Course Review: Tahoe Donner Golf Club

After my special 1K round at The Olympic Club on Tuesday, my trip wasn’t quite over. We ended up tacking on one more day that required a sizable detour out to Truckee. You’ll find out why in my next post. Let’s just say we had something great lined up for the afternoon, and after my last trip I can’t wait for any excuse to come back to the Tahoe region!

Therefore, we needed a good morning round in the area. The folks at Tahoe Donner Golf Club were nice enough to give me a media rate, which made this course much more affordable and appealing while all the other courses in the area are very expensive now that we are officially in the summer season. I got some great rates on my Tahoe/Reno trip last month, but that was because it was the early shoulder season.

Geographically, Tahoe Donner was an ideal option anyway, so it couldn’t have worked out better to make this our morning round. We had a 7:30 tee time. It was pretty busy out here on a picture perfect mountain morning, but we teed off on time and they sent us out as a twosome. We were in no particular hurry this time because the afternoon tee time wasn’t until 1:30. However, neither of the two groups ahead of us wanted us pushing from behind, so they both let us play through on the front nine. We had the back nine to ourselves (well, us and the maintenance guys). We took our time the best we could and still finished in about three hours.

Obviously, the Tahoe/Reno region is loaded with exceptional golf and Tahoe Donner is not one that gets a ton of attention. However, I found this to be a very enjoyable golf course and it offers the mountain style I love without being too difficult. It’s just up the road from Coyote Moon, which is a very demanding target course, but Tahoe Donner is definitely more forgiving. The fairways are relatively generous and the greens aren’t too crazy. I wouldn’t say the course is wide open, though. There’s still plenty of trouble to get into and the trees and hazards will cost you strokes if you are not hitting the ball well.

I’d say it’s a more forgiving as far as mountain golf goes, but it’s not an easy course by any stretch—especially depending on which tees you play. We were playing the silver/green combo tees, which probably ended up being a bit too easy for me. This was our morning warm-up before a tougher course in the afternoon, plus we were pretty stiff from three prior days of golfing and driving. I didn’t mind moving up for this round. It didn’t help that several of the tee boxes at Tahoe Donner were moved up even more than usual, so some of the holes played really short. I still managed to make a mess of a few holes down the stretch to keep my score appropriately mediocre.

The course was originally opened in 1976 and designed by Joseph B. Williams. This is the only course listed under him on GolfAdvisor, which explains why I’ve never heard of him. The course was renovated in 2006 by Cary Bickler, which is a name I have some more familiarity with because he’s been a part of designing many courses I’ve played in Southern California.

The course offers just enough diversity and challenge as you wind your way through the hills and woods. Houses only border the course in a few places, so it’s a nice secluded mountain setting for the most part. The word “pleasant” comes to mind with a very relaxed vibe here. Like everything around here, there’s no shortage of great scenery throughout Tahoe Donner. I just love this area and it’s always nice to play a golf course that evokes that rustic mountain lifestyle.

Probably the signature hole at Tahoe Donner is the 18th, which is a beautiful finisher and probably the most demanding hole on the course. It features a downhill tee shot. Trees and OB guard both sides if you spray your drive too far one way or the other. The green is guarded by another marshy hazard area that starts about 100 yards out. It’s just a nice-looking hole that requires a good drive and a good approach to finish your round.

The course was in nice summer condition. It was very lush and green throughout here. The tee boxes were good, though I mentioned some were being worked on and several tee markers were moved up or back from their normal spots. The fairways very good for the most part. There were a few weak spots here and there, along with a number of roped off GUR areas where they had laid down new sod. The rough was lush, but generally not too penal. The greens were very soft and receptive, rolling at medium speeds. The speeds here really vary here depending on whether you are above or below the hole. Uphill putts were pretty slow while downhill putts could be fairly slick. I wasn’t in any bunkers, but they looked to be very well maintained.

I’ll keep coming back to the words “pleasant” and “enjoyable” when thinking about my round at Tahoe Donner. It’s not the toughest course in Tahoe. It’s not the most dramatic, yet it’s far from boring, as well. It simply provides a quality mountain golf resort experience that will satisfy most who choose to play it.

Some pictures from Tahoe Donner Golf Club (7/18/18):

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



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