Believe it: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course challenges sacred Pebble Beach
STATELINE, Nev. — It sounds sacrilegious to put the modestly named Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course above Pebble Beach. You half expected a golf god to shoot down lightning bolts from the clear blue morning sky.
Or at least find Pebble Beach owner Clint Eastwood in your face, sticking a finger in your chest, puffing, "Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do ya?"
But no, the morning stays calm. There's barely a rustle in the towering pines. Lake Tahoe just glistens on. It turns out those words get spoken often on this George Fazio design that's almost right behind the hulking casinos on Lake Tahoe Boulevard and yet still plays out as a nature wonderland seldom seen in today's house-happy golf world.
"I have a number of golfers come up to me and say it's better than Pebble Beach," Edgewood Head Professional Randy Fox said. "That's quite a compliment."
This isn't the usual own-course-inflating ridiculous banter from a head pro. Fox almost sounds apologetic about it. He's a golf history guy. He's hardly pumped to be taking Pebble Beach's name in vain.
But with the comments piling up, maybe Pebble should be the one flattered (Sorry, Clint).
"Edgewood's in my top five all time," longtime Orange County Register golf writer Randy Youngman said on the eve of this Edgewood play. "Pebble Beach is not."
Still think your Lake Tahoe-Reno region golf trip is going to be boring?
Edgewood is one of the showstoppers you can find in this underrated region of the High Sierras where the temperature's cooler than many West Coast golf meccas in the summer. It's probably the best known course in the area, certainly one of the oldest, opening in 1968. Golfers travel to play Edgewood. Have for a long time.
That doesn't mean it gets all the respect it deserves. The Pebble comparisons draw snickers from those outside the Sierras.
So is it? Better than Pebble Beach?
People park in Edgewood's parking lot just to get a view of Lake Tahoe. Not golfers. Just regular folks, a few who are eating sandwiches by their cars on this beautiful summer day.
The scene is a testament to how postcard picturesque Edgewood can be. It's no coincidence Tiger Woods included Edgewood in his EA Sports video game. This is a course that shows well on any size screen.
The finishing stretch of 16 through 18 uses Lake Tahoe like Shaquille O'Neal used
Dwyane Wade. The crystal clear lake is the star of the show, but the golf around it more than measures up.
No. 16 — a 564-yard par 5 — runs toward the lake. You can see Lake Tahoe and the snow-capped mountains behind it from the tee and every shot brings the wonder closer. It's like playing golf with the shark music from "Jaws" in your head. Anticipation's building from tee to green.
Of course, you can also see the huge pine tree in the middle of the fairway, right near one of the huge bunkers mocking your approach to the green. How tall is this pine? A Tyrannosaurs Rex with a neck extension would have trouble chomping on its top.
All courtesy of the original Fazio's theatrical shot mind (and you thought Tom started the Fazio showmanship?)
Once you're safely on the green at 16, you cannot help but gawk at the water at your back. Don't get too spellbound. On No. 17 — a 207-yard par 3 — you're shooting right along Lake Tahoe. Right along. You could topple off the tee and fall into the lake.
Golfers waiting on the tee cannot help but turn and drive a few balls into the lake, just to see how far they go (though you might not want to tell the Greenpeace people about this).
Not that Lake Tahoe doesn't get its revenge. Miss the green at No. 17 and you can find yourself pitching back from the beach. You want theatrics? A young Marlon Brando never had such a run.
A golf course doesn't become great with a few spectacular holes though. Edgewood's strength is found in its number of holes running through the woods, leading not to grandmother's house, but tucked away greens. Holes like No. 6 — a downhill 442-yard par 4 — where you can see the entire main strip of Tahoe at a comfortable distance and almost miss the lake guarding the green.
No. 13 is a very cool down, up and down par 4 where the ski lifts on the mountains are very visible at your back. Only it's almost outdone by No. 14 - a lake-skirting par 4 with a devilish two-tiered green. And then there's No. 15, a par 4 where you're shooting straight uphill right into the towering trees. That's all you can see from the tee.
"It's so beautiful I don't mind that it's kicking my butt," vacationing Seattle golfer Nancy Lankin said.
Come to think of it, Clint's right to have an itchy trigger finger.
Pebble Beach might not be an outright loser in a matchup with Edgewood. But it's definitely a little wobbly on its feet.
You can debate the two courses merits back and forth; give Pebble the clear edge in history and mystique. And still this fact is undisputable.
It's like coming across two equally nice mansions and one is four times the price of the other.
Needless to say, on a Reno-Lake Tahoe trip, any golfer with a brain will make sure he's playing Edgewood.
Stay and play
The Marriott Timber Lodge isn't your normal cookie cutter Marriott, the rooms are plush and there's no casino smoke.
If you're looking for something a little different, the town of Truckee in California is a great base for an overall Sierra area golf trip. This riverside town has tons of character along with surprisingly hip restaurants and shops. The Hampton Inn (530-587-1197) here is unlike any Hampton Inn you've ever stayed in before with big suites.
The Edgewood clubhouse serves good burgers and sandwiches on a second-level outdoor deck that has great views of the course and Lake Tahoe. The French dip is one sure choice.
Celebrity golf architect Tom Fazio apprenticed under his uncle George during the building of Edgewood.
July 18, 2006