The top 10 golf courses in Reno-Lake Tahoe

RENO, Nev. -- The newly named Barracuda Championship might not be one of the most recognizable golf tournaments on the PGA Tour, but it's played in one of the best golf destinations in the country.

The setting for the July event is the private Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno, which isn't accessible for most recreational golfers. As good as Montreux is, however, there's no shortage of great golf in the area, which stretches from Reno to the Lake Tahoe area just across the California/Nevada border less than an hour away.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of my top 10 golf courses in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area:

No. 1: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course; Stateline, Nev.

Home of the American Century Celebrity Golf Classic, the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course not only gets my top slot for the Reno-Tahoe area, but it's also one of my favorite golf courses in the U.S. The pristine setting of crystal-clear Lake Tahoe reflecting the nearby mountains is a big part of the reason, but the 1968 George Fazio layout is super interesting as well with elevation changes, cool doglegs and plenty of water hazards. The par-5 16th plays right into the lake and starts one of the best finishing stretches in golf. Actor Jack Wagner, a perennial favorite in the celebrity event at Edgewood, says he doesn't play any other courses in the area; Edgewood-Tahoe is that special.

No. 2: Coyote Moon Golf Course; Truckee, Calif.

With no homes in sight and one of the most dramatic par 3s you'll ever play, Coyote Moon Golf Course is a must-play for any visitor to the Lake Tahoe area. The 13th is a 227-yard par 3 with a 200-foot drop. That could be an 8-iron for a good player, but you have to get it right because short is unplayable due to a creek that runs in front of the green, and long usually doesn't work out too well, either. The 13th is hardly the only highlight, though. There are elevated tees everywhere, howling coyotes and a tough finishing stretch, highlighted by the par-4 17th, which plays over a lake and doglegs around the trees.

No. 3: Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club; Truckee, Calif.

If you're in the area, be sure to save Monday for Schaffer's Mill Golf & Lake Club (formerly Timilick) near Truckee. That's because it's a private club only open to the unaccompanied guests on Monday. This beautiful Johnny Miller and John Harbottle III design -- with its superior practice facilities, clubhouse and impeccable conditions -- is really a tale of two golf courses. The outward nine weaves through a meadow, and the back nine showcases a mountain look with elevation change up to 400 feet.

No. 4: Old Greenwood Golf Course; Truckee, Calif.

If you want to play a U.S. top-100 course designed by Jack Nicklaus in a spectacular setting, this is it. Originally built as a private club, this premium semi-private facility has the views, conditioning and layout that warrant its $200 green fees. Old Greenwood Golf Course is fairly player friendly as far as Nicklaus layouts go, but tackle it from the maximum yardage of around 7,300 yards and it's all the golf most players can handle.

No. 5: The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing; Truckee, Calif.

The Golf Club at Gray's Crossing, another semi-private course with impeccable conditioning and views, is Old Greenwood's sister course. Like Old Greenwood, it opened as a private club in 2007. Designed by Jim Hardy and player consultant Peter Jacobsen, this wooded course with Mt. Rose as its backdrop stretches to 7,466 yards from the way backs, but there are six sets of tees for everyone to enjoy. One of the highlights is the driveable par-4 sixth, which plays 304 yards from an elevated tee.

No. 6: The Dragon at Nakoma Resort; Clio, Calif.

The only reason I don't have The Dragon higher on my list is because it can be so darn difficult. If you're on your game, though, it's not only a great test, but this Robin Nelson design, which has been softened somewhat after it went through difficult times and an ownership change, is an incredible journey through the mountains. It's also one of the better deals in the area, up there with courses that charge two or three times as much in the Truckee area. From the first hole through the 18th, the views never stop.

No. 7: Lakes Course at Red Hawk Golf and Resort; Sparks, Nev.

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., the Lakes Course is one of two excellent golf courses at Red Hawk Golf and Resort, which also includes the Hale Irwin-designed Hills Course. The Lakes is arguably the best public-access course in the Reno area. It tips out to nearly 7,000 yards with natural lakes, springs, cottonwood trees and more than 100 bunkers. The signature hole is the par-3 17th, which can play 240 yards -- completely over water. Opened in 1997, it also has outstanding practice facilities, including a short-game area and 10,000-square-foot putting green.

No. 8: The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch; Clio, Calif.

Carved from the High Sierra's Mohawk Valley, The Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch, a Dick Bailey design, has streams and only a few homes, which are set back above the golf course so they're hardly noticeable. Another semi-private club built within a residential development, the course is always in excellent condition, has excellent practice facilities and can be played for considerably less than courses like Old Greenwood and Schaffer's Mill. But it's arguably almost as good.

No. 9 Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes Golf Club & Resort; Genoa, Nev.

There are two courses at Genoa Lakes Resort -- the Lakes and the Ranch -- and both of them are excellent and, more important, different. The Lakes Course, designed by John Harbottle III and Peter Jacobsen, is laid out on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with the Carson River coming into play on 14 holes.

No. 10: Grizzly Ranch Golf Club, Portola, Calif.

Originally opened as a private club in 2005, Grizzly Ranch Golf Club survived the economic downturn that followed and reopened as a semiprivate course, giving visitors and locals alike the feel of a high-end exclusive club. This Bob Cupp design, which can play more than 7,400 yards, has it all -- meadows, a couple blind shots, a reachable par 4, creeks, ponds doglegs, plenty of Douglas Firs and outstanding conditioning.

