Just call it the Valley of golf | RecordCourier.com

Just call it the Valley of golf

Donnie Nelson

It’s official. This is the first Valley of golf.

Western Nevada, particularly the Carson Valley, is experiencing a population boom. But, we’re talking golf courses, not people. In case you haven’t noticed, this is becoming a destination-resort area.

The designers and architects aren’t just building your average city-track courses here. They’re sparing no expense and sculpting first-class facilities with the look, playability and amenities of the likes of Palm Springs, Arizona, and Hawaii, but with a distinctly Nevada character.

Sunridge, which opens nine holes Friday, is the second of six championship courses set to open within a year in a 30-mile stretch along Highway 395. It’s a course unlike any other in the area. Call it a Vegas-style, desert lakes-style or desert mountain-style layout, or whatever you want, but call it spectacular.

It’s first five holes play at the base of Indian Hill (call it a desert valley-style or high plains-style layout) and at the edge of the gorgeous Valley. The sixth hole is cut into the side of the hill, sort of a transition hole. The last three holes play up, across and down the hill, offering the scenery of an award-winning oil painting and the tranquility of a wetlands environment.

The back nine, scheduled to open next summer, will play in a strikingly similar fashion but with even grander elevation changes from tee to green on its five finishing holes.

Looking at the property from Highway 395 – that’s the medium length par-4 6th you see running perpendicular along the base of the hill – just doesn’t do the course justice. A drive through the property and a round of golf are the only ways to see just how special this track really is.

“People will be excited when they drop down the hill and come out and see this place,” Sunridge head professional Keith Stoll said. “They will say, ‘Wow.’ You’re kind of blind until you come out and really see it. I’m not promising anything, just come out and see for yourself.”

But it doesn’t stop with Sunridge.

The Sierra Nevada Golf Club, located in the northwestern corner of the Valley, is also scheduled to open next spring. You can drive through the middle of the course on Jacks Valley Road. It’s a desert savannah-style course with and equally impressive amount of fantastic views of the Carson Valley.

Most of the course plays around the Little Mondeaux, but its five featured holes play over an outwashed plain coming from the Sierra. Throw its famed sister, The Golf Club of Genoa Lakes (just a couple of miles south and down the road) into the mix and you’ve got three premier courses in a roughly five-mile radius. Tourists won’t have to go out of the Valley to get their share of championship golf.

Then there’s Carson Valley Golf Course, a peaceful 18-hole layout on the outskirts of the Gardnerville Ranchos that seems like it has been there forever. It will always be a popular place to play, mainly because it has that old parkland-style feel.

Heading into Carson City, you can find the pleasing Empire Ranch. It’s 27 holes of creative and strategic golf, requiring part big-hitting and part shotmaking. It may be the best value around. And, it has the friendliest golf shop staff in northern Nevada. The course opened in April.

Next to open in the capitol city will be Silver Oak, located on the west side of Highway 395 at the base of the hill heading to Reno.

It appears as if Reno is trying to compete with Las Vegas.

Wolf Run, the university-operated course, and Arrow Creek, among a handful of courses, are scheduled to open in the spring. The private Montreux, a Jack Nicklaus design, has been open since the early summer and is expected to be ranked as one of the top courses in the west when Golf Digest magazine’s new rankings come out in two years.

But, it is the Carson Valley which is the leader in championship golf course design. How did this all come about?

“You have to give a lot of credit to the casinos,” Stoll said. “They’ve done a great job of making it a golf destination. We want to continue to work with those groups. That, and the fact that we have been blessed with having Lake Tahoe, has made this a popular place.”

Why has there been such an explosion, all of a sudden, of golf courses and golf communities in the Valley?

“I think it’s the boom of golf,” Stoll said.