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GO FORE (!) THE GOLF SCENIC BEAUTY, ATHLETIC CHALLENGES AMONG REASONS TO VACATION ON THE GREENS.

Byline: Stories by Dennis Miller Alameda Newspaper Group

The Sierra Nevada has a long history of providing outdoor challenges, from the horrendous winter weather faced by pioneer travelers to the extreme sports favored by modern-day daredevils.

It's also become a haven for the hearty golfer.

The region boasts no fewer than 20 top-notch golf courses, and the high altitude provides an advantage for the players - adding up to 10 percent more distance to their shots.

One more bonus for High Sierra golfers (and possibly the non-golfing members of their travel parties) is the nightlife available at the glitzy casinos in Reno or along the shores of Lake Tahoe. And then there are the quaint, rustic towns - Truckee, Graeagle - waiting to be explored between tee times.

To help plan a golfing vacation in the Sierra, divide the region into five areas, all of which are within easy driving distance of one another.

Reno

Whether you drive or fly, this is a great place to start and finish a golfing tour through the High Sierra.

In the greater Reno area, seven quality courses beckon, with D'Andrea and The Resort at Red Hawk the top two public courses.

Located in Sparks, just east of Reno, D'Andrea is a 6,849-yard course, designed by Keith Foster, featuring scenic vistas of the Reno area, including the stunning mountain backdrop. The course meanders through foothills and high-desert canyons.

There are two courses at Red Hawk: the Hills course and the tougher Lakes course.

Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed the Lakes course, which plays to 7,140 yards and a handicap slope of 134 from the tips. The course employs natural lakes, springs, cottonwood trees and more than 100 bunkers. The 7,106-yard Hills course, created by Hale Irwin, is Scottish-links style, with small greens, awesome views and dramatic elevation changes. In addition, Irwin also designed an 18-hole putting course.

Also in this area, LakeRidge, Northgate, Wildcreek and Wolf Run offer solid tests for reasonable prices.

LakeRidge has the most-photographed hole in the area, the par-3, 239-yard 15th hole. The tee perches 140 feet up a hillside, and the hole plays only about 195 yards to the true island green. Wind can come into play and alter club selection, making the hole much tougher to conquer.

When deciding where to stay in Reno, options range from the Reno Hilton by the airport to the downtown casino hotels such as the Silver Legacy, El Dorado and Peppermill. John Ascuarga's Nugget in Sparks has long been a golfer-friendly location as well.

All the major casino/hotels offer detailed golfing packages for any size group. The Reno Hilton has a driving range.

Carson Valley

From Reno, head east to the Carson Valley, home of the ``Divine Nine,'' a collection of nine courses suitable for all levels of golfing ability.

Those wanting a challenge can choose from Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch, Genoa Lakes or Dayton Valley.

Sierra Nevada was put together by the design team of Johnny Miller and John Harbottle. The 7,358-yard course, carved out of the eastern Sierra, overlooks the Carson Valley and has incredible views.

The toughest hole is No. 6, a 489-yard par 4, with bunkers coming into play both in the landing area and around the green.

Genoa Lakes is a Harbottle-Peter Jacobson design. This links-style course opened in 1993 near Sierra Nevada, making it easy to play both courses in the same day. The signature hole is the 449-yard 18th, a tough par 4 that brings water into play off the tee and along the left side of the fairway.

Dayton Valley is farther east in the Carson Valley, but the Arnold Palmer course is well worth the drive. The layout stretches from 5,161 to 7,200 yards, with five tee boxes accommodating golfers of all abilities.

The course has hosted regional PGA qualifying since 1995, and is a regular for U.S. Open regional qualifying. Construction is under way at Dayton Valley to add a luxury resort with complete spa facilities.

Carson Valley, Eagle Valley (36 holes), Empire Ranch, Silver Oak and Sunridge all are nice, reasonably priced layouts.

The ``Divine Nine'' also offers a ``Ticket to Paradise,'' in which a round at all nine courses can be had for a 50 percent discount.

Several local hotels offer golf packages. The Carson Valley Inn, Plaza Pinon, Carson Station and The Plaza Hotel all have stay-and-play packages, which can be tailored to any size group.

South Lake Tahoe

At this end of the lake, the golf starts and stops with Edgewood.

Home of the American Century Celebrity Tournament each summer, Edgewood is the crown jewel of the High Sierra, combining championship play with unmatched beauty.

The course was designed by Tom Fazio and regularly appears on Golf Digest magazine's list of top courses. Lined with palm trees and framed by the mountains on one side and Lake Tahoe on the other, the course is awe-inspiring throughout, but its three closing holes provide the highlights of the round.

The 16th, a 564-yard par 5 that comes out of the trees down to Lake Tahoe, ranks as one of the most beautiful holes in the game. Going for the green means contending with five huge bunkers - they surround the area, extending 100 yards in front and in back of the green.

