Where the Nevada Winds Blow

Part 2 of my Tahoe golf adventure takes me to the Nevada side of the border, with two late afternoon rounds on Friday and Saturday respectively. From here on out, I may not post the reviews exactly in order, but they are split up and grouped the best I can see fit.

Let’s get right into it with what was my third round on Friday…

Toiyabe Golf Club • Washoe Valley, NV • 6/15/2018

If you are familiar with Nevada golf and the Toiyabe name doesn’t sound familiar to you, there’s a reason for it. It was once called Lightning W Ranch and then later changed to Thunder Canyon. More recently, the name was changed again to Toiyabe Golf Club. I don’t know why exactly, but I guess it does have some local significance. The course sits on the edge of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and the word “Toiyabe” means “mountain” in Shoshone.

The course itself is set in a quaint little valley kind of in between Reno and Carson City. There are some homes around, but not many and it definitely has more of a ranch/farmland/meadow kind of feel with the nearby mountains to the west providing a nice backdrop throughout the layout.

We had booked a tee time in advance, but were running a little late. The staff here was fantastic in making sure we got out efficiently. There was a big shotgun tournament earlier that was still finishing up. The starter actually escorted us out to the 12th hole to start with an open gap ahead of us. We ultimately caught up to some groups for the 17th and 18th holes, but after that they left and we had the whole front nine to ourselves before circling back to finish the 10th and 11th.

I’m not sure the whole history with the different versions of the club. I know it has gone back and forth throughout the years as a private, semi-private and public. It’s pretty much public now, though I think they still have some prime times reserved only for member play. We bought a deal on Groupon that was a great value for two players. I think it ended up only being around $35 each after we also used a 20% off promo code.

This was a good course to finish our first day on after a long drive up overnight and two challenging rounds earlier. Toiyabe is a fairly forgiving layout. There are numerous water hazards in play, especially on the front nine, but it is mostly pretty open, flat and nothing is too tricky about the design that was crafted by Robert Muir Graves. It does have some character, though, so it’s far from a boring course.

And like we experienced at Somersett earlier this day (and even more so at the next course I’ll review in this article), the wind was blowing pretty hard at Toiyabe. It wasn’t quite as stiff as Somersett because there is a bit more protection here, but it was definitely a strong 1-2 club wind depending on what direction you were hitting.

The routing consists of five par-3s and five par-5s each, which I always kind of like. All the par-3s here are pretty enjoyable. I am not sure what the signature hole would be considered at Toiyabe, and to be honest, I don’t remember any holes here too specifically. There were some good ones, but nothing that jumped out to me as the standout hole(s).

Conditions here were pretty similar to Somersett as the summer turf continues to come in. It was good overall with some fluffy sections, some thin spots and some patchy areas. The rough had good grass coverage with lumpy ground underneath that could really provide some difficult lies. The bunkers were good and the greens were very nice. They were firm-ish, but receptive enough and rolling well at medium/fast speeds with very smooth putting surfaces.

Toiyabe is not a destination course or a must-play like some of the resort courses in the region, but it’s a solid value and an enjoyable enough layout for local play whether you are a regular member or public visitor. Very friendly staff and a good overall vibe here.

Some pictures from Toiyabe Golf Club (6/15/18):

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

 

Next, we will skip ahead a little bit to Saturday’s afternoon round, which was played after Edgewood Tahoe in the morning. That will of course get its own solo review, so we’ll fast forward for now…

Red Hawk Golf and Resort (The Hills Course) • Sparks, NV • 6/16/18

We had booked a 2:45 time here ($39) for Saturday afternoon and arrived a little early. The group on the tee sheet prior to us hadn’t checked in yet by the time we went over to the starter, so he had us go out a little early as a twosome. We didn’t run into anyone for the first few holes and then caught up to a single who was taking his time stuck behind other groups ahead. There wasn’t anywhere for us to go, so we just relaxed and enjoyed what ended up being a fine 3:45 pace.

