Just minutes from Truckee, lies a true test of mountain golf and the first 18-hole championship course assembled in the area. Co-designed by Roy Williams and Billy Bell Jr., Tahoe Donner Golf Course was finished and opened for play in 1976. Cary Bickler completed a renovation on the course in 2006 and the par 5, hole 9 has been fittingly given the name Bickler’s Bluff.
Par 72 | 18 holes
Yardage | 6,562 to 7,002
Slope | 124 to 138
Rating | 68.9 to 74.1
The fairways are generally narrow and edged with walls of pine trees. A miss-hit into the forest will more often than not leave you with a pitch out from a bed of pine needles as your only option. The elevation really comes into play up here, so club up when in doubt. The greens are some of my favorite to putt on in Tahoe, lightning fast and true as they come; stay below the hole, as many putts from above the hole will be tough ones to stop.
The opening hole is a deep par 4, extremely narrow and uphill the whole way. Next up, a 520-yard par 5 called Hilltopper, is a tight uphill drive followed by a blind second shot that drops down into a basin. The signature hole is Buena Vista: a 417-yard, sometimes drivable par 4, hole 18 with stunning views and a dramatic drop in elevation from tee to green. There are no large bodies of water out here, though many holes fashion creeks that trickle across their fairways at all-too-inconvenient locations. Bunkers are scattered methodically throughout and are moderate in depth and usually escapable.
Overall, this is a fairly difficult course, especially if you play a severe fade or draw. However, if you can put together some straight shots, a decent card isn’t out of reach. Unique undulations, topography and other attributes make course knowledge an essential asset here. Your score is bound to drop the more times you play the course and know from memory what lies ahead just over the hill or around the bend.
Pick up the phone at the ninth tee box and put your order in for a pair of grilled fish tacos from the T-9 Grill, loaded with pineapple jalapeño slaw, perhaps the best food item I have found recently at any golf course.
Tahoe Donner Golf Course offers lessons, clinics and a variety of membership options for men, women and children. There’s a spacious driving range, putting green and short-game facility onsite where you can warm up before your round. Be sure to download the Tahoe Donner Golf App to give you live GPS yardage indicators and track your score during gameplay. | (530) 587-9443, tahoedonner.com