When driving to Clear Creek from the central area of Carson City you ascend highway 50 and you quickly wonder how a quality