Northside SF
The Weekend Traveler
Mountain links

Getting out of the Northside and heading for Tahoe to enjoy a sporting weekend isn’t just about snow or water skiing. It’s also about golf, and May is a perfect month. Tahoe itself, and the route along the way, boast a number of quality courses. My husband and I left early one Saturday morning and arrived in Truckee about three hours later.

The best way to jumpstart any time in Tahoe is to head straight to Moody’s Bistro. Located in the historic Truckee Hotel, you’ll find delicious food, an energetic local vibe, and great jazz several times a week. Removed from the hustle and bustle on the outdoor back patio, we savored ahi tuna four ways, a pork sandwich, and eggs Benedict from the brunch menu. For dessert, we sampled the sorbet of the day. Across the way, guests had a mini campfire for s’mores.

The luxurious Ritz-Carlton Highlands in Truckee, Calif. photos: Bo Links
From here, it’s a quick ride just past Northstar Village up to the Ritz-Carlton. This LEED-certified property sizzles during ski season and is just as active when spring comes. From the mountain bikers racing by outdoor weddings, to guests by the stone hearth and crackling fire, this is a people-watching paradise. It’s a warm and friendly resort even though it’s huge with soaring ceilings in the lobby.

Spread across the side of the mountain at about the mountain’s midpoint with knockout views of Martis Valley, the hotel offers luxe rooms with fireplaces and private balconies. After a quick look, we dropped our luggage and headed out for golf (I walk while my husband plays).

Just outside of Truckee is Old Greenwood, designed by Jack Nicklaus. The course winds through sugar pines and features eye-popping bunkers and undulating greens. It plays at four different distances – from a short layout of 5,419 yards to 7,518 yards from the championship tees (don’t forget, you’re playing at mountain altitude). The key is to pick the right set of tees and strategize every hole for an exciting challenge that matches your individual skill level. Whatever your preference, the course condition is usually excellent and the overall experience is first-rate, from the treatment in the pro shop, to the attendants at the range to the marshals on the course. Old Greenwood is a place for serious players.

The Village at Northstar has a variety of shopping
and dining options
Back at the Ritz, we took in the view and rode the complimentary gondola from the hotel to the multilevel Village at Northstar below – a hub of activity full of boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, and places to sit and relax. After a casual stroll, it was back to the hotel for dinner at Manzanita.

Manzanita is a delight – Traci des Jardins’s acclaimed California cuisine is French inspired and incorporates only the best ingredients. The open kitchen, hip interior, lively crowd and, naturally outstanding cooking draw diners to the tables. With gorgeous views, it’s the ideal location for an unforgettable meal.

We started with the soup of the day, a wonderful potion of shrimp and squash purée with diver scallops. Next it was grilled tai snapper, moist and tender, kicked up with piquillo peppers. The red-wine-braised short ribs were rich and delicious. Any dessert you choose will provide the perfect ending; we opted for the caramelized lemon tart with a basil anglaise. Our sociable server chose wine for each course and we were ecstatic that we could just take the elevator “home.”
Breakfast the next morning was at the hotel’s Club level lounge. With mountain views all around, we nibbled through a delicious buffet and got two freshly baked cookies for the ride back to the Northside.

En route, we stopped at Catta Verdera, located in the foothills just outside Auburn. This course tests each club in the bag. The elevation changes are stunning. With multiple tees on every hole, the course can be played at various distances between 5,100–7,000 yards. 

Catta Verdera’s best holes are part of the home stretch – beautiful vistas, but requiring precise club selection. You’ll hit shots through sand and rock formations, down narrow fairways and over ponds to tricky greens. Finally, you traverse the treacherous home hole, dubbed Last Chance. A well-placed second shot over water to a pitched green provides a fitting finish to a memorable round. Catta Verdera is a treat for everyone. 

Before you even leave home, make sure your equipment is ready for battle with the ultra-modern technology offered by Hot Stix Golf. We went to the Stanford Driving Range, where my husband underwent a club fitting and swing analysis. With each shot, the technology allowed the experts to provide information about a precise, individually tailored fitting: a different shaft, perhaps a different club head, even a different golf ball.

Increase your accuracy and distance with
Hot Stix custom golf fittings
At the conclusion of your visit, the Hot Stix staff provides a written analysis of your clubs (loft, lie, progression, and so forth) as well as a complete profile of your swing, including your “smash factor” – a measurement of how efficiently you apply force to the golf ball. And before you leave, if needed, your clubs are bent into proper alignment and loft-lie progression. These folks are personable and extremely knowledgeable. 

Great golf, delicious food, and stunning views – the Tahoe area has it all. Take the drive, stop along the way, and have a wonderful time.

What are your favorite golf courses in the Tahoe area? E-mail me at

Bookmark and Share Print Page PDF
The Inquisitive Traveler Column Archive