Short Course Blitz: The Many Sides of Tahoe

You knew this would be coming. When I say I played 19 rounds over the course of six days, you have to assume there would be at least a few short courses involved. Actually, I played five of them—four of which will be reviewed in this post.

The first short course visit took place in between my Saturday rounds at Edgewood Tahoe and Red Hawk respectively…

Somersett Canyon Nine • Reno, NV • 6/16/18

The name Somersett will sound familiar if you read my first article from the trip. Somersett Golf & Country Club is technically a private course. However, they also have a short course in this community and it is open to the public. It is called Canyon Nine and it is a really fun little course.

Canyon Nine is one of the more unique short courses I’ve ever played, mainly because of the spread-out routing for such a small course. This is a 9-hole par-3 course that runs through a cool canyon and amongst some houses. From the back tees, the hole lengths go from 83 yards up to 160 yards (though most are in the 80-100 range). Then there’s a shorter set to make it truly a pitch and putt course. Most holes are separated by pretty long walks, usually up and/or down very hilly walking paths. Then, many holes have  you hitting over a canyon and then traversing around the canyon instead of a direct line from tee to green. Needless to say, it’s quite a workout.

The course itself tops out at only 1,009 yards from the black tees (roughly a half-mile total). However, I actually measured out the walking distance on Google Maps and it is closer to 2 miles total (that’s if you don’t veer from any paths). So, there’s a lot more walking than playing golf, and did I mention how hilly it is?

Beyond the hike it takes to play this course, Canyon Nine is a really fun layout and one of the more entertaining pitch and putt courses I can ever remember. The canyons and elevation changes provide a beautiful setting and an interesting design that was crafted by the same three guys who did the main course at Somersett (Tom Kite, Roy Bechtol and Randy Russell).

The course was in solid condition with all-grass tee boxes and good greens that were running a bit slower than the main course. I think the price was $20 to walk 9 holes, but they have resident and student discounts to encourage local play. I can tell you if I lived near here when I was a kid, I would have been playing it all the time and my quads would be huge!

Just a great little par-3 course that’s a fun add-on if you happen to be out playing golf at Somersett anyway. It does have a separate location a couple miles down the road from the main clubhouse, so be wary of that and prepare for a good hike.

Some pictures from Somersett Canyon Nine (6/16/18):

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

The next short course came at the end of the day Saturday after we finished at Red Hawk. Just a brief drive away is another 9-hole par-3 course…

The Links at Kiley Ranch • Sparks, NV • 6/16/18

There weren’t too many people here late in the day, but the course was open along with the small bar inside the clubhouse. I don’t remember the exact price, but I know we paid a little extra to rent a cart. I think it came out to around $30 total. This would be a very easy walking course because it’s flat, but we knew we could finish a lot faster with the cart and neither of us really felt like walking at this point in the day/trip. We got plenty of extra exercise earlier at Canyon Nine.

Kiley Ranch is a longer par-3 course than Canyon Nine and well beyond what I would consider a “pitch and putt.” From the blue tees, the holes range from 124 yards up to 170, so most players will get to use at least a handful of different clubs.

Otherwise, the layout is pretty flat, wide open and basic. There is some mounding around the greens to provide some intrigue, and a couple of water hazards are in play as well. However, this course is mostly all right out in front of you. Just make sure you are aiming at the actual golf flags instead of the foot golf flags off the greens!

Conditions were pretty spotty from tee to green. There were lots of bare dirt and patchy areas without much consistency. The rough was generally better around the greens, though, and the greens were pretty solid. A bit bumpy at times and rolling at medium/slow speeds.

There isn’t too much else to highlight about The Links at Kiley Ranch. This really was just a throw-in round for us at the end of a long day, and it just happened to be a very convenient option after we finished over at Red Hawk.

Some pictures from The Links at Kiley Ranch (6/16/18):

We will fast forward to Sunday afternoon for the second leg of my Short Course Blitz. We played two more 9-hole courses on this day…

Old Brockway Golf Course • Kings Beach, CA • 6/17/18

Sunday turned out to be an interesting day. Some very sketchy weather forecasts pretty much emptied out all the courses we played earlier (Northstar California and both courses at Incline Village), so we had a ton of daylight left even after relaxing for a few minutes to watch the last few holes of the U.S. Open. Rather than seeking out another full-length course, we opted for two nearby short courses.

