Breaking the Seal on Tahoe

I just returned home from a whirlwind 6-day golf adventure. Needless to say, I have a lot of reviews to get caught up on and this will be the first of 10 articles that will come out of this one crazy road trip! I ended up playing 19 different courses (17 of them new to me) and making a huge leap forward toward my next big milestone of 1,000 courses played.

The main portion of this road trip finally saw me breaking the seal on the Lake Tahoe region of California/Nevada. This is a place I’ve always dreamed of playing and every year it seemed I had a plan to go up there to start chipping away at the region. However, for whatever reasons, no previous trips actually happened. Finally, all the stars aligned with some pre-scheduled NCGA outings and some good online deals, so a friend and I went nuts as we broke the seal on this region loaded with incredible golf.

We drove through the night on Thursday/Friday, arriving at our first course for a dawn patrol round…

Coyote Moon Golf Course • Truckee, CA • 6/15/18

A full day of golf on Friday was kind of a last-minute plan that was sparked by a voucher put out by GolfMoose right before our trip. It was for Coyote Moon, which is a course I’ve always wanted to play (like a lot of others in this region). It was $199 for two players and we also had a gift card that knocked a little more of the price off to make it a good deal compared to their high rack rates.

We had the first tee time at 7:00. No courses around here start right at sunrise (which is closer to 5:00 in the morning), but we were there and ready to go off first. The staff was very nice and helped us to go off as a twosome by ourselves. However, there was one slight snag.

They warned us that we would be pushing maintenance, and that’s no big deal. I’m used to that. However, the weird thing is that the mowers did not go out on the course until 7:00. They asked us not to push, play around or play through the guys mowing the greens, but it was impossible not to be right on them. The first hole here is a par-5. We teed off at 7:00, hit our drives and then our lay-up shots. Then, we waited for at least 10-15 minutes as one poor young guy with a push mower went back and forth on the green in front of us. I should also mention that the greens at Coyote Moon are huge and full of undulations, so mowing each green by hand takes quite a bit of time. We felt so bad as we watched the guy trying to mow as quickly as he could, but what were we to do about such a silly maintenance approach and we also had the next groups waiting right behind us?

There were a few guys with mowers on the course and we had to wait on them for most of the front nine. At some point, they started going out of order with the greens, so we eventually stopped running into them as often and it wasn’t so bad after that. We still finished with a good 3:15 pace, but we couldn’t help but laugh (and also be frustrated) after what we witnessed.

Beyond the maintenance hurdles, this round was incredibly enjoyable. We picked a great course to start off the trip with. If you follow my blog regularly, you will know I am a huge fan of mountain golf. Even if the courses kick my butt and I hit every tree and hazard, I am still going to enjoy myself when looking out over such beautiful natural scenery. Coyote Moon is totally secluded with tons of mature pine trees, big boulder outcroppings and naturally hilly mountain terrain.

This is a fairly challenging course with some narrow tee shots and big doglegs. The greens are tough. As I noted, they are really big and they feature plenty of undulations. The course was designed by Brad Bell and it will test every aspect of your game.

As you pull into the parking lot and drop your clubs off, one of the first things you see is the insane 18th green. It is a long, skinny and diagonal complex with three massive tiers. When we arrived, the pin was on the middle tier. However, by the time we played the hole (which is a nice uphill short par-4), they had moved it to the very back right portion and that added even more intimidation.

There are many memorable holes at Coyote Moon, including the 18th, but my favorite stretch was easily 12-14. The 12th is a great dogleg right par-5 with an uphill approach to an awesome green complex surrounded by big bunkers that are integrated with the natural boulder outcroppings.

The 13th is the signature par-3 of the course with a huge drop from tee to green as you hit over a hazard/creek that is all carry. Anything short is dead, as I quickly found out. No matter your score, though, it is a stunning hole. It was also cool that we came across a family of foxes running across the tee box.

Then, the short par-4 14th is a cool hole that basically requires a lay-up off the tee before you hit left across the ravine to the green on the other side.

Really, every hole here is fun and beautiful, so you’ll never get bored on this course. The scenery throughout Coyote Moon is simply breathtaking and it’s the epitome of target mountain golf.

