Isolated golf experience helps produce sublime golf
One of the nation’s great places to “get away from it all” for golf is the northern Sierra Nevada mountains of California near the northwest edge of Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake.
Coyote Moon Golf Course in Truckee is one of a handful of facilities on this side of the huge lake to offer a wonderful combination of sublime golf, serenity and serious “wow” factors. It’s among the offerings of Golf the High Sierra Vacations, whose tagline hits the nail right on the head – “refuse to be limited in a region with no natural limits.”
It’s easy to think there’s nothing else going on in the world but the fairways and greens ahead when playing Coyote Moon, situated just northwest of Truckee’s main street. Built on a site replete with rolling hills and rocky outcroppings, lined by tall pines and accentuated by Trout Creek as it forks into the Truckee River, Coyote Moon is as isolated as it gets.
Designed by former PGA and European Tour player, Brad Bell, and opened in 2000, Coyote Moon seems worlds apart from civilization. The course sits on 250 acres of secluded up-and-down terrain without a house in sight; that’s right – there is no residential component at Coyote Moon.
Bell fully utilized the natural setting while employing at many junctures the snowcapped Sierra Nevadas as a stunning backdrop. Grass mounds enhance each hole and native tall grasses and wildflowers are scattered throughout; it’s not unusual to see deer, hawks and coyote during a round here.
Playing to a par of 72 and 7,147 yards from its back set of four tees, Coyote Moon is rated 74.4 with a slope of 139 from the tips. And even though it sits at an elevation of about 5,700 feet, the course plays difficult (at least until one really knows the lay of the land) because of its terrain and many elevated greens.
Despite having six par-4s of 430 yards or more, Coyote Moon does not demand length as much as it asks for a great all-around game. Six of its top seven holes by handicap are two-shotters, including one that’s really long (the 472-yard 17th) and another relatively short (404-yard fifth).
The 441-yard par-4 fourth winds over a native area and passes a lone, tall pine on the right that narrows the landing area. The fairway cants to the left, making approach shots to the back-to-front sloping green a testy proposition. At just 404 yards, the fifth moves hard right to left in the landing area, but two pines at the elbow dampen any chance for trying to cut the corner and shorten the hole.
Try to take advantage of the opportunities at the 527-yard par-5 seventh – whose green can be reached with two solid strokes, and the 173-yard par-3 eighth, which can be attacked but also must not be taken for granted. The 519-yard par-5 12th offers another chance to gain a shot or two on par, but take plenty of club on the approach which plays up to a green ringed by outcroppings.
If there’s a signature hole at Coyote Moon, it’s likely the 227-yard, par-3 13th, which drops some 200 feet from tee to green to an all-or-nothing putting surface bordering the creek.
The 314-yard par-4 14th is tempting to try to fly off the tee, but the trees along the left catch shots that are anything less than perfect; it’s best to use an iron to the narrow fairway and go for birdie with a wedge.
The final two holes illustrate Coyote Moon’s penchant for taking something away and giving it right back. The 17th plays a little shorter because of its raised tee, but the landing area is narrowed by a large pine at the left. The putting surface is tiered and exposed to the wind, making precision here vital.
The closer stretches just 341 yards, but the fairway ends at about 230 yards and the three-tiered green perches in the shadow of the clubhouse.
Coyote Moon is a Certified Audubon International Cooperative Sanctuary because of its adherence to wildlife and habitat management, water conservation and reduced chemical use and safety.
Coyote Moon is a jewel in the High Sierras, praised by those who’ve played it and virtually unheard of among those who haven’t. It’s consistently rated as one of the top courses in the western U.S. and has been ranked by Golfweek magazine as the 15th best course in California.
Golfers enjoy Coyote Moon because it offers mountain golf with large doses of forgiveness. Each hole is different and the views alone are worth the trip, even if you aren’t playing golf. But where’s the fun in that?