I have roamed Ponderosa Golf Course more than any other in the Sierra. Its location — in central Truckee — affordability and pace of play makes it an ideal place to get in a quick nine or to spend a day on the course. At just more than 3,000 yards, it’s a mellow track and can easily be walked in an hour or so if not crowded.
Par 35 | 9 holes
Yards | 2,556 to 3,022
Slope | 108 to 119
Rating | 67.2 to 71.8
The course is the oldest golf club in Truckee, first opening for play in 1961. It was designed by Bob E. Baldock and was originally publicly owned and maintained until 1968 when it was purchased by Reynold C. Johnson, whose family operated the grounds for the next four decades. In 2008, plans were set into motion to develop a housing subdivision on the property, ending Ponderosa’s reign as we knew it. Thankfully, the Truckee Tahoe Airport District stepped in and purchased the property with the understanding that the course would remain untouched by commercial or residential development. It was then leased to Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, which continues to operate the course today.
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A general description of the playing field is narrow. The course is short enough for you to be tempted to take it deep every time. But, unless you have absolute power over your driver, sitting back a bit and positioning yourself is more often than not the safer option — sure to save you some punchouts and likely a few strokes or more. The trees out here are old and huge; their gravitational pull is immense; golf balls are attracted to them. The native areas are long and thick, riddled with pinecones and needles. The greens are unique, fairly large, rarely flat. Pin position can drastically impact day-to-day difficulty of each hole. The putting surfaces are slightly more sluggish than average during the early season; they quicken up as summer moves on and eventually play genuinely fast.
Hole 2, par 4 is 302 yards from the back tees and can be conquered with a long iron off the tee and a wedge in. If you’re feeling confident with the driver, the green is reachable from the tee, though going too far left, right or long can present some awkward situations. The green is steeply sloped downhill from the back to the front; sticking your approach shot below the hole leaves far more manageable conquests than having to roll your ball down the grade.
The finishing hole is a beastly 507-yard dogleg right par 5. The tee shot requires a low straight ball flight with a slight fade. Too high and you’re in the arms of the pines, left and you’re in a parking lot or some complex disaster of the brush. Miss right and you’ll land in a forest without a window to the green. The approach is a bomb through or around the monster tree dead center in the fairway. There’s plenty of room out to the right, just don’t go left because the heavily trafficked Donner Pass road closely borders the fairway all the way to the pin. Miss the front-edge bunkers, sink your putt and head over to the patio for a drink.
Ponderosa offers great twilight rates, season passes and group and private lessons. There is a spacious putting green, chipping area and driving nets onsite. | (530) 587-3501, ponderosagolfcoursetruckee.com