The Biggest Little City in the World. Whether Reno, Nevada lives up to that claim depends on who you talk to, but it’s one of my favorite cities in the western part of the country.
I know what you’re thinking, casinos, golf, etc. Right up my alley. You’re not totally wrong, as I do make it a point to stay at the Peppermill every time I’m in town and the black jack tables normally treat me well.
But I also love Reno because there’s so much more going on. Lake Tahoe is just a short jaunt away in the High Sierra. The Truckee River is a blue ribbon trout fishery. The world-famous Bruno’s Café is 100 miles west in the tiny town of Gerlach and well worth the trip just FYI. And of course, there’s some great golf to be played.
One of our writers, who lives in Central Oregon is also a fan of Reno for many of the same reasons. For him, it’s only a seven-hour drive away.
Reno came up in one of our recent conversations and we both agreed we needed to do a course guide. So, with the help of our readers, we’ve come up with a list of consensus favorites below.
Lakeridge Golf Course
Lakeridge is located in the heart of Reno. A semi-private facility, this course’s members take a tremendous amount of pride in their facility. So does the public.
Lakeridge is one of the best-conditioned tracks you’ll find anywhere in Nevada. The greens are fast and true. Fairways are like playing off carpet.
Especially noteworthy is the 15th hole. A par three, the tee box sits high above Lake Stanley and affords a breathtaking 360-degree view of the Carson Valley. Below sits an island green that looks inviting but can be a challenge to hit. I can attest that I’ve made everything from two to seven on this hole. It can literally make or break your round.
I make it a point to play Lakeridge whenever I’m in town and you should too.
Wolf Run Golf Club
The University of Nevada Reno Men’s and Women’s golf teams call Wolf Run home.
This is one of the first tracks I ever played in Reno and Scott, our aforementioned writer, played here a bunch in college.
Set high atop of a sagebrush-laden plateau, the views at Wolf Run are incredible. The real story is the golf course though.
Even though the layout seems wide-open, missing the fairway can spell trouble. And the wind blows virtually every afternoon.
A true ball striker’s test, executing the proper shot is crucial if you’re going to score. The greens are large in size and can get crusty and quick in the summer. Stay below the hole.
The amenities at Wolf Run shouldn’t be understated either. The practice facilities, pro shop, and grill are all first-rate.
Go Wolfpack Go! That’s what I’m singing each time I put a peg in the ground here.
Red Hawk Golf and Resort – Lakes Course
Red Hawk occupies a spot close to the top on Reno’s golf scene.
Located in the bedroom community of Sparks, the Lakes Course occupies a sweet spot in the Spanish Springs Valley that affords high desert mountain views in every direction.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., this is a big boy test from all the way back. More than 7,100 yards in case you’re wondering. Thankfully, there are plenty of tee boxes to choose from.
Cottonwood trees, wetlands, and native grasses challenge you to keep the ball in play.
Balanced is the word regulars use to describe the Lakes Course. Just the right amounts of challenging holes and risk-reward holes keep you interested the entire round.
Don’t miss a chance to play the Lakes Course Red Hawk.
Red Hawk Golf and Resort – Hills Course
Hale Irwin won the U.S. Open three times. And there’s no better test of ball striking in the game than our national championship. Maybe that’s why the Hills Course at Red Hawk is a good ball striker’s paradise.
The sister course to the Lake, this track is full of character. A departure from modern design, this course has small greens. If you find one in regulation, chances are you’ll have a good look for birdie.
Elevation change is also prominent. Through in deep, penal bunkers and you’ve got all you can bargain for.
Is the Hills Course difficult? Yes. But it’s also more than fair. As it should be, good shots are rewarded and bad shots. . . well not so much.
I’ve played this course with Scott (that writer guy) a few times and I’ll be honest, it proves a stern but enjoyable test every time we show up.
Toiyabe Golf Club
If you’ve never spent any time exploring the Toiyabe National Forest, you’ve been missing out on one of the great experiences in the American West. Yes, this is where you’ll find Toiyabe Golf Club, but the surrounding lands are enchanted too.
