An introduction to Lake Tahoe
One of the finest spots in California, and arguably, one of the most popular places too. Granted, there are some superb golf courses in Lake Tahoe. But it’s one of the few places I’ve covered where golf really is an after-thought.
This is no reflection on the quality of the courses. More just the fact there are so many other activities to do here.
See also: What are the best golf courses in California?
So where is Lake Tahoe?
For starters, it sits across two different states, California and Nevada. To simplify things, it is easier to think of the east side of the lake being in Nevada, and the west side in California. Although more of it is officially in California.
The lake is 22 miles from north to south and 12 miles across. If you were to drive around it, which by the way would be a stunning drive, it would take you around 3 hours.
This is a gorgeous part of the world. The pristine lake is surrounded by magnificent pine forests and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. Many people travel here just to take in the views and chill.
As a year-round destination there is no shortage of ‘things to do’. Be it skiing on some of the finest slopes in the world at Palisades Tahoe. Or maybe hiking at Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, which features some of the most stunning hiking trails.
There are many great blogs highlighting the best things to do in Lake Tahoe. But we’re here to explore the best golf courses in Lake Tahoe, so let’s get started.
The best golf courses in Lake Tahoe
1. Clear Creek Golf Course
And so we start our list of the best golf courses near Lake Tahoe, and what an awesome one to kick things off. Clear Creek Tahoe Golf is simply outstanding. Depending on who you are speaking to, this is the n#1 golf course in Nevada.
It’s a relative newbie in golfing terms, with the course having opened in 2009. It’s the work of two of the most in-demand golf course architects, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
On the east coast of the lake, it is about a 15 minute drive from the shore up into the surrounding peaks. I stress, this is rugged terrain. Nestled between mountains and valleys, this is mountain golf at its finest.
The course is routed through a vast 2,130 acre plot carpeted in spectacular and elegant pine trees. The topography is also outlandishly wild, with rocky outcroppings and huge elevation changes.
Coore and Crenshaw have a knack of creating stunning golf courses and Clear Creek lives up to the hype. The par-3s are genuinely mouth-watering.
The 17th, named “Temptation”, is a mere 148 yards. But precision pitching is absolutely essential. It is a large green but anything short will be lost in a waste area just playing on your mind. Likewise, hit the wrong side of the green and everything is sloping down and right.
This is such a clever course making full use of the natural land. The scenery is spectacular and more than makes up for no lake views. Do whatever you can to play Clear Creek!
2. Martis Camp Golf
There are a number of outstanding and secluded private clubs that sit around Lake Tahoe. Martis Camp is one of them, a private ski and golf resort community.
It is nestled up in the High Sierra mountains surrounded by a canvas of pine trees. As such, this 2,200 acre plot offers breathtaking views of the Carson range and Lookout Mountain.
The course is yet another on this list with the Fazio name against it. Although on this occasion, it was solely down to one man, Tom Fazio.
Fazio is without doubt one of the preeminent architects of his era. Yet his design style is at times divisive. No matter how many Top 100 golf courses to his name, there are a small percentage of critics who struggle with his design philosophy. Namely when he imprints his ideas on the land instead of working with it.
But at Martis Camp, I can unequivocally say, that is not the case.
This is a sublime golf course which blends seamlessly with the natural topography. Fazio has the golfer needing to pull out every shot in their bag as the course weaves and twists and turns.
The greens are splendid, large and gently undulating. No wonder this has been named as one of America’s top 50 modern golf courses by GolfWeek.
3. Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
There aren’t many golf courses which officially sit across two different states. Well Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is one of them, being for the most part in Nevada, but half a fairway in California.
But oddities aside, Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course also so happens to be one of the finest golf courses in Lake Tahoe, if not Nevada. Maybe we should highlight this fact rather than the two state one…!
The course occupies arguably the most impressive location for a golf course in Lake Tahoe. Literally on the shore with lake views from most holes. Look across the lake and you have the awe-inspiring Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Having opened in 1968, it was originally designed by George Fazio and his nephew Tom. Since then, the prolific Tom Fazio has been slowly but surely renovating and improving the course as and where needed.
