D'Andrea Country Club: High Desert Golf at its Best

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

SPARKS, NV-- Reno, Nevada is known through the west as the Biggest Little City in the World and has long been an attractive location where one can slip away in anonymity. The town has never achieved the glitzy notoriety of its southern Nevada cousin Las Vegas, yet its reputation was cemented in the forties and fifties as THE PLACE for the wealthy and famous to while away a few days in order to secure the infamous "quickie divorce".

Today Reno has grown to a city of nearly 200,000 that is caught in an identity crisis. While Las Vegas continues to grow in leaps and bounds as the Gambling Capital of the known universe, Reno tries in fits and spurts to be a quiet alternative to the glitz, and as a rest spot for tourists to nearby Lake Tahoe. Its newest metamorphosis is as a prime retirement region that boasts good weather, many recreational options, and lots of golf.

In the last seven years, six new courses have opened here and more are on the drawing boards. When you add in the Carson Valley area just 20 minutes away, there are 22 courses to visit around the Biggest Little City. In fact, the building boom is starting to catch up with Reno; the courses are going to start competing with each other to capture those needed greens fees.

One of the new tracks in this region that is definitely worth a look is D'andrea Golf Club located in the hills above the city of Sparks on the eastern side of the Truckee Meadows. This par 71 track spills across a huge expanse of terrain and is an ultimate Nevada golf course. This course cuts hard to the land and makes no bones about where it is situated. There are no phony waterfalls, no palm trees, and nobody pushing it as a Scottish links course. This is high desert golf and architect Keith Foster did a great job of using the most dramatic land possible to set this big course into.

As with every golf course found in the area, this is a real estate driven property where the sale of home sites is the primary focus. The developers hope to turn the course into a private club in the future but they aren't alone in the Reno-Sparks marketplace, so until memberships are sold, the public is invited to check out D'Andrea.

Course architect Keith Foster is a 42 year old Floridian who has dabbled in all facets of the game. He was a strong player himself who has also held stints as a course superintendent, worked as a shaper for Wadsworth Construction, and was an associate designer with Arthur Hills for five years before starting his own design firm in Texas in 1991. Since then he has created many renowned courses including the Quarry in San Antonio, Texas, and Sun Ridge Canyon in Arizona. Both courses are ranked among the "Top 100 courses you can play" by Golf Magazine. Foster also renovated Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the U.S. Open and Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.

The strongest element of Foster's design work is to let the land dictate the layout and that attribute is obvious at D'Andrea. The course runs through over 300 acres of land and climbs 400 feet through the rocky hills that define this region. This is a course with a lot of elevation change and Foster merely accentuates that fact with a lot of uphill shots and a phenomenal collection of the toughest group of par three's to be found in Northern Nevada.

D'Andrea Country Club is a par 71 layout featuring four tee blocks with the course stretching from 5,982 to 6,849 yards from the tips. Most players will find the Gold Tees, rated at 70.4 with a 126 slope, to be plenty of course at 6,501 yards. The front nine opens with a wide par four that works up to an elevated green that sets the tone for uphill shots on this course. Don't even think of walking this golf course because there are some massive hikes from green to tee.

The front actually features mostly downhill play and the way the course is situated on the hillside above the Truckee Meadows provides an different view of the growth of this region. All of Reno and Sparks spread before you and the Eastern Slope of the Sierra Nevada provide a great backdrop. This is one of the best views to be found at any golf course in the region. The holes are very wide here so your main priority is to grip it and rip it, but don't get off of the fairways.

D'Andrea opened for play in the summer of 2000 but a rush to completion and maybe some inadequate sub soils made for a difficult grow in phase here. The thin edges along the fairways are tell tale signs of a stressful place for the turf, but a diligent effort by a new superintendent has helped to develop much better playing conditions this summer. But to get the grass in the rough to take, they have allowed the rye and bluegrass to grow long to stimulate root growth. This leads to a wiry and difficult rough to get out of. You will certainly find this out some time during your round.

The 3rd hole is a downhill 195-yard hole with a gaping bunker to the left and a two tiered green for a target. Play 2 clubs less here and play to the front edge, as the greens can be firm. The 6th hole is even more intimidating. It plays 195 yards across a lake to a slightly elevated green that is fronted by a 10-foot high stonewall that rises out of the water. You have to hit plenty of club here to reach this tough green.

The use of two tiered greens is common throughout the course and the bent grass surfaces are lightning fast in mid summer. As you find out, being above the hole on these greens can lead to some frightening putts.

The last three holes on the front begin the challenge of the hillside. The par 5 7th hole is a 528 yard hole into a very elevated green that really has just one pin placement on the front level, so don't go long. The ninth hole is a beast at 420 yards with the last 200 yards playing right up the hill. This hole finishes just below the site of the new clubhouse that is under construction, and the nines will flip around next year making this hole the 18th. Many matches will turn on this tough hole.

The back nine is a series of uphill holes where every approach shot is challenged by the fickle winds that swirl through the canyons that frame these holes. The back is a little easier than the front as long as you keep your ball out of the rough. As with the front, the par threes are just long, tough holes. The 12th hole is downhill but still plays to 246 yards from the back tees and 218 yards from the Gold Tees. An even tougher target waits at the 14th hole. Here the two-tiered green has bunkers left and right and the hole plays to 185 yards from the gold tees.

If there is a weak hole it would have to be the 18th. This par four plays to 453 yards from the Gold Tees, but the drive can carry out over a hill where you can get a good roll. This hole should have been stretched out to make it a par 5 but the designer obviously ran into the conflict of roads and housing sites and had to make do with what was left. It is odd in that through the rest of the layout, Foster could spread across the hardpan desert to make very distinctive looking golf holes.

SO consider Reno and D'Andrea Golf Club as an affordable alternative for a golf junket this fall and winter. You won't be disappointed.


Take Route 80 east to Vista Blvd. And Go Left. Go right at North D'Andrea Parkway and go right. Temporary clubhouse is on right hand side.

Doug Saunders, Contributor

Doug Saunders has covered more than 20 major championships and his unique perspectives on the game have appeared in numerous publications including Golf World, GolfWeek, Golf Course Management, Golf Course News, Golfdom, and the USGA Golf Journal. He is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, California Golf Writers, and the Sierra Nevada Golf Course Superintendents Association.

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