The course was in good overall condition considering it’s still pretty early in the season for Truckee’s mountain courses and the summer turf is really just coming in. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were mostly pretty good with some fluffy spots, some thin spots and some patchy areas. Things were not perfectly pristine, but still pretty nice. Bunkers had great soft sand but could use a little professional raking/dragging to level out a lot of lumpy spots, animal footprints, etc. The greens were kind of the same story as the fairways. Still a little patchy, but holding shots well in the morning and rolling at medium speeds with a few little bumps here and there. In another month, I can imagine this place is super nice.

Coyote Moon was a great start to the trip and easily one of my favorites. The target layout might not be for everyone and consider yourself warned if you are looking for a super-quick morning round behind maintenance. However, no one can argue with how scenic and dramatic this course is from hole 1 through 18.

Some pictures from Coyote Moon Golf Course (6/15/18):

(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)

 

Coyote Moon was the first of three courses we ended up playing on Friday, but am only reviewing that and the second one in this article. We kept heading east from Truckee and toward Reno for our second round of the day…

Somersett Golf & Country Club • Reno, NV • 6/15/18

This was another good voucher deal that we purchased, but this one was through Groupon. Somersett is technically a private club, but they are offering this member for a day deal right now. It was $69 and we used 20% off promo codes to reduce the price to around $55 each.

We had an 11:40 tee time and we teed off right around that time. They started us on the 10th tee, which ended up working out well. We had the 10th hole to ourselves and then caught other groups quickly. Unfortunately, we got stuck behind a very slow older couple that was probably averaging 15 strokes each per hole and they only got slower as the round went on. Thankfully, they left after the 18th hole (our turn). We played through a couple groups on the front nine and then ultimately caught others, making for a decent overall pace of 3:45.

After experiencing true mountain golf, Somersett was a complete 180 with a more open desert canyon feel. I don’t think there’s a tree on the course, but there are plenty of forced carries and dramatic holes to enjoy here. I am actually very glad we got to the routing in reverse because it’s a much better course this way. Going from the back nine to the front meant the course got more and more interesting throughout the round. The back nine is good, but the front nine is great. It was a very pleasant surprise all around and I definitely enjoyed the layout designed by Tom Kite, Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell.

The challenge, however, was the wind. This course is located in a very exposed area right at the base of the pass and the canyons swirl the wind all around. I am not sure if it is always this windy here (we encountered the same thing on Saturday afternoon), but it was pretty brutal and certainly made the course a lot tougher.

There are plenty of memorable holes at Somersett, but my favorites were the 3rd and 5th. The 3rd hole is a neat little par-3 tucked into a small canyon. It plays slightly uphill and requires a short forced carry to a well-protected green.

The 5th hole is one of the most unique par-5s I’ve ever encountered with all sorts of risk/reward potential. It has two massive lakes—one off the tee left and then another further up right. The fairway snakes dramatically around the hazards with a pretty skinny section in between the lakes. It’s all about how aggressive you want to be on each shot from tee to green. Whether you can reach in two or you play it as a three-shot hole, not a single stroke is a comfortable one as the landing areas seem so tight and awkward no matter what angle you are coming in from. This hole also happened to be playing directly into the wind for us, so I had to play a very conservative four-shot strategy around/over the lakes to avoid a major blow-up.

Conditions were very good overall. The tee boxes were good and the fairways had a nice pad that provided decent roll-out and good lies to hit from. The rough was cut down so the ball would sit up. However, the grass was still quite grabby underneath. The greens were the highlight. They were firm and very fast. They also have big greens here with plenty of undulation. All the bunkers I was in were pretty good. However, some didn’t look as great and a few my friend hit from had a lot of pebbles.

I didn’t have any specific expectations coming into my round at Somersett and I knew it would be a little different than Coyote Moon. I was surprised at just how different an experience it was with the rugged desert canyon setting and strong prevailing winds. Still, it was enjoyable on every level and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it as a solid non-resort option on the Nevada side of the border.

Some pictures from Somersett Golf & Country Club (6/15/18):

 

 

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