Straddling the California-Nevada border is Lake Tahoe, an azure-blue body of water formed eons ago when a valley between two faults sank and was dammed by lava. Ringed by 10,000-foot snow-capped peaks, this 22-mile-long, 12-mile-wide inland sea is one of the choicest playgrounds in the West. Lake Tahoe is renowned for its alpine skiing and "Vegas-in-the-wilderness" casinos, but for golfers, the treasure of the Sierra Nevada is Edgewood Tahoe.
Located an hour's drive south of Reno, this stunning layout, designed in 1968 by George Fazio on a former cattle ranch, is a rip-snorting bull from the tips at 7,445 yards (par 72), even with the extra distance accorded at 6,200 feet above sea level. Alone among area courses, it has everything a seasoned campaigner could hope to encounter in the High Sierra: conifer-lined fairways backdropped by towering peaks, slick multi-tiered greens guarded by cavernous bunkers and water in play at 14 holes. It also has championship pedigree. Edgewood Tahoe hosted the 1980 U.S. Public Links Championship as well as the 1985 U.S. Senior Open captured by Miller Barber, the only player in the field to finish under par. Since 1989, the Celebrity Golf Championship has been held at Edgewood Tahoe, giving fans a chance to see dozens of sports legends (Michael Jordan is a regular) and movie stars put their skills to the test on this rigorous track. (This year's event is scheduled for July 19-21).
Stretched across an open meadow and cut through pine forests, Edgewood Tahoe was designed by Fazio to provide a stern examination, with the drop-dead gorgeous setting intended to take the sting out of high scores. George Fazio's nephew, Tom, who takes a kinder, gentler approach to the business, visited often in the mid-1990s to update (but not soften) the course.
With water on the first three holes, there's trouble from the get-go. At the par-four second, for example, a cart path was replaced by a creek and the green was recontoured to enliven the challenge. The par-five third, the longest (and toughest) hole on the course at 599 yards from the gold tees, is a true three-shotter that needed no tweaking. The uphill approach to a well-defended plateau green is very deceptive.
The finish at Edgewood Tahoe is truly world-class, ultra-scenic and rife with danger. The 564-yard 16th is a dazzling par five that plays from an elevated tee to a fairway marked by a tall pine in its center. This exclamation point is flanked by nasty bunkers to the left and right. Farther along, cross bunkers 125 yards short of the green gather careless approach shots. The putting surface, perched on the shores of the lake, offers little margin for error. The 17th is a postcard par three that plays across a corner of the lake's sandy shore¿wind direction usually dictates club selection¿while the finale, the par-five 18th hole, leads to a green flanked by a pond to the left and Lake Tahoe to the right. Approach shots must thread the needle to avoid a watery grave.
Edgewood Tahoe's $200 green fee is the area's highest, yet tee times can be hard to come by in summer for the simple reason that demand outstrips supply. The well-groomed course admits only 192 players per day. There are 12-minute starting times in the morning, which allows for generous spacing. The tee closes at 3 p.m. There is no twilight rate. Caddies are available for those who wish to walk. The owners of Edgewood Tahoe, the Park family, are descended from settlers who arrived in the 1890s. Their pride of ownership is evident.
Green fee $200. Includes cart and unlimited range balls.
The Deal Stay & Play "Spring Special" priced at $169 per person, double occupancy May 5-30 (Sunday to Thursday only) features a one-night stay (tax included) at Harvey's or The Horizon, and one round of golf with cart at Edgewood Tahoe. Midweek June packages, available June 3-20, start at $199.
Website bookings onlly: www.golfthehighsierra.com.
contact Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, P.O. Box 5400, Lake Parkway, Stateline, NV 89449;