Believe it: Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nevada challenges sacred Pebble Beach

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

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.

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course - 16th
Crystal blue Lake Tahoe, the snowy mountain peaks and a confounding giant pine in the fairway all greet you at Edgewood Tahoe's 16th.
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course - 16thEdgewood Tahoe Golf Course - No. 17Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course - Ski mountainsEdgewood Tahoe Golf Course - No. 16

Or at least find 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?

The test

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.

Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course: The verdict

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 indisputable.

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 Tahoe.

Chris BaldwinChris Baldwin, Contributor

Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.


 
Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • edgewood is my favorite course

    Brent wrote on: Aug 26, 2008

    I'm only 23 years old, but have played my fair share of golf courses during my competition years in high school and college. Now that competitive golf is over i find my self only playing one or two weekends a year. Edgewood is that one or two weekends a year. The course is unlike anything you'll ever play. Large pines, rolling hills, perfect greens, not to mention the largest lake in California to guard its final holes. Any golf and/or nature cone suer should make a point to at least check out it's clubhouse.

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  • Edgewwod...better than Pebble?

    Mark E.Tinger wrote on: Jul 29, 2006

    I have never heard anyone say that any golf course is better than Edgewood. Why not? Because it is not the benchmark for anything. It is beautiful, and it's location will never be matched in these days of environmentally responsible development, but is it better than the greatest American resort golf course? Sorry, No. I understand that you are trying to make a living writing advertorial pieces Mr. Baldwin, but now your credibility is gone. Stick to folding golf shirts and cleaning carts, the advertising industry has enough paid for souls.

    Reply