Wolf Run Golf Club in Reno graduates with high honors

By Doug Saunders, Contributor

RENO, Nev. -- Now here is a dilemma that all of us would like to deal with. Someone just gave you 185 acres of land and you just don't know what to do with it. This is exactly the problem that was presented to the University of Nevada at Reno when a local rancher granted a parcel of land in the southeastern region of the city some 15 years ago. The University considered using the property for a satellite campus, an extension farm for the agricultural school, and as a profit center through commercial development.

Wolf Run Golf Club
Wolf Run Golf Club gives golfers great views of the Reno landscape.
Wolf Run Golf ClubWolf Run Golf Club in Reno

But that all changed in 1996 when a local golf professional with a broader vision convinced the University that building a golf course would serve several purposes. The University agreed that this was a great alternative and, wham, Wolf Run Golf Club came into being.

The driving force behind this development was PGA Professional Lou Eiguren. Eiguren is a lifetime PGA member who had served as Head Professional for several years at the venerable Olympic Club in San Francisco, and more recently held the same position at Edgewood Golf Club, Tahoe's premier venue. During his years in the golf business he could see that one of the big challenges for the future of the game was finding ways to create quality public courses at affordable rates.

Eiguren understood that the key ingredient for any golf course is land, and approached the university with a simple plan. He suggested that the university take this parcel of land and lease it out to a golf firm who would then build and operate the public fee facility that would fill a niche in the Reno area. He then put together an investment group to finance the construction and operation of this new track. Finally, he put together a design team by bringing in John Fleming, his former superintendent back at the Olympic Club.

Fleming brought to Reno his extensive knowledge of course design that he developed over the last 50 years. Fleming's father, Jack, was the lead construction foreman for Alister MacKenzie, and helped to build Cypress Point and Pasatiempo among other MacKenzie courses in California. In the forties, Jack Fleming designed numerous public courses around the state and his son John would spend weekends helping out. John continued his own design work while caring for the Olympic Club and the chance to come to Nevada to help his old boss develop Wolf Run was an opportunity he relished.

Eiguren and Fleming put together routing through a 140-acre site that consisted of a bowl like canyon with a meander stream, Thomas Creek, flowing through the middle. The canyon provided just the right amount of elevation change and natural features to be able to develop a course that, while not long, provides a great variety of golf shots for players of all levels.

"Wolf Run Golf Club is an open track with few trees that features four tee boxes so any player can enjoy the course. We put a premium on our greens, which are large and full of break. We pride ourselves on our fast and true greens, which are considered some of the best in Reno," said PGA Professional Tim Davis.

The golf course plays from 5,404 yards from the forward tees and stretches out to 6,071, 6,482, and 6,926 yards respectively from each subsequent tee box. This a course that is very straight forward with no hidden tricks, but it still calls for careful shot selection and course management on several golf holes. The Blue tees offer the best variety.

The course opens with a solid par four with the green protected by the waters of Thomas Creek. This will not be the last encounter with this water feature at Wolf Run. As the course plays up through the bowl of the canyon, you begin to get a feeling for the layout. Eiguren and Fleming took this open canyon and fit the holes in such a manner so that you just see the hole that you are playing.

As you work up to the fourth tee, a 385-yard par 4, the mountains east of town give a nice backdrop and you are confronted by a series of golf holes that will make you think. This hole has the creek and a wetland area cutting right through the landing area just 193 yards from the tee. A big hitter can clear this hazard but it is still a 226-yard carry to get it over the weeds. If you lay up, you are then confronted with an uphill shot with a long iron. Risk-reward is definitely the theme on this clever hole.

This design philosophy comes back on the 6th hole, a 339 yarder, that has the creek farther from the tee, but it is a narrow strip of water that again will tempt the big hitter. These two holes alone are worth a visit to Wolf Run.

The other strength of this course is the par three holes and this is where your tee selection becomes critical. The par 3s vary from the nifty 151 yard 5th hole to the demanding 218 yard 7th. But the real stickler is the 174 yard 14th hole.

This downhill hole puts every possible obstacle into play. The wide but narrow green sits at the base of a hill so a long shot will leave you with an awkward shot from the steep slope. If you are short, once again Thomas Creek is waiting to swallow your ball. A large bunker protects the green front right, and a rock strewn waste area awaits any shot way off line. If that isn't enough, you can be assured that the breeze on the elevated tees will make club selection just that more difficult.

The pars fives are all reachable in two but the big hitter has to deal with well-protected greens in each instance. Over the last two years, extra effort has been put into fairway conditions and that has paid off as finding a bad lie is tough here.

The golf course finishes with a funny par 4 that seems like they just ran out of land. The hole plays to 474 yards from the blue tees and the power lines near the tee made it impossible to move the tees back enough to make this a true par five. A large bunker that used to run along the right side of the fairway has finally been taken out, as many drives would roll into this unfair bunker. Still your second shot is a long iron from a downhill lie to an elevated green. Make a par here and you will feel like a hero.

Wolf Run Golf Club has become a very popular layout in the Reno area. The UNR Golf Club makes it their home course and a private membership also exists at the club. The club members have found this course to be an affordable alternative to the other real estate driven courses in the region. Wolf Run's new management group, headed by Terry Jarcik and Jan Clark, have set the standard to keep this track in peak condition and this effort is obvious throughout the course, from the greens and fairways to the clubhouse and restaurant. This all adds up to making Wolf Run Golf Club a great alternative for golfers in Reno.

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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