Old Brockway made this decision easy because it’s a course both of us were really hoping to squeeze in at some point during this trip. I’m a sucker for “historic” courses and that’s what you have here. This course opened back in 1924 and is the oldest regulation 9-hole  course in the area (the executive 9-hole Tahoe City Golf Course a bit further south is the oldest and actually just celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2018). Old Brockway holds another historic distinction as the original host of the Crosby Clambake tournament back in 1934-1935. Back then, it was a much looser gathering of friends playing for a small purse before it became a more official PGA event a few years later and eventually turned into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as it’s known today.

Old Brockway has a low-key little clubhouse that is also home to Spindleshanks bar and grill. The price was a bit much for nine holes with a cart at $40, but this is Tahoe, and I believe we could have looped around to play a full 18 (or more) if we wanted to for that price. The skies actually opened up and dumped rain on us for the first hole and a half. Then, the rain went away just like that and left us with pleasant cloudy skies for the rest of the round. We saw a couple other players finishing up on the course, but we never caught up to anyone and basically had it to ourselves for yet another quick round.

Despite being only 9-holes, Old Brockway is a legit regulation-length course playing to a par of 36 and stretching out to 3,362 yards from the black tees. It is certainly no pushover. There isn’t anything overly tricky about the design. For the most part, what you see is what you get from tee to green, and there aren’t any crazy doglegs or super-quirky holes like you might find at a lot of old courses.

The first couple holes (and the 9th hole, as well) are really basic along the street. However, once you turn into the woods for holes 3-8, you immediately sense the great classic character of this course. It is a very quaint and quiet little forest you play through, and the old trees and stumps throughout transport you back in time a bit.

There is one unique hole (the 4th) that actually has two different greens they can use. The forward one, which is what we had on Sunday, is pretty friendly and makes this a really short par-5. Then, the alternate green is about 50-75 yards deeper and on the other side of a creek that cuts across to make the hole much more demanding. It’s still not a super-long hole to that green, so it would set up some risk/reward decisions for longer hitters.

The greens do add some extra challenge to this otherwise simple old course. The greens are very small and they are domed in shape, falling off on all sides probably thanks to many years of natural erosion and no major renovations to the course since it opened. They were also pretty firm for us, so it was very difficult to hold the surfaces on any approach shots. Even some short chips could be tricky and downhill putts were scary with false edges looming on the other side of the hole.

The course was in nice overall shape. It was very lush and green here. The tee boxes, fairways and rough had good nice coverage with soft turf. Then, there was this outer super-deep green rough that lines the holes and pops up around the greens in interesting ways, kind of like knee-deep native grass bunkers in some places. There are only a few sand bunkers on the course and they are very unique wide (but skinny) trench-like cuts that run in front of their respective greens. I wasn’t in any of them, but they looked to have good sand. The greens were a bit shaggy and rolling decently at medium/slow speeds, but firm and difficult to hold as I mentioned earlier.

Again, maybe not a must-play in the area unless you are a golf history buff, but a really charming old school course where you can step back in time a bit and get a nice change of pace from the more modern and dramatic courses throughout the Tahoe region.

Some pictures from Old Brockway Golf Course (6/17/18):

 

We had one more course left in us for Sunday evening, so we headed up into Truckee for another local 9-hole regulation track…

Ponderosa Golf Course • Truckee, CA • 6/17/18

We arrived right around 5:00 and the pro shop guy was getting ready to close up soon. They normally won’t rent out carts this late, but they were really nice here and figured we’d play fast when we mentioned it was our 5th round of the day. The price here was $35 for the nine holes with a cart. Again a bit much for what you get.

Ponderosa is a relatively old course, as well. It was opened in 1961 and was designed by Bob E. Baldock. It is a 9-hole regulation-length layout with a total par of 35 and the blue tees topping out at 3,022 yards.

The first couple holes play through the trees and some houses. Then you have the uphill par-3 3rd that is your transition to the rest of the course. Holes 4-9 are a more traditional parkland kind of style with parallel fairways and a back-and-forth routing with tree-lined fairways. Ultimately, it’s a fine locals’ course, but nothing too exciting.

The course was in solid shape. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all reasonably lush for a low-end course with some patchy areas here and there. The greens were firm-ish and rolling pretty well at medium speeds. The bunkers were good, as well.

Certainly nothing you need to go out of the way for, but not a bad warm-up or cool-down option in the Truckee area. Even though we played quickly as pretty much the last ones out on the course, it was easily the busiest course we saw all day with plenty of players finishing ahead of us. Definitely a popular locals’ value pick with a friendly overall vibe.

Some pictures from Ponderosa Golf Course (6/17/18):

 

 

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