LakeRidge Golf Club: No Time Like the Present in Reno

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

RENO, NV -- August is prime time for Reno, Nevada, the Biggest Little City in The World. The summer months mean that the hot weather is conducive to outdoor activities and the city lines up a series of events to celebrate that fact. Hot August Nights brings in hot rods and 50's nostalgia, the chili cook off brings in aficionados of Southwestern Cooking, and the PGA Tour even rolls into town for the Reno Tahoe Open.

This three-year-old event is held during the same week of the World Series of Golf and provides a venue for the PGA Tour players who don't qualify for the invitational event at Firestone Country Club. Since its inception, the event has turned into a Tour players favorite because of the laid back attitude of the town of Reno, the great Jack Nicklaus course at Montreux Country Club, and the chance to vacation at Lake Tahoe. This event is on the backside of the majors, and bottom tier players use this occasion to get a break before battling for their tour cards in the final weeks of the PGA Tour.

This is also a perfect time for the traveling golfer to come and enjoy the many courses of the Reno Tahoe area. Over the past six years, seven new courses have popped up in the Reno area, but one course still sets the standard in this town, LakeRidge Golf Course.

LakeRidge Golf Club was built in 1970 by developer Sam Jaksick who wanted to create the first planned community development in the Reno area. Jaksick's plan was for multi use housing, health clubs, and a championship golf course for the centerpiece of the development. He knew the importance of creating interest in the project by bringing in a big name, and in the 60's there was no bigger name in golf course design than Robert Trent Jones Sr.

Robert Trent Jones Sr. had, just a few years earlier, designed the Championship Course at Incline on the shores of Lake Tahoe and the success of this development certainly helped Jaksick in his choice of designers. He presented the venerable architect with the core of his property in order to take advantage of the nearly 500 feet of elevation change that was available.

"This course is a great example of risk-reward design and shows all of the best traits of Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s design style from that era. In the seventies, he stressed the development of large greens for multiple pin placements and his distinctive runway tee boxes provide challenges for all levels of players," explained Director of Golf Paul Lane.

Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s layout flows over a wide, rolling valley for the front nine and then climbs up the rocky ridge for the backside holes that provides great views of the city of Reno and present a series of challenging holes that culminate with its famous island green at the fifteenth hole. Throughout the layout, the 60's style of wall to wall landscaping is evident and the mature trees that have grown up around the course, add to the classic look and feel of this enjoyable layout.

LakeRidge G.C. has three tees, another 60's touch, with the course playing at 5,159 yards from the Red Tees, 6,119 yards from the White tees, and 6,701 yards from the Blues. Today's design would have five tee boxes, but golf was a simpler game in the 60's and three tees made your selection much easier. The 600 yards of difference between the white and blue tees seem like even more as Trent Jones Sr. really asks a lot from a player with many delicate carries into the well protected green, so choose your tees carefully. This is a golf course that lets you rip your driver on a regular basis as the fairways are wide and inviting.

On the front nine, the designer continually sets up challenges for the golfer to overcome. Fairway bunkers are placed perfectly in the landing areas to make the player carry them with a drive or pay a price. When a hole is a short par four, Jones makes you place the ball perfectly off of the tee to play the dogleg, as on the third hole, and on the long holes, like the 559 yard-long par 5 4th hole, a fairway bunker sits at the corner of the dogleg off of the tee to again tempt a player to grab a better angle to the hole.

Another Trent Jones Sr. trait is evident at Lakeridge, the elevated green. The need to shoot into the raised green is a feature that he used on many of his courses to solidify his philosophy of making each hole a hard par or an easy bogie. At Lakeridge, the elevated approach shot pops up again and again.

All of these features come together on the par 5 8th hole. You have to drive over a lake to the tree-lined fairway and try to favor the right side. If you get off a solid drive, you can think about getting home in two but the lightly elevated green is protected by a double water hazard of a lake and then a creek that runs across the fairway. If you go for it, your approach is all carry to the raised green. If you lay up, you are 110 yards from the pin. This is the type of dilemma that Jones loved to create and is one that golfers have squawked about for three decades.

The back nine opens with an awkward par 4 that has been tinkered with over the years, and then begins a steady climb up the rocky ridge. When the course was built, Jaksick had his choice of where to build as Reno was just a small town of less than 100,000. He choose the site because of the views of the city that the ridge line provided, but also for the natural protection form the regular breezes that swirl through the Washoe Valley. As more courses have been built in Reno, on less favorable sites, it has become very obvious that when the winds blow, Lakeridge is still a very playable course.

Each hole on this side plays up to a green where this expanding city appears. The back nine is more challenging as the greens on this side have more slope and break in them. Remember as you play these holes, that the putts break towards the Hilton, the large hotel tower that looms over the city.

The climb to the top culminates at the 15th tee, an island hole, and the signature hole of the course. This famous hole was built way before the 17th at the TPC in Orlando, and it helped to solidify this course's reputation when it opened 33 years ago. The hole plays to 234 yards from the blue tees and the tees are 140 feet above the 25,000 square foot green that rests in the man made lake.

It takes a moment to finally find the pin on this huge target and then you have to figure out what to hit here. The winds seem to always have an effect here and even though the island is large, it is tough to focus in here. Hitting this green will be the highlight of your round as you will also have the audience of the group in front of you who must wave you up. But you can be left with one of the longest putts of your life if you don't get close to the pin.

Lakeridge Golf Club is a fine example of the wide open parkland style of golf that just doesn't get built anymore. There are no wetlands along the fairways, no waste lands in front of the tees, and no desert landscapes between the holes. This course celebrates its landscaping which creates a cozy atmosphere. Robert Trent Jones Sr. added the tension through his design to make a day at Lakeridge one of the top experiences in Reno.

ATTENTION GOLFERS! ATTENTION GOLFERS! Since September 11, the tourist business has been off in Reno and the various casinos are looking for your business. Many properties are offering hotel room rates during the midweek. This means that there are great stay and play packages available through the summer. The golf season is at its best in the fall in Reno with all of the Tahoe courses still open during that time.

Directions- From the casino areas take Virginia Street south to McCarran Blvd. Go right to Plumas Street. Turn left and find the Lakeridge entrance on the right 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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