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|A spectacular view of the Sierra Nevadas awaits on no. 5 of the Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes. (Kiel Christianson/TravelGolf )|
The Lakes Course at Genoa Lakes Golf Club snuggles up to the base of the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in the relatively flat Carson River basin. Water comes into play on 14 holes, putting a premium on both length and power.
GENOA, Nev. -- Genoa (once known as Mormon Station) was founded in 1851, making it the oldest settlement in what would eventually become Nevada.
It is the home of the state's first hotel, newspaper, court and bar. Past customers at the bar (today called Genoa Bar) included such famous tipplers as Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant and Teddy Roosevelt.
A number of movies have been filmed in town -- and in particular at the bar -- including "The Shootist" with John Wayne, "Honky Tonk Man" with Clint Eastwood and "Misery" with Kathy Bates and James Caan.
In short, this historic little corner of the wide, relatively lush high plain nestled below the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is a wonderful, albeit somewhat overlooked, tourist destination.
And if you're a golfer, it's even better, as Genoa is home to the recently reinvigorated and stirringly scenic Genoa Lakes Golf Club.
Genoa Lakes consists of two championship tracks: the Lakes Course, a 7,359-yard John Harbottle III and Peter Jacobsen design, and the Resort Course, a 7,290-yard design that teamed Harbottle with Johnny Miller.
The Resort Course lies about two miles from the Lakes Course and clubhouse. It climbs into the Sierra Nevada foothills and features more than 300 feet of elevation changes and some spectacular views.
The Lakes Course snuggles up to the base of those foothills, in the relatively flat Carson River basin. This river (named after Western legend Kit Carson) and its associated wetlands bring water into play on 14 holes on the Lakes Course, putting a premium on both length and -- since the course is not quite as high up as the Resort Course -- power. In 2013, the Lakes Course served as a U.S. Open qualifying site, so you know it can stand up to the most serious golfers.
The stately clubhouse at Genoa Lakes offers an inspiring vista from the restaurant and bar, but the views from inside pale in comparison to those out on the course.
Despite the soaring mountains in the distance, the Lakes Course is walkable, as it is routed through the Carson River basin, although there are some lengthy treks between greens and tees.
The one design quirk on this otherwise thoughtfully and attractively routed layout is the 700-yard difference between the green (6,774 yards) and the blue tees (6,050 yards). For low handicappers who don't hit the ball a long way or mid-handicappers who do, this is an awkward spacing.
Landing areas are generally wide, although some of the sightlines from the tees can be deceiving. Take the 553-yard, par-5 second hole, for example. The sign at the tee says to stay right of the traps on the left side of the humped, left-to-right jogging fairway. Heed this sign, because if you try to take a shortcut over the traps, your ball will likely kick OB to the left.
The long par-4 third is the no. 1 handicap hole on the course, challenging with a tee shot over water to a humped and deeply bunkered fairway, and a long second shot over water again to a wide, shallow green. This hole plays massively different depending on the tees you choose (from 447 yards at the tips all the way down to 289 yards from the forward tees), which highlights the wide spacing between tee boxes.
One of the best holes on the course is the 232-yard, par-3 14th, which requires a precise tee shot between two towering cottonwood trees to a flowing green surrounded by deep grass bunkers.
Toward the end of the back nine the views of the Sierra Nevadas might slow play a bit, as sometimes all you want to do is stand on the tee or green and drink it all in. The 17th tee box is about as pretty as it gets, and the difficult 449-yard 18th not only has the mountains in the background, but also a waterfall and the clubhouse in the foreground -- a truly excellent way to finish out the round.
Genoa Lakes exudes charm and class throughout, with great service and a friendly, down-to-earth staff. The club sadly fell on some hard times in the past few years, and even had to close in 2012 due to conditioning issues. Although a few of those issues are still getting worked out (some rough patches in the fairways of nos. 10 and 13, for example), the course is rounding back into its original form and shape.
Aside from the par-4 fourth, which is kind of shoehorned into a space that is not quite big enough for a par 4, there's plenty of shot value out here, especially with rates ranging from $39-$81 ($20 discount for locals). Because the course lies in the river basin, you don't notice much (if any) benefit from altitude here, so it plays all of its prodigious length, especially from the tips. Jacobsen, however, holds the course record of 63 (shot on opening day from the tips), so good scores can be had, if you can figure out which tees to play.
All in all, a wonderful, scenic and historic day can be had at Genoa Lakes and in the town of Genoa itself.
Genoa is about a 30-minute drive from Lake Tahoe. Although the route zig-zags a good bit though the mountains, it is a fun and picturesque ride.
If you don't find a quaint B&B in Genoa itself, do take this drive and avail yourself of the luxury resorts and casinos on Lake Tahoe. If you're a gambler, both Harrah's Lake Tahoe and Harvey's Lake Tahoe offer spectacular views of the lake, world-class food and enough slot machines to bankrupt a small nation. The buffet at the top of Harrah's should not be missed. Plan to spend several hours there -- seriously.
If you enjoy the glitz but would rather stay somewhere quieter, the Nevada-California state line runs through the driveway between Harrah's and the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel. Although Harrah's now owns the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, because it's in California, the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel is gaming-free and happily quite peaceful. The complimentary breakfast is a real treat, too.
July 22, 2013
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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