Various high profile events have been hosted here, with the 1980 USGA US Public Links Championship. It also hosted the US Senior Open Championship in 1985. And since ‘91, the TV-friendly American Century Championship has been held here annually.
There are many great holes although those adjacent to the lake, 17 and 18, just perfectly epitomize the experience. Just make sure you don’t slice your tee shot on the par-3 17th if not you literally will be in Lake Tahoe.
4. Lahontan Golf Club
Alongside Martis Camp, Schaffer’s Mill and Northstar Golf Course, Lahontan Golf Club is located to the north of Lake Tahoe. All four of these golf courses are all huddled together in the dense pine forests that sweep through this area.
The location is pure bliss with a backdrop of the Sierra mountains including Lookout Mountain and Bald Mountain. The elegant and serene Martis Creek meanders through the site at times opening into wetlands and meadows.
The course was designed by Tom Weiskopf, the ex-tour pro and subsequently highly regarded architect. One of the main challenges here would have been to maintain the natural beauty whilst creating a supreme layout.
Well that he did. The routing has been woven into the landscape and is a highly enjoyable course. What Weiskopf does well, is to create a layout which will test the better golfers out there, but remain enjoyable and playable to the average golfer.
Well that is Lahontan personified. There are generous fairways and large greens, always in immaculate condition.
5. Old Greenwood Golf Course
Heading away from Lake Tahoe, up towards Truckee, past the airport, is Tahoe Mountain Club.
This fine golf club is home to two superb championship courses, Old Greenwood and Gray’s Crossing. These are two of the best golf courses in Lake Tahoe and well deserving of being listed here.
However, Old Greenwood takes its place in the top 5 and is arguably the better of the two courses. The layout was designed by Jack Nicklaus, and is one of his Signature projects.
The site is vast, some 600 acres, allowing for an expansive and flowing routing. As like so many of these courses, the setting is simply majestic. There are towering pines and rolling hills with water present on a handful of holes.
In true Nicklaus fashion, there are sizable bunkers and large greens. From the back tees, it measures over 7,500 yards and is undeniably challenging. No wonder it was chosen to host a PGA Tour event.
The course is pristine and although expensive, it is open to the public.
6. Incline Village (Championship Course)
If you’re in Tahoe, this is a course you definitely need to tick off. It is also one of the few at the top of this list open to the public.
Incline Village itself is officially called the Incline Village General Improvement District. Essentially a large community partner operated to provide superior utility services and recreation programs. Golf is just one part of a larger offering with skiing and many other facilities under their umbrella.
There are two courses onsite, the Championship and Mountain courses. Although it is the Championship course which is the alpha-male here.
Originally designed by the great Robert Trent Jones Sr. it was most recently renovated by the highly regarded Kyle Phillips. Even some of the greatest layouts can often look a little tired around the edges. But this is no longer the case.
Phillips has done a fantastic job modernizing Trent Jones’ design, without necessarily changing too much.
It is also a distinctly challenging layout. 7,100 yards from the back tees through the narrow fairways bordered by imposing stately pines. There are no less than nine dog legs throughout and many feature various degrees of elevation changes, something consistent amongst many of the best golf courses in Lake Tahoe.
The routing doesn’t actually come into contact with the lake, you’re about a mile or so distanced. But the views are to die for.
On many tee boxes you can stand and just awe at the lake and mountain views. Probably something of a welcome respite when you realize how many shots you’ve already taken!
7. Schaffer’s Mill Golf
This large family community to the north of Lake Tahoe is also home to the superb Schaffer’s Mill golf course.
A little further north than Lahontan and Martis Camp golf courses, it still ultimately occupies the same parcel of land. Elevations chopping and changing with beautiful elegant pines dominating the landscape.
The routing was a design effort by John Harbottle III and Johnny Miller and the course debuted in 2008. Soon after opening, it was already being adulated by Golfweek as one of the Top 10 New Clubs in the country.
