Winner of the Carson Valley/Carson City Divine Nine Golf Channel writing contest, avid golfer Mike Moore (shown on the left and far right with Dennis Miller from ACES Magazine) had the chance to participate in the infamous Divine Nine Media Tour: Two holes on nine different golf courses throughout Carson Valley in one day. Sounds crazy? It was. Here is his dispatch:
CARSON VALLEY, Nev. -- Maybe it was the 6am wake-up call, no practice swings, no stretches. Maybe it was the 48 degrees. Maybe it was little sleep after the trip from Houston to Nevada’s state capital. Perhaps it was nerves – you know, being the only non-media guy of 15 in the group. Whatever it was, my first swing of the day was a miss, a strike, a pure scalp, a 5-inch divot parallel to the ball – a Titleist that stayed perched atop the tee, unmoved by my swing or my plight.
Welcome to the Divine 9 Media Tour in Carson City/Carson Valley, Nevada. This was my first trip here, but the 12th annual rendition of an event that invites media to play two holes at nine different courses in eleven hours to promote the area’s golf variety, quality and fun factor to visitors and locals.
I’m standing on the 16th tee of the Genoa Lakes Resort Course, a par-3 of 149 yards overlooking what locals refer to as “the mighty Carson Valley” when I whiffed. I’m here as the winner of a GolfChannel.com writing contest, a national promotion inviting traveling golf writer wannabes an expense paid trip and a $500 stipend to chronicle this offbeat, Wild West assignment. My winning entry was a short story about my first golf trip to Scotland years ago. This affair definitely broke with any of the game’s long-held traditions.
Media from throughout Northern California and Nevada piled onto the shuttle bus at the Gold Dust West Casino Hotel in Carson City, our host hotel. The night before we were feted to a civilized welcome reception with representatives from the local visitors bureau, the hotel and golf courses. How could I have known then what was to come?
We had 15 gentlemen on the bus and a very large ice chest. The only woman cancelled the night prior, which upon further review may have been a blessing – for her! When all 15 played the same hole at the same time at Eagle Valley West, I got a bit nervous. That’s also when I started to flinch.
The route throughout the Carson City/Carson Valley area would cover approximately 90 miles with stops for two holes at each course: Genoa Lakes Resort and Lakes Courses, Carson Valley, Sunridge, Eagle Valley West and East, Silver Oak, Empire Ranch and Dayton Valley.
“All right turns,” said Phil Weidinger, whose PR firm organizes the venture for the Carson City Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Carson Valley Visitors Authority and Chamber of Commerce. “We’re burning daylight and gotta make it quick.”
We also stopped for lunch at Carson Valley Inn in Minden, Nevada to make a deli sandwich and have a drink. Did I mention drinks? The magic ice chest: always full, a “welcome” Bloody Mary at our second stop, the 5-hour energy drink after our last course at J’s, a tony restaurant in Dayton, prior to dinner and more drinks at Ole Ole, the South of the Border pride of Gold Dust West, conveniently located just about 20 paces from their bowling alley.
This is Nevada, the Silver State, where slots and morals are sometimes loose, and where Mark Twain, who started his writing career here is purported to have said, “Everything is legal here – as long as you don’t frighten the horses.”
Many courses had carts waiting on side streets to accommodate quicker play. Rules said to pick-up at 8, that there wasn’t enough time to watch that many bad shots. We were whisked from course to course, averaging 50 minutes at each, with players greeted by friendly staff eager to impress.
The valley courses presented holes with a striking variety and challenge. Each provided their own personality from the family-friendly and award winning Carson Valley, the oldest in the region; to Dayton Valley, a site for US Open Qualifying for 16 consecutive years with its impeccable greens; to the birdie friendly layouts of Empire Ranch and Eagle Valley East; to 63 acres of water at Sunridge; to scenic Genoa Lakes, a championship layout with views to match; to the target golf of Eagle Valley West; the views of Carson City from the peaks of Silver Oak, I quickly fell in love with this scenic, high desert paradise located just 30 minutes from Lake Tahoe and Reno. It was all there: rolling hills, trees, rivers with a backdrop of the spectacular Sierra Nevada as the highlight.
Don Marchand (above), a sports talk show host at ESPN radio in Reno, aced the 159-yard, par 3, No. 4 at Sunridge, a carry of 150 yards over water. It was a first in the tour’s history. That he used a yellow ball “just in case” resulted in unmerciful teasing. The water theme repeated itself at many courses, along with forced carries over barrancas.
Bill Henderson, long time marketing director at Carson Valley Inn and the man credited with this format, smiled and said, “We just wanted to make it memorable for you.” Our 18-hole course included seven par 3s, six par 5s and five par 4s, totaling 6,419 yards. The Northern Nevada Golf Association even provided an official rating and slope at 70.1/119. I guess Twain was right!
For a golfing good time, this area is hard to beat – an eclectic selection of courses from championship caliber tournament layouts to the family friendly with accommodations and local attractions for most interests with a doff of the cowboy hat to old west history. They even have the Virginia & Truckee Railroad running along its original route between Carson and Virginia City, where the Mother Lode was struck in the 1800s. The Divine 9 offers packages throughout the year for individuals and groups. www.divine9.com for details.
Most of the guys shot in the 90s with the generous rules; I rallied after that opening swing for a 95 and hit some decent shots considering the format and decorum. I was even interviewed by Dina Kupfer, sports anchor at KRNV, Reno's NBC affiliate.
When the day mercifully ended in the gloaming, backs were tight but quips were loose. Scores didn’t matter – it was about the experience and that included 1 eagle, 3 birdies, 68 beers, 6 sports drinks, 15 Bloody Marys, 28 waters, one crazy format and one great time.