Also worth mentioning

If you ask me tomorrow, I could easily shuffle my top 10 or switch out another course or two. That's how much quality golf there is in the area, and all of it is played in stunning environments. Courses like the Links at Squaw Creek, Plumas Pines and Incline Village, all in the Lake Tahoe/Truckee area, are also worth checking out. And Tahoe Donner, one of the oldest courses in the area, as well as Lake Tahoe Golf Course, which is one of the better munis in California, are also must-plays for anyone with an extended golf vacation in the Reno-Lake Tahoe area.

Mike Bailey is a former Golf Advisor senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. He has also been on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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Schaffer's Mill is currently a private course, not open to the public. Call anytime for a membership!

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I'll give a nod a Coyote Moon. I've played a few of these courses and I think Coyote Moon is the best. Fantastic views, fun layout, wonderful greens and just in beautiful condition every time I play. I think it might be my favorite course I've ever played. Also reasonably priced compared to some of the others. For Redhawk, I'd actually give the nod to the Hills side over the Lakes side. I find the trek up the hills and then back down to make for some fun golf.

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Thanks Mike. As a 25 year resident of this area, I agree that we are blessed with an abundance of wonderful golf courses, and most are open to the public to at least some degree. Have played all but one course on your list (haven't convinced myself to pony up the $250.00 for Old Greenwood yet, but I'm sure I will break down one of these days) and agree with all your choices. I know a lot of people who have played the Dragon once and found it so challenging ("unfair" in their words) that they never went back. I was once of a similar mind, but playing it a few more times and getting to know it a little better, I'm now a fan. I like to play it when I feel I'm on top of my game, and it brings me back down to earth. I will comment that I think Edgewood gets a bit of a pass on it's design and quality of play due to the unbelievable views and atmosphere, but a top ten course for sure. If you get a change to play Hidden Valley CC (one of the few private clubs in town) I highly recommend it. Kind of the opposite of Edgewood, with nothing spectacular view wise, but wonderful old school design and challenge.

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Great feedback. I know I've received some pushback on Edgewood Tahoe, but I don't find it boring at all (as one reader suggested). But I agree the views sure do elevated it.

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I will take three rounds at Northstar Golf Course near Truckee over one round at Edgewood every time. Edgewood is a fine course, but the inflated $250 price tag was not mentioned in the review. Northstar is the best golfing value in Tahoe, period, at about a third the price of Edgewood. The meadow front nine and forest back give you two completely different looks on a very challenging and fun course with beautiful views all around. The other big thing is that when you are done with your round at Northstar, you can cruise over to nearby Tahoe City on the north shore for a few brews in a nice setting. At Edgewood, you are stuck on the South Shore of the lake with all of those beat-down casinos. It's by far the crappiest vibe on the lake.

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Edgewood at #1 is the biggest joke on earth!  That is the lamest most overrated course I have ever played.  Not to mention that virtually every staff member was amazingly rude and terrible to our group of family and friends.

The course itself is boring, in poor condition and just not that good!

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You can never win ranking golf courses anywhere, on any level, period. Simply said this is your opinion, Mike. I know this list is legitimately compiled from your personal experience playing these courses. So I have no quarrels with what you have written or the order of your ranking. However, I have a huge problem with your omission of Dayton Valley Golf Club.The Arnold Palmer-designed layout has hosted PGA Tour and Tour Qualifying for 21 consecutive years, the longest streak for any course in the country. The PGA Tour doesn't show up at any old goat track muni for 21 straight years. Dayton Valley is a legitimate, tried and tested championship course. And, it is a steal at $50 or less per round for a real tour quality course that is easily accessible. The greens are better than any on your list, just ask Wil Collins or any of the other hundreds of tour pros who have been through Q-school at Dayton. The omission of Dayton puts a big stain on the quality of this review.

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No way Dayton Valley beats out any of these ten. It's a solid value pick, and made our Top 25 Value Courses in 2014 according to Golf Advisor reviews, so it gets some love. But people don't travel across the country to play holes lined with housing.

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I would like to add my name to this post: Larry Windsor, golf writer and former Communications Director for Golf the High Sierra.

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It's been a few years since I played Dayton Valley and I remember liking it. I wouldn't bump anything in my top 10 list, but I agree, it should definitely be mentioned.

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Judging by the review on Golf Advisor, I would take the links at squaw valley off the list.  The "Dragon" is not only difficult it is unfair.  You can hit a perfect shot and be in the crap. Grizzly Ranch is an awesome course. Love both Whitehawk Ranch and Old Greenwood.  Haven't gotten around to the others. 

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I'm going to chime in and say The Dragon is 100% worthy of being in any Tahoe-area Top 10. Yeah, it's tough, but a couple years ago I played the course after it'd been softened a bit and I wouldn't say it's unfair, there are just a lot of elevated greens that are tough to hit (especially if it's windy). 

Considering it's about half the cost of a lot of the best courses in the area and the fact practically every tee box is a postcard, I'm a big advocate for taking on the Dragon. Just don't plan on shooting your handicap.

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The top 10 golf courses in Reno-Lake Tahoe