Reno golf courses: Eye-candy bully ArrowCreek C.C. intimidates on every look

By Chris Baldwin, Contributor

RENO, Nev. - Your tongue doesn't get caught in your throat. Your driver gets caught in mid swing. Suddenly, the ball's sailing off into the Nevada sky, way past the tall grass that seems to stretch forever, apparently headed straight for one of the downtown casinos on the horizon.

Arrow Creek Country Club
The views at Arrow Creek Country Club stretch all the way to the highest casino in Reno.
Arrow Creek Country ClubReno's Arrow CreekArrow Creek Country ClubArrow Creek's Challenge Course No. 15

You feel like you should shout "fore!" for some schmuck in a hot tub on the 11th floor of the Peppermill casino.

Instead, you just slink away from the tee, another victim of ArrowCreek Country Club's eye-candy bullying.

"The views are overwhelming almost," Director of Golf Chuck Martin said. "Some holes you have to step away from the tee, regroup and just concentrate on a target in the fairway.

"The first few times I played the golf course, I was going, 'Oh my God, I don't know where to hit it.'"

This from a guy who knows how to play a little. It doesn't take golfers long to realize that this aptly named Challenge Course is 7,455 yards of golf muscle. How tough is it? ArrowCreek is visually intimidating from the forward tees.

Yes, you could move all the way up, draw hoots and catcalls from your golf buddies and still be double gulping.

And you thought the boys in Vegas held a stranglehold on showy, over-the-top courses? ArrowCreek is Reno's rebuttal.

This two-course complex in the place self-dubbed "The Biggest Little City in The World" began in concept as a purely private country club. Faced with the economic realities of modern golf, it's opened up to public play through the casinos and some golf packagers like

ArrowCreek is part of a largely underrated Sierra golf scene that includes Reno, Lake Tahoe and tons of wonderfully little towns along the mountain way.

The elevation's higher here and the temperatures in the summer cooler than what's found in many West Coast golf meccas. Being in more temperate — and less ski haven — Reno, ArrowCreek's season also stretches later and starts earlier.

Which means you can be intimidated throughout the year.

"It looks tougher to score on than it really is," Membership Director Drew Yardley said.

The knockout in the expensive heels at the end of the bar may look tougher to score on than she actually is. ArrowCreek's accurately daunting.

Every hole seems to include some type of forced carry right off the tee (especially on Fuzzy Zoeller's Challenge Course). A lot of times these forced carries are canyon drops. Clumps of tall grasses, hilly dips and raises, big bushes and tiny trees fill so much of the area that it's often hard to see what you should be shooting at off the tee. Flags at ArrowCreek may as well be UPN TV personalities for as easy as they are to notice.

The back tees may as well be in California. If you're playing the back tees on ArrowCreek's Challenge Course, you'd better be able to clear two or three canyon-sized drops at a time.

"Sometimes we have pro-ams and we'll have to move them up a tee or two closer than we expected," Martin said, laughing.

What's a little torment between friends?
Once you get to the greens on ArrowCreek, you'll have a chance to drop some putts. As long as you read the greens with more breaks than Ben Roethlisberger's jaw post motorcycle spill.

You'll be swerving. In style.

"The greens are very undulating and on the (Stimpmeter) they run a very true 11 to 11½," Yardley said. "If you get a putt on line, you can roll in a long one."

Or push a short one off a ridge.

ArrowCreek creates the illusion of playing golf on plateau on top of the world. Or at least Reno.

On Challenge No. 14, you can look right across the fairway and almost see eye to eye with the top of Reno's casinos. All as you're navigating a twisting dogleg.

These views are the best part of ArrowCreek. It's very visual golf. Both the Challenge and Arnold Palmer-designed Legend course use the shallow canyons, the contrast between the gnarly tall grasses and the plush green of the fairways, and the town scene on the horizon to create a sense of show.

You're not playing in a postcard like you are at a Pebble Beach or Cabo del Sol Ocean Course. You're swinging in a special effects studio, something some music video director would come up with if he turned his attention to golf.

You never really think that ArrowCreek is very natural. It's not blending into the land as much as bursting out of it.

Who doesn't enjoy a popcorn big effects movie now and then though?

"Some of my friends tell me it's not pure golf," local golfer Patrick Johanson said, laughing. "I usually respond, 'Oh yeah, it's not boring. That's a problem?'"

Only if you want to swing straight.

The verdict

Some of ArrowCreek's holes do seem to downright taunt the first-time visitor. Like the 237-yard, par-3 15th on the Challenge Course. Flapping in the brisk breeze, the flag might as well be going, "Na, na, na, naa" from across a canyon that is not only deep but super wide.

There is a basic approach to playing ArrowCreek without a huge amount of pain though. The Challenge Course is hellacious on high handicappers with its endless forced carry parade, but relatively scoreable for good players.

The Legend Course is the opposite — not so crushing on the high handicapper while wreaking much more havoc with low handicappers' games due to its bunker placements, shrinking fairways in prime target spots and sometimes maddeningly blind shots.

Having two different options does make a difference.

ArrowCreek isn't a course you'll tell yourself you just have to play. It's show is more Danielle Steele than Shakespeare. But when the casinos start looking too dark and familiar, it's a more than worthwhile reprieve.

Stay and play

Peppermill Resort & Casino is pure retro flashing neon and colored lights gambling. It could be lifted from a casino from the 1970s (only things look new). In the suite stayed in on this trip, little Christmas-like white bulbs ran all the way around the black walls.

The Jacuzzi came in all black, too, with more mirrors around it than Paris Hilton would know what to do with.

And you know what? It might just turn out to be the most fun you ever have in a casino hotel stay.

Dining Out

ArrowCreek's own restaurant puts out a surprisingly inventive array of dishes. This isn't your usual golf course grill run by your usual golf course cook whose specialty is flipping burgers. There were hors devours on this night that some Vegas chefs would declare too daring for their clientele.

Fast Fact

ArrowCreek tries to build that country club aura by not having tee markers. Many a vacationing golfer gets lost in the string of gnarly tall grasses, brush gone wild and canyons.

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.

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