Course Review(s): Incline Village

Incline Village would present the main course(s) for the day on Sunday. As I mentioned in my previous posts, the weather forecast was ugly this day and that pretty much kept everyone away from the golf courses we played. This was especially true at Incline Village, which draws more of a resort crowd who are likely fairweather golfers. We were hoping that this would work to our advantage and it certainly did.

We originally had tee times on the Championship Course at 12:10 and the Mountain Course at 4:30. However, we finished at Northstar California quickly. We called over to both Incline Village courses to get a feel for how busy they were and they both basically said they were expecting to be wide open all day because of the weather. Apparently, they had lightning and even some hail earlier in the morning.

We ended up deciding to play the Mountain Course first. Both of the Incline Village courses have good GolfMoose twosome deals going right now, which is why we decided to play here on this trip. These were high up on my Tahoe golf wish list, so I was excited to play here no matter what the weather would bring. Fortunately, we never got anything but some dark clouds and chilly breezes. Maybe a very light sprinkle of rain every so often.

What we did get was wide open courses and fast paces of play. We played through one group on Mountain and caught up to another toward the end of the round, but jammed through that short course in about 1:20. Then, we went over to Championship and checked in just ahead of our existing 12:10 tee time. We played through a few groups on the front nine here and then had the back nine to ourselves for another quick round.

The Championship Course at Incline Village is a full regulation 18-hole course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr. in 1964.  Perhaps fitting, Robert Trent Jones, Jr designed the shorter Mountain Course in 1968, which actually is located a few miles away with its own facility. Mountain is an executive 18-hole layout playing to a par of 58. It has four par-4s to go with 14 entertaining par-3s. RTJ disciple, Kyle Phillips, is also credited with renovations to both courses in 2005 according to GolfAdvisor.

Mountain Course

The Mountain Course at Incline Village is considered by some to be one of the top short courses in the country, and I can understand why. This is a true mountain style course with fun and interesting par-3 designs taking center stage. The par-4s range from 298 yards up to 399, so they are fairly legit. Meanwhile, the par-3s range from 113 yards up to 200, so you will get to use just about every club in your bag as you make your way around this course.

As a mountain course, it is very hilly and rather narrow at points with tons of tall, mature pine trees lining each hole. Most holes will play slightly uphill or downhill, or level across deep ravines and creeks. One of the best holes comes right away, with the 2nd hole playing over a creek to a well-protected green.

My other favorite was easily the 15th. This is one of the shortest par-3s at 117 yards. It is set in one of the far back corners of the property and it features a pretty big drop-off from tee to green.

The greens on the Mountain Course are relatively small, but they are receptive. There are some deep bunkers, false edges and undulations to provide some protection. As a course with primarily par-3s, it is certainly no pushover and you’ll still have to work to post a good score. It is just a fun and very well-thought-out short course that players of any level will find enjoyable. Oh, and it’s in an absolutely beautiful mountain/forest setting to boot.

The course was in decent shape, but not as nice as I would expect with the Incline Village resort name attached. The tee boxes and fairways were mostly fine with some weak spots throughout. The rough was a little inconsistent, but okay enough for a short course. The greens were firm-ish, but still kind of thin and bumpy this time of year. The bunkers pretty good from what I recall.

Whereas its big brother is considered a must-play in the Tahoe region, The Mountain Course at Incline Village is a worthy short course complement. I’d highly recommend checking it out, even you are the type who doesn’t take short courses too seriously. It’s a fun side adventure that any golfer with a pulse should find fairly enjoyable.

Some pictures from The Mountain Course at Incline Village (6/17/18):

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

We wasted no time in driving over to the Championship Course. The staff here was very nice and were tickled by the fact that it was noon and this was already our third round of the day. Thankfully, any really bad weather stayed away and we pretty much had the course to ourselves after playing through a couple groups early on.

Championship Course

It worked out well to play Mountain first, because it was a good warm-up ahead of Championship. This is a nice course that offers all the challenge you want without being unfair. I found most of the tee shots to be pretty forgiving. There are some tight corners and the occasional tree that’s just enough in the way to mess with your mind, but the landing areas are fairly generous.

As you get closer to the greens, the course starts to show more teeth with big bunkers, false fronts and undulated greens—all RTJ Sr. hallmarks. There are a few water hazards in play, mostly in the form of creeks cutting across. Mostly, though, you have lay-up options if you are unable to reach a green. As a shorter hitter, I never felt like I didn’t have options on my approach shots.

My favorite holes on the Championship Course were 12 and 14. The 12th is a tricky par-4 that doglegs hard to the right. A creek runs along the right side of the hole and then cuts across just in front of the green. It’s a very pretty, yet intimidating natural hazard that adds a lot of character to this hole.

The 14th is a beautiful par-3 that plays over the only pond-style water hazard on the course (most are creeks and ravines). It’s clearly one of the signature holes and by far the best of the par-3s on this course. The 6th is another pretty good one, but I’ll be honest in saying the other two par-3s were kind of let-downs compared to the great collection found over at the Mountain Course.

The course was in nice condition as they are still kind of transitioning into the summer season. The tee boxes were nice. The fairways had lush coverage and were just a bit shaggy. The rough was not deep, but the grass in the rough and fairways is very grabby and sticky (especially on a wet day). The bunkers were beautiful. The fairway bunkers have a more firm tan sand while the greenside bunkers have the ultra-white super-soft stuff that looks great. It was a bit damp and compacted with the moisture today, but still looked and played nicely. The greens were very firm and fast. The grass is kind of dappled in color (multiple grasses?) which made it hard to read breaks sometimes, but consistently cut and rolled for very smooth/quick surfaces.

I think the Championship Course lived up to my expectations as one of the area’s must-play courses. That said, this was the one I was hoping would end up being my favorite on the trip. I thought it had that kind of potential. For the public courses I played this time, I would still put it behind Edgewood and Coyote Moon. That’s not to put Incline Village down at all because it’s a fantastic course. I just liked those others a little better overall.

Some pictures from The Championship Course at Incline Village (6/17/18):

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