Three miles up from Donner Pass Road on Northwoods Boulevard is the friendly and peaceful, public, 18-hole Tahoe Donner Golf Course nestled into the mountains above Truckee. The course is blanketed in all shades of green, from the soft leafy mule ears to the ponderosa pines and many other native plants, shrubs and bright wildflowers.
Par 72 | 18 holes
Yardage | 4,997 to 7,002
Slope | 124 to 138
Rating | 68.9 to 74.1
Before beginning my round, I’m given a token with which to check out the driving range. It’s about a 3-minute drive from The Lodge Restaurant & Pub to the range via golf cart; I cruise my way through the pines and park in the golf-cart parking lot. I join families, locals and golfers on a three-tiered range and try to get control of my slice.
The course has holes ranging from 109 yards to 574 yards with smooth fairways, strategically placed bunkers, natural features and homes dotting the edges in woodsy areas. It’s not too easy, not too hard and perfect for intermediate/advanced abilities. There are also plenty of memorable holes. I’ll never forget the Hilltopper Hole 2 where the course encourages one to stay to the left on the par 5 before it doglegs right; my ball obeyed the rule yet came within the vicinity of a young buck peacefully grazing. And there’s Hole 4 with the remembering rock. The golf angels were looking out for me by keeping my ball out of the cluster of sand traps to the right of the green and I easily parred it.
On the back nine, I joined up with three guys in front of me on Hole 11; they were happy to have the day off work and a reason to get out of the Reno heat. It was their first time playing Tahoe Donner, as well, and were equally as thrilled with the nice conditions and quality of the course. However, I noticed that with the temptation to drive the ball as far as you can from the silver and black tees, the more likely you are to lose it.
Despite landing in a creek or on the wrong side of the cart path here and there, I enjoyed the par-5s — as on Hole 15 called Double Trouble — and managed to still do better on the par 5s than David Duval at the 2019 British Open. Tahoe Donner’s signature hole — Hole 18 called Buena Vista — has a significant drop in elevation and bushy creeks threatening to claim golf balls, but it also has a 20-foot-tall periscope at the 291-yardage marker for scouting out the fairway.
After we all played a decent round, my newfound friends and I headed to The Lodge to take advantage of the 2 to 4 p.m. happy hour. Enjoying a cold Deschutes Squeezy IPA, we talked about how Tahoe Donner was our new favorite course and how we’ll all be back sooner than later.
Tahoe Donner also recently launched a golf app, available for free in the app store for an Android or iPhone. It offers a convenient way to keep score, book tee times and use GPS mapping to track yardage and flow of the course. | tahoedonner.com