The main goal for my most recent trip to Northern California was to knock out all of the “Lost Sierra” region, which is basically all the courses in Plumas County (11 courses total) and also Diamond Mountain as the lone Lassen County representative. With the long summer days and, good planning and some fortunate circumstances, that turned out to be fairly easy to do over the course of three days.
However, this was a four-day trip and that left one more day of fun. It was only natural to keep heading south to check out more of the Truckee/Tahoe area. I finally got to visit here last year to play some of the many incredible golf courses, but there were a few I didn’t get to play. That included two really great courses in Truckee…
The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing • Truckee, CA • 7/29/19
This was originally going to be the early morning round on Tuesday, followed by its sister course Old Greenwood. However, we were able to play fairly quickly at Graeagle Meadows, Nakoma and Grizzly Ranch, and we were also able to squeeze in Plumas Pines the evening before. That left plenty of daylight to get down to Truckee and do Gray’s Crossing. We would have rather done Old Greenwood at this time, but they close early on Mondays for maintenance and it wasn’t an option.
We called over to Gray’s Crossing and they said it wasn’t too busy out, so it seemed there would be no problem finishing before dark. We got there right around 5:00 and were teeing off a few minutes later after paying the twilight rate of $75.
They said any groups on the course were fairly spread out and nobody had teed off for a little while, but as we were driving over to the first tee we saw someone there teeing off. Meanwhile, we drove past a wide open 10th hole. So we called an audible and went off the back nine first. We figured even if we ran into some people on that side, the front would be more wide open by the time we made our turn later in the evening.
The crazy thing is we didn’t run into anyone on the entire back nine and were able to blaze through. Oddly enough, we ran into a few scattered groups on the front nine and had to play through/around a few times to keep our pace. Either way, it was yet another quick round to wrap up a spectacular 72-hole day in the mountains.
One other neat factoid regarding Gray’s Crossing is that it represents the 1,100th different golf course I have played. I knew I’d hit that milestone somewhere along the way on this trip, especially once we added these Truckee courses in. I made a big deal about hitting 1,000 last year and every hundredth along the way. 1,100 is kind of a odd one, but still worth noting I suppose. This whole trip was kind of my early birthday trip and this milestone also helped make it an excuse to include a couple of these more expensive courses at the end.
Anyway, let’s get to the course itself because Gray’s Crossing is another excellent track in one of the state’s most beautiful regions. It was designed by Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy and it opened in 2007. I’ve played a handful of Jacobsen courses in my travels and I’ve always liked them, so I was curious about Gray’s Crossing because it doesn’t quite get the attention of some of the other top Tahoe area resort courses.
Though there are some gentle changes in elevation (especially on the front nine), there aren’t any huge ups and downs with the terrain at Gray’s Crossing. There are a ton of trees, but it never feels super tight other than maybe a couple holes. I’d say the course is somewhat forgiving off the tee, even though trouble is always lurking if you spray one into the woods.
Where the course provides its defense is on and around the greens. There are some deep bunkers here that you really want to avoid. The greens themselves are rather undulated and they vary in size. Some seemed kind of small while others were huge, so you always had to pay attention on your approach shots. I will also say that I had a hard time as a low fade hitter because the biggest bunkers always seemed to be protecting the front left side of the greens and I found myself bailing out a lot in order to stay safe. The good news is there always seemed to be ample bail out room short and right of many greens.
Though the back nine is really nice throughout, I feel like the highlight holes at Gray’s Crossing are actually found on the front where the landscape offers more natural character overall. The 7th is a fantastic par-5 that is a long dogleg right (624 yards if you dare to play the tips) with a couple creeks and boulder outcroppings in play. It’s important to stay on the fairway here.
Then you have the drivable par-4 6th, which is just a fun one that pretty much begs you to go for it. It features one of the more elevated tee boxes on the course and the lay-up area isn’t all that defined (at least from the tee view). There are some big fairway bunkers to avoid, but then also some friendly slopes that will help feed you right down to the massive green. From the back tees, it’s 304 yards. We were playing up at the whites, making it only 242. I hit a good drive and caught all the right slopes, giving me a rare look at eagle. It was a long putt and I got a little too aggressive with what will likely be my one and only eagle putt this year. I ended up with the dreaded 3-putt par, but it was still fun to have a chance and you can bet I wasn’t going to leave it short!
The par-3 16th was my favorite hole on the back and also my favorite of all the good par-3s here. It just looked stunning in the evening shadows.
The course was in very good condition. The tee boxes and fairways were in really nice shape. Things were still kind of on the soft side, but it was definitely a lot better than most of the really overwatered courses we played. The rough was cut down and not too much of a factor, but had great coverage throughout. The bunkers were good and the greens were excellent—firm and rolling well at medium speeds.
I really enjoyed Gray’s Crossing on all levels. I probably won’t put it at the top of my Tahoe list, and it might be one of those that suffers a little when you compare it against some truly spectacular courses in this region. If you put this course just about anywhere else, it would be one of the best around. Still, it is definitely one you’ll want to try and play if you can when planning your Tahoe golf trip—especially if you get a good package deal with Old Greenwood.