Red Hawk has two courses, The Hills Course and The Lakes Course. I think there’s some debate as to which is the better course and they also kind of have a semi-private approach here. I think only one of the courses is open to the public on any given day. We didn’t have the time to play both anyway, so we enjoyed our time on The Hills and will hopefully get to the other one someday in the future.

The Hills Course was designed by Hale Irwin while Robert Trent Jones, Jr. was the architect behind The Lakes Course. I hadn’t played any Irwin courses up until this point, so I really didn’t come in with any expectations. The first few holes were very basic and plain I thought, but the design of The Hills Course quickly perks up once you start going uphill on the 6th hole. From there, you go play up and down through a canyon and along a ridgeline. There are a lot of changes in elevation and the prevailing winds really add some challenge.

One issue I did have was it seemed all the uphill holes were into the wind (making them play brutally long) while the downhill holes were all downwind (making them play very short). A good example of this disparity would be the 8th and 10th holes. These are both par-5s that play very different than their listed yardages on a super windy day like we had.

The 8th is nicknamed “The Climb” and would play quite long on even a calm day. It tops out at only 529 yards from the back gold tees, but it plays so much longer as it is steep uphill the entire way. I was playing up at the white tees, which are listed at just 458 yards. I am not a long hitter to begin with, but this hole really demoralized me as I hit a good driver, 3-wood, 3-wood, 8-iron to reach the green in four shots.

Then, you have the 10th hole, which goes back down along the ridgeline and is nicknamed “The Beast.” On paper, this name is warranted as the hole stretches out to as long as 700 yards. However, with the steep downhill slope and strong downwind gusts, it played so much shorter than that on Saturday. I hit driver, 3-wood and then my shortest hybrid over the green. I have to say this is a really fun hole, though, because of the downhill slope.

Beyond these holes, that pattern continues throughout the course with the brutal uphill/upwind holes followed by downhill/downhill holes. My drives were lucky to top out at 170 yards on the uphill ones while I hit some downhill drives measuring 280 and 320 respectively. It was such a roller coaster ride.

Despite the wind, the layout at Red Hawk really grew on me throughout the round. I was bored with it at first, but was won over once we got into The Hills as the name would suggest. After that, it’s a fun and interesting desert canyon course, wind or not.

One of the common traits throughout the course is the interesting bunkering. The sandy areas in the bunkers are relatively small while most of the bunker complexes are surrounded by large mounds and collection areas covered with tufted, tangled fescue that is very difficult to play from. They have a unique look. Basically, you want your ball to end up in the sand if you are heading toward one of these bunkers. Otherwise, it’s a much tougher recovery.

The course was in decent overall condition. Early on it kind of had that very dry “U.S. Open” sheen under the bright afternoon sun and things felt a bit thin throughout. However, like the design it seemed the course conditions got better and better as the round went on, and it looks greener in the photos than it did in person. It was definitely more dried-out and wind-baked here compared to the more lush courses we played on this trip. The tee boxes were fine. Most fairways were pretty good with some thin areas throughout. The rough was more inconsistent. It generally had good grass coverage, but there was bumpy ground underneath and uneven cuts—some deep nasty spots and some tightly mown sections. The bunkers were mixed. Some were firm, some were soft, and most had plenty of pebbles mixed in. The greens were good overall—somewhat receptive and rolling smooth at medium speeds.

Again, I don’t think I would consider Red Hawk a “must-play” or much of a destination course in a region loaded with world-class golf. However, it turned out to be a great value and the course is very enjoyable overall. It was good enough that I will want to come back and check out The Lakes Courses, too, if I can find a similar rate. You may want to pay a little more and seek out calmer morning conditions if visiting Red Hawk, though. Otherwise, I am sure you can expect the wind to play a major factor here on most afternoons.

Some pictures from Red Hawk Golf and Resort (6/16/18):

 

And just to show a little of how windy it was along this canyon…

 

 

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