The last round of the Lake Tahoe leg of my recent trip was also one of the best. After a slow, grueling round over at Montrêux, I wasn’t sure if I had enough in me to play one more. However, when a course like Schaffer’s Mill is out there, it’s not hard to muster up the strength. After all, this is one of the courses I was dying to play on this trip!
Schaffer’s Mill (formerly known as Timilick) is located in Truckee and part of what I’ve heard called “golf’s best cul-de-sac” with Lahontan and Martis Camp very close by. Schaffer’s is a little different from its neighbors in that it’s a fully private club only six days of the week. On Mondays, they will they allow some public play. We had to hurry over here from Reno (a fun and scenic drive over the summit along Mt. Rose) because they said we should get there before 5:30. That was no problem as we arrived a little after 4:30.
They did warn us well in advance that a member “horserace” group was going to be out there slowly playing the first three holes. When we checked in, they mentioned that the group had teed off 40 minutes ago (well later than their intended start time of 3:00) and they were already quite lit up. Otherwise, the course really wasn’t very busy at that time of day. They said we could start on 10 or skip ahead of the horserace group, wherever they were.
It turns out that group (which I counted as at least 17 guys) were still only on the first green after supposedly 40 minutes of playing! We decided to jump ahead to the 3rd hole and start there. We played through one group on the front nine and then caught up to another twosome finishing the 18th. We encountered nobody when we went back to finish the 1st and 2nd holes. A quick round was just what the doctor ordered at the end of an exhausting day/trip.
Schaffer’s Mill was designed by Johnny Miller and John Harbottle III, which I figured would be a very interesting combination. Say what you will about Miller as a TV announcer, but he designs very interesting golf courses. I consider myself a big fan of his architecture. Then, there is Harbottle. I’ve mainly only played courses that he has renovated like Hacienda GC or The Saticoy Club. Rugged old school (I’d say MacKenzie-inspired) bunkers is kind of his signature style. I was interested to see how the two styles might mesh.
However the architecture of this course came to be, it’s a beauty. It’s very secluded without some homes along the front nine and pretty much only nature surrounding the back (over time there will likely be more development in this community). It’s mountain golf without getting too over-the-top. There are plenty of changes in elevation and not too many flat lies, but again nothing too severe. The angles aren’t too narrow, yet the trees and hazards are always present and will affect strategy from hole to hole.
Overall, I found Schaffer’s Mill to be a really nice course that is fair. It it challenging where it needs to be and forgiving enough to be playable for all skill levels. It’s a course where bad shots can lead to big numbers, but good shots are generally rewarded. I don’t know how else to describe it. I just really liked it and found it to be a very enjoyable experience all the way through.
I also felt like the course gets more and more interesting as you play, culminating in a very strong back nine. This is an out-and-back routing, so you don’t return to the clubhouse at the turn.
The 9th is a fantastic par-4 with an uphill tee shot. After that, the hole has a gentle dogleg left as it plays back downhill toward the green. A nice water hazard with a rock wall protects the left side and circles around behind the green. This is the first hole you see right when you enter the gate, so it sets the tone for the great golf you can expect to find.
The 18th is one of several strong par-5s. This is a good finisher with lots of water in play as you work your way slightly uphill toward the green. The 17th is probably the signature hole at Schaffer’s Mill, though. This is a very fun downhill dogleg right par-4 that features the biggest elevation drop on the course. A huge water hazard guards the green short and right and then a neat rock/rough/tree outcropping sits just left of the green to prevent a major bail-out on your approach.
Schaffer’s Mill was in nice shape. It’s kind of a lighter green/yellow grass they have here (at least this time of year), so it’s not a deep green appearance. They were also spraying it with some sort of fertilizer/pesticide, so there were some odd green streaks in the fairways that you may notice in photos but didn’t affect play at all. The course played beautifully with plenty of roll-out and a nice pad of turf underneath your fairway approach shots. The rough wasn’t super deep, but it was pretty tangly and the ball would sit down just enough to make you work. The bunkers were fantastic and the greens were very nice, rolling at medium speeds.
Schaffer’s Mill wasn’t the most dramatic mountain layout I played on the trip (Coyote Moon). Nor did it have the lushest conditions (Edgewood/Montrêux). However, it was easily one of the best overall. This is simply a fantastic course that anyone should enjoy. Highly recommended.
Some pictures from Schaffer’s Mill Golf & Lake Club (6/18/18):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)