Then it's on to the 17th, a 207-yard par 3 that runs along the edge of the lake. It's not a real tough hole, but any wind can change the club selection drastically. Push your tee shot even slightly to the right, and the second shot will be played off the beach - not a sand trap, but the actual beach!

The 18th is a 572-yard par 5 that is reachable, but anyone willing to take the chance must contend with water that guards the left and a small opening in the front. A three-shot hole is the smart play here. Golf Magazine has rated the 18th as one of the top 500 holes in the world.

Lodging options on the South Shore are plentiful, with Harvey's, Caesars, Harrah's and the Horizon the four big casino/hotels. The Embassy Suites is right across the state line on the California side.

Truckee

The fastest-growing golf destination in the High Sierra, Truckee is home to some top courses and a most-enjoyable downtown area.

Coyote Moon, Old Greenwood and the Resort at Squaw Creek are all within easy drives of one another, so visitors can readily play 36 holes of championship golf in one day.

Designed by Brad Bell, Coyote Moon is set on 250 secluded acres of rolling hills, towering Ponderosa pines and wildflowers. Not a single home is located along the course to spoil the view.

The signature hole is No. 13, a 227-yard par 3 at which your tee shot falls more than 200 feet down to a green fronted by Trout Creek - making it play two to three clubs less.

Old Greenwood is the newest course in the region (until Gray's Crossing opens across the freeway in summer 2007) and reflects the personal touch of Jack Nicklaus.

The 16th hole is the most beautiful, as it plays along a plateau overlooking the Northstar Resort and the Truckee River.

The Resort at Squaw Creek's course, a meadowland layout nestled among the tree-lined granite peaks of Olympic Valley, is the most beautiful in the Truckee area. The Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course offers links-style play surrounded by natural wetlands.

Tahoe Donner and Northstar also have quality courses.

Incline Village, on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, is jumping into the top-flight golf business with the renovation of its Championship course. The $4.5 million in improvements include a new irrigation system and reconstruction of all the greens and tee boxes.

While the golf is top-notch, so is the charm of downtown Truckee. Blessed with a number of great restaurants owned or run by chefs, the food is first-class in a downtown that maintains the feel of the town's Old West founding.

Moody's Bistro in the Truckee Hotel has seen Paul McCartney venture in on a Thursday night while on vacation and play an impromptu set on the stage. Lisa Marie Presley also has dined at here.

Dragonfly, Cottonwood and the Pacific Crest Grill are also outstanding restaurants.

Lodging options range from charming bed-and-breakfast inns downtown to resort accommodations at Squaw Creek and Northstar.

Graeagle

This renowned golf destination has six courses (four championship) within an eight-mile radius, most of them positioned along the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

There is no tougher course in the High Sierra than the aptly named Dragon. The motto for the course is ``Send Me Your Heroes,'' which is appropriate, since the 7,077-yard course has a withering handicap slope of 147 - the highest of any of the courses in region.

Six sets of tees await the golfer at the Dragon, presenting a challenge that is matched only by the beauty of the surrounding landscape. When play is finished, take some time to enjoy the 23,000-square-foot clubhouse with its first-class spa facility.

There's also lodging in the luxurious Villas at Gold Mountain.

Whitehawk Ranch is rated as one of the top 20 courses in California by Golf Digest. The Dick Bailey-designed course is sculpted into the Mohawk Valley, where streams meander through pines, cedars and aspens, creating pools and waterfalls. The course plays 6,927 yards from the tips and has a slope handicap of 130.

Plumas Pines and Graeagle Meadows are other courses in the area worthy of playing if time allows. Though not as tough as the Dragon or Whitehawk Ranch, the two courses can still present solid challenges.

One- and two-bedroom cabins are available at the Lodge at Whitehawk Ranch, where the restaurant serves American cuisine. Breakfast is included with the lodging, as is an afternoon wine-and-cheese reception.

IF YOU GO

HIGH SIERRA: www.golfthehighsierra.com; (877) 332-4465. The Web site allows golfers to book everything from tee times to lodging. A wide range of packages is available, with options for customizing them.

CAPTION(S):

4 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- 3 -- color) The 18th hole of Edgewood Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe, above, is framed by the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. Falcon Point cottages, top left, overlook the eighth hold at the Peregrine course at Predator Ridge in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. The course at the Harvest Golf Club, also in Okanagan Valley, is built throughout vineyards, top right, and working orchards.

Don Weixl

Rod Hanna

(4) Stunning scenery awaits on the 17th hole at the Genoa Lakes golf course in the Carson Valley.

Rod Hanna

Box:

IF YOU GO (see text)
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Title Annotation:Travel
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 15, 2005
Words:1777
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