Golf the High Sierras on three budgets
Whitehawk Ranch in Graeagle
Host of both the PGA Tour Reno-Tahoe Open and American Century Celebrity Classic, you don't need Michael Jordan cash to tee it up around Lake Tahoe.
The distance between Reno and Lake Tahoe is short enough that the two can share an airport, but that's about all they share. The two regions are virtual 180-degree shifts in climate and activity. Lake Tahoe boasts four seasons of dry, mountain weather with a spectacular golf season July through September.
Reno, on the other hand, has a Casino-heavy, desert west vibe and offers affordable golf year-around, and the summer months stay far more pleasant than desert courses in Las Vegas or Scottsdale.
Depending on your budget, you can enjoy some wonderful summer golf on either side of the High Sierras, whether it's summer mountain year round in the high desert and valley.
Lake Tahoe on a high-roller budget
On a high-roller budget, start at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, in the shadows of the casino hotels on the South Shore, and boasting the area's only holes along Lake Tahoe. After golf, enjoy a beer or dinner on the outdoor deck and watch the sunset – it doesn't get much better on a clear summer day in the mountains.
High-roller golf on the North Shore is plentiful, too, where new developments are anchored by some seriously good courses around Truckee, Calif. Old Greenwood and the Golf Club Gray's Crossing are sister courses that both offer member-for-the-day, high-roller golf experiences on beautifully conditioned courses that are a joy to play.
Also, The Timilick Club is a new private club offering daily 'promotional' play on their new Johnny Miller/John Harbottle course. While Timilick, Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing are more traditionally-styled mountain courses, Coyote Moon is jaw-dropping, up-and-down golf full of elevated tees and greens – and no residential development attached to it.
For accommodations, visit the brand new Ritz-Carlton Highlands at Northstar, a 170-room luxury lodge and spa for all seasons that offers golf package deals to Old Greenwood and Gray's Crossing.
Golf in the High Sierras on a mid-range budget
For 'mid-range' we're factoring morning green fees under about $130, while high-end courses are over $160. That prices you out of a morning tee time around Lake Tahoe and Truckee's best courses, though you can play 18 in the afternoon at Coyote Moon for $95 and Old Greenwood for $100.
Or, head over the Kingsbury Grade from South Tahoe to the Lakes course at Genoa Lakes, set on the eastern slopes of the mountains and was designed by John Harbottle, a popular name (with very good reason) around these parts, along with player designer Peter Jacobsen, who also had a hand in Gray's Crossing.
If you're willing to make the drive up to Plumas County (about an hour's drive from the north shore), play Whitehawk Ranch, deserving of inclusion among discussion of the area's best, that features both heavily-forested and open meadow holes with panoramic mountain views.
At $125 peak (or $95 after 2 p.m.), it would easily be more expensive with a Tahoe zip code.
The Resort at Squaw Creek boasts a championship Robert Trent Jones Jr. design that plays just a shade under $100 and 7,000 yards, playing on valley ground beneath the ski slopes with a smattering of wetlands.
Mid-priced golf in Reno can be found at LakeRidge, home to the signature island green with a 150-foot elevation change, as well as semi-private, 36-hole ArrowCreek Country Club.
For accommodations, check out Truckee's Cedar House Sport Hotel, a modern, European-inspired lodge with stylish accommodations – and free breakfast – within a mile of Truckee's town center. Or, check out South Lake Tahoe for the larger, casino hotel vibe at a property like Harrah's or Harvey's.
Budget golf in the High Sierra in Carson Valley
Golf on a tight budget golf will price you out of most mountain golf courses worth visiting, but there is hope. Many Reno-Tahoe courses participate in GolfNow.com, where you can find a good last-minute deal at an area course if you're not too picky about the course or time you play.
Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort offers a more classic golf course at the foot of the mountain, with a yardage up to 6,800 yards (rates are $50-70), but offers resort amenities like GPS. You can tee it up at the par 58 Incline Village Mountain Course, the second fiddle to the Championship Course, for about $45-75. For a quick and casual golf fix, check out Tahoe City's historic 9-hole course opened in 1917 within a pitching wedge of the lake ($40).
The desert and valley side of the mountains to the east is where you'll find better value.
Dayton Valley Golf Club recently assumed new ownership and is currently offering a $40 rate seven days a week. The course is a regular PGA Tour Qualifying host, and has been every year since opening in 1995.
The same ownership operates Wolf Run in Reno, which has rates from $45-65.
If you can't stomach the Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes' green fee, play the less expensive Resort Course, featuring 300 feet of elevation change and cheaper $50-85 rates.
D'Andrea Golf Club in Sparks is an always dramatic course rolling up and down desert foothills and features severe fast greens accentuated by the slopes they hang on. Morning rates peak at $69 while twilight dips under $50.
RedHawk Golf Club features one private and one public course, and the pubic Lakes course is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with some let 'er rip fairways but tough approach shots thanks to plenty of water ($40-70).
For accommodations, check out a casino hotel in downtown Reno. There are scores of options all offering their own deals. In Lake Tahoe, small little inns and hotels surround the lake in just about every village and rates can be found under $100.
What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm
Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft
Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts
Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff
Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.
While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.
Watching Andrew Landry and Jon Rahm in playoff. Walking off tee talking to each other. Are you kidding me ? Talking at all. ?— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.
0 words— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
The issue is I don’t want to make you a bit relaxed or comfortable. High pressure, good.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you watch the end of the NFL games yesterday ? Enough said.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
I didn’t say you couldn’t be friends and competitive. But in a playoff, 1 tiny mistake and you lose, and that devastated me. Friends before and after, competitors during play.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
Did you win ? It’s all about surviving the competition to test yourself.— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) January 22, 2018
So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.
Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over
The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.
As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.
Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.
And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.
And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.
McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.
The Ryder Cup topped his list.
Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.
When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.
“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.
Or similar assertions from TV analysts.
“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.
And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.
The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.
Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.
And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.
Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.
The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.
The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.
More bulletin board material, too.
Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.
Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions
Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.
The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.
It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.
The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.
“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”
Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.