clubhouse. But wait until you try the Lobster Bisque en Croute, Crab Louis, Oysters Rockefeller, Mesquite-grilled New York Steak or chocolate soufflé.

Try the pan-seared Northwest salmon at The Lodge at Whitehawk Ranch, situated in the boondocks north of Lake Tahoe. Other choices include pork loin with apple cider sauce and a grilled New York Steak.

Ristorante Montagna is a favorite at The Resort at Squaw Creek along with Glissandi for contemporary California cuisine and casual family dining at Cascades.

Plumas Pines Golf Resort in Graeagle boasts Longboards Bar and Grill, where you relax in a down-to-earth environment and gobble up the favorite appetizer - scallops.

Stay and play

Nakoma Resort and Spa offers The Villas of Golf Mountain, luxury units with fireplace and hot tub. Views of the golf course and outdoor porches urge you to pull up a chair, have a cold drink and enjoy the outstanding panoramas. Call (530) 832-6304 or (877) 418-0880. Or log on to Also ask about spa services.

The Lodge at Whitehawk Ranch offers private uniquely decorated cabins nestled in the pine trees. Brightly colored quilts top country pine beds. Vaulted pine ceilings welcome you with all the comforts of home. Each cabin has air conditioning, a television with VCR, refrigerator, coffee maker, iron with ironing board, hair dryers and a telephone. A pair of Adirondack chairs wait on the covered porches for taking in the views and fresh mountain air. Call (877) 945-6343 or log on to

Embassy Suites Hotel Lake Tahoe Resort is located minutes from Edgewood Tahoe and in the middle of the gaming of South Lake Tahoe. A full breakfast is included in lots of luxury. Reservations can help you with packages for many of the golf courses in the area. Call (877) 497-8483 or log on to

Holiday Inn Express in Truckee has packages for Coyote Moon and Old Greenwood. Reno is only 35 miles away on I-80 and North Lake Tahoe is 14 miles south. Internet access is free in the lobby and a complimentary continental breakfast is served every day. Call (877) 878-2533 or log on to

Off Course

The High Sierra, located in the northern parts of California and Nevada, offers numerous year-round outdoors activities. In all, the region boasts 968 miles of hiking and biking trails, 18 ski resorts, and plenty of rivers and trout-laden lakes, all for your exploration.

Cruise Lake Tahoe: Two paddle wheelers, the MS Dixie II, and the Tahoe Queen, provide a variety of day and evening cruises on the lake. This is a great way to spend half a day with the family while seeing some of the finest scenery in the Sierra. Visit for schedules and information.

David R. HollandDavid R. Holland, Contributor

David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter @David_R_Holland.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Whitehawk

    Jim Bennett wrote on: Jun 15, 2005

    Great story! Well written - Love Whitehawk Ranch. A new one called Grizzly Ranch opens summer 2005.


  • My favorites

    Bob Randall wrote on: May 19, 2005

    Excellent story. I love Edgewood Tahoe, pricey, but as scenic as they come. Coyote Moon is not to be missed. Incline is snobby. Dragon is too hard. Whitehawk is great. Grizzly Ranch is a new one opening this year.