There are two distinct nines. The front-nine, nicknamed the ‘Meadow’, kicks things off in a serene pace. An amble through ponderosas, firs and spruce at the base of the ridge which on the back nine you’ll get to know better.
The back-nine is ominously called the ‘Mountain’, and yes, you guessed, features elevation changes of up to 400 feet. Fortunately, this test of golf is offset by gorgeous views of Martis Valley and the Carson Range in the distance.
This is a superb layout tragically overlooked because of the quality of other golf clubs in its vicinity. But if you do get a chance to play this member’s course, grab it with both hands.
8. Gray’s Crossing Golf Course
The second of the two golf courses at Tahoe Mountain Club, up in Truckee.
Despite being sister courses, Gray’s Crossing and Old Greenwood are actually separated by Interstate 80. Fortunately, although you can hear it at times, you can’t see it.
What you can see is a pristine landscape and stunning views out across the Carson range and Mt. Rose.
Like Old Greenwood, this is another beautiful plot of land. Serene with rows upon rows of majestic ponderosa pines and firs. Tranquil creeks flow through the site although there is far less water than at Old Greenwood.
The course was designed by Peter Jacobsen and he’s gone big. From the back tees the course stretches to over 7,400 yards. Many holes require a lot of thought and strategy, and there are plenty of sand bunkers to circumnavigate.
If you’re not a big hitter, choose your tee wisely. Although you’re not short of choice with six tee box options.
Keep an eye out for some of the stay and play packages, which do slightly better rates for playing both courses. This is definitely one of the best two-course options in the greater Lake Tahoe area.
9. Genoa Lakes Golf Course (Lakes)
This time we veer off to Nevada, to the east side of Lake Tahoe. Genoa Lakes Golf Club is in the small town of Genoa, the other side of the Genoa Peaks and Tahoe Rim.
This top class public golf course in Lake Tahoe actually has two championship golf courses. The first is the Lakes course which we’ll explore in a bit more detail. The second is the Ranch course, located 2 miles up the road.
Both are impressive layouts but the Lakes course is the one which gets most attention.
It is yet another design by John Harbottle III, a great architect who learnt his trade under the even greater Pete and Alice Dye. Unfortunately Harbottle passed away at an early age, cutting short his burgeoning career.
But the handful of courses we do have of his, are all highly regarded. Genoa Lakes was actually another design collaboration, this time with PGA champion Peter Jacobsen.
As the name suggests, water comes into play a lot. In fact across 14 of the 18 holes, there are water hazards in play. Yet there is no repetition and the routing keeps things interesting and challenging.
Its reputation even stretches as far as the USGA, having been chosen to host US Open qualifiers. For this occasion, the yardage was stretched to nearly 7,400 yards.
10. Lake Tahoe Golf Course
And to the last on our list of best golf courses in Lake Tahoe. The humble and yet quietly confident Lake Tahoe Golf Course.
Unlike many of the aforementioned courses, Lake Tahoe Golf Course is the most southerly on this list. It is south of Lake Tahoe airport, which itself is south of the resort city South Lake Tahoe. That said, you’re only just over 10 minutes from Lake Tahoe’s coastline.
The site is a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. This means it is committed to protecting the environment. In a way, this feels apt. The site is overlooked by the Pyramid Peaks and is split open by the meandering Upper Truckee River. This is nature personified.
But alongside an exacting respect for the environment, is a fun and thoroughly enjoyable round of golf.
The layout was designed by William Bell, an architect prolific between 1920 and 1950. Bell has engineered a fine layout, one which will present a challenge to most levels of golfer.
But on the whole, this relatively flat course offers an opportunity to open your shoulders a bit, pull out the big dog and have some fun.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of hazards dotted around and water does come into play on a handful of holes. But on the whole, the course won’t beat you up.
Expect great value, super-friendly staff and an unpretentious welcome.
What is the best golf course in Lake Tahoe?
The best golf course in Lake Tahoe is Clear Creek Tahoe Golf. It was designed by the highly regarded Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened for play in 2009. It is located to the east of Lake Tahoe, about 15 minutes up into the mountains.