Some pictures from The Golf Club at Gray’s Crossing (7/29/19):
(Click on any picture below to pull up a gallery slideshow.)
Even though it didn’t end up being the last course I played, this next course was the final one in the plans for this trip. I’ve already mentioned it by name a couple times in this post, so there is no real need for a dramatic build up…
Old Greenwood • Truckee, CA • 7/30/19
Of all the publicly accessible Tahoe region courses I played last year, Old Greenwood was easily the one I was most disappointed I didn’t get to play. However, it is natural to pair this one and Gray’s Crossing together because they are sister courses and there are deals available that allow you to play both (being an NCGA member also helps). I use the term “deals” lightly because this combo isn’t going to be cheap no matter how you slice it.
We moved up our tee time to 7:30, which is the earliest they would allow us to book as a twosome. We thought we might be saving some money by getting the twilight rate over at Gray’s Crossing the evening before, but it still ended up being a wash because that apparently nullified any combo rate with Old Greenwood and we had to pay the full morning rack rate here ($175). It was by far the most expensive round of the trip. However, it ended up basically being the same amount for both rounds that we were going to pay as a pay as a “package” deal to play both on the same day. For whatever reason, it just stung a little more to pay that much when we checked in here!
Naturally, when paying that much for a round of golf I am going to be even more critical of the course, conditions, service, etc. Well, I have to say Old Greenwood was pretty impressive all around. I wouldn’t put it above any of the top courses I played last year like Edgewood Tahoe, Coyote Moon, Incline Village, Schaffer’s Mill or Lahontan—or even Grizzly Ranch from this trip. However, golf in this area (especially in season) is almost always going to cost you a pretty penny and sometimes you just have to suck it up to play these great courses in such an incredible destination.
We went out as the fourth group of the morning behind three foursomes. Two of them let us through on the front nine. The other was moving decently and ultimately caught up to maintenance on the final few holes anyway, so it slowed down a little on the back nine. Still, it was another sub-three-hour round.
Old Greenwood was designed by Jack Nicklaus and I’ve always heard it is a very difficult layout. Last year, I had the opportunity to also play Montrêux Golf & Country Club on the Reno side, so that was the expectation I had in mind. That course absolutely destroyed me with its super hilly terrain, severely elevated/skinny greens, and false edges galore. I was anticipating more of the same at Old Greenwood, but it was nowhere near as tricked out.
First, the terrain here doesn’t really offer any real significant changes in elevation. There are gentle slopes, but nothing too severe. The fairways are definitely a bit tighter than what we got over at Gray’s Crossing and the greens are certainly smaller with the signature Nicklaus style. Technically, I don’t think the green surfaces are actually smaller than the average course, but he likes to keep them relatively skinny and diagonally oriented. That makes them play a lot shallower because of the angles.
Though the greens here are very well protected by bunkers and the occasional water hazard, they aren’t as elevated as many Nicklaus courses I’ve played. I would say that becomes more of the case on the back nine as you get some more semi-blind approach shots and steeper false edges, but it’s still nothing like what you get over at Montrêux.
I would still say this is a very demanding course and it gets more challenging the further back you play. If you want to get crazy, you can step back to the tips and play it at 7,518 total yards. At elevation or not, that’s a pretty beefy course!
You definitely want to avoid any bunkers you see at Old Greenwood. They are nasty. Most feature really deep faces and my ball also had the tendency to settle on downslopes, which made for some really difficult escapes. The more sand you find on this course, the less enjoyable your experience will be. I can almost guarantee that.
There are plenty of memorable holes at Old Greenwood. On the front nine, I liked the back-to-back set of the 6th and 7th. The 6th is a cool par-5 that ultimately doglegs left around a lake. It will offer some risk/reward options to long hitters, but there isn’t a lot of room for error when going for this green. The 7th is a nice par-3 hitting back over that same water hazard.
On the back nine, the par-3 15th is another good one over water. I liked the 11th hole, as well. It is a fairly short par-4 that doglegs hard right with another water hazard in play. I don’t see anyone really going for this green off the tee, but it still offers a few different ways you can play the hole.
The conditions here were great and Old Greenwood had the deepest green look of all the courses we played on the trip. There were some minor issues (thin/patchy spots) when you looked really close on some fairways, but otherwise it was very lush and nicely manicured throughout. The thick rough provided plenty of extra challenge. The fairways were also a bit on the soft side with all the watering and morning moisture. The greens were very nice. They were soft and receptive with the moisture, but rolling great at nice speeds that obviously got quicker as they dried out.
I think Old Greenwood falls right on the line when thinking about must-play courses in the greater Lake Tahoe region. There are other courses I would recommend ahead of it as I noted earlier, but keep in mind there is a lot of really strong competition around here. However, it is a fantastic track and well worth playing if you have a chance (especially if you can manage to find any sort of deal). A 36-hole day at Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing would always sound appealing to me!
Some pictures from Old Greenwood (7/30/19):
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