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Golf the High Sierras on three budgets

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Whitehawk Ranch in Graeagle
                                                                 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.
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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.