Okay, before I pretend I’m Aldo Leopold and start naming flora and fauna, I’ll stay on track and give you the lowdown on this fine course.
Toiyabe Golf Club was designed by Robert Muir Graves. If you’ve never heard of this guy, he’s infamous on the West Coast.
A blend of alpine and links golf, Toiyabe gives you ample room from the tee, but asks that you be precise on your approach shots.
This facility is semi-private, but the public is warmly welcomed.
For a break from the city, Toiyabe is a wonderful choice.
Gray’s Crossing Golf Club
If quality, public golf is your tune, you’ll want to make the drive to the town of Truckee. That’s where you’ll find Gray’s Crossing.
Pacific Northwest native, Peter Jacobsen, was the brains behind this spectacular layout that exudes everything that comes to mind when you think of mountain golf.
The fairways are lined by mature Ponderosa Pine trees. Verdant fairways are complemented by cloudless blue skies and meandering water features.
Gray’s Crossing seems like a big golf course. But it’s important to keep in mind that you’re at high elevation and there are plenty of tee boxes for everyone.
This isn’t the cheapest round you’ll find in the Reno area, but it’s worth the price of admission.
Old Greenwood Golf Club
The sister course to Gray’s Crossing is Old Greenwood. It’s said that when Jack Nicklaus first stepped foot on this property to think about the design, he didn’t want to leave.
This facility is set on more than 600 acres of pristine pine forest. Not to mention the views of the surrounding Sierra Mountains are to die for.
Like most Nicklaus courses, Old Greenwood is a test. Large features, plenty of hazards, and undulating greens keep you on your toes.
I’ve been fortunate to play her a couple of times and while the price is on the steep side, it’s more than worth it.
Coyote Moon Golf Course
A Mountain Masterpiece. That’s what this facility advertises and I’ve yet to come across anyone who disagrees.
Rolling hillsides, towering pines, and granite outcroppings can be found throughout the 18 holes that comprise this track. The natural beauty of this place is something that even our best writers at Golfer’s Authority can’t put into words.
Despite the presence of thousands of old-growth trees, Coyote Moon is generous off the tee. Go ahead and hit driver. The challenge comes on the second shot where greens are well protected by water and ghostly white sand bunkers.
I’ve only played here once, and it was early in the morning. But it was a round I still remember vividly. My guess is you will too.
Ponderosa Golf Course
If you’ve made it this far in our guide, it’s probably become pretty clear that there’s a lot of high-end public golf to be found in and around Reno.
While I’ve played most of these top-tier spots, you guys know I’m always on the lookout for a great value and fun experience. Ponderosa Golf Course is exactly that in the town of Truckee.
True to its name, this golf course was created in concert with a mature Ponderosa forest.
Owned and operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation District, there are no homes or commercial buildings surrounding the course. This was the intent and it’s going to remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Even though the layout is straight forward, you’ll have a most wonderful time at Ponderosa. I always do.
Dayton Valley Golf Club
Hands down, one of the best values in the Carson Valley is Dayton Valley Golf Club. Not to mention it was designed by my hero, Arnold Palmer. There was no way I was going to leave this track off the list.
Having received Golf Digest’s “Best Places to Play” nomination, this track is both challenging and fun.
Water comes into play on most holes and makes up an astounding 40 acres of the property. Might be wise to bring an extra sleeve of balls.
While the fairways are generous, substantial mounding can make for some tough lies on shots that don’t find the fairway. Plenty of bunkers thrown in on top make this a true test.
One of the valley’s best kept secrets, make it a point to spend a day at Dayton Valley.
Even though everyone knows about Reno, it still feels like it’s one of the best kept secrets in the West when it comes to vacation and recreation. That seems especially true when it comes to the golf.
While we’ve done our best to compile a list of the ten best public courses anyone can play, there are plenty more that are worthy of a spot. I encourage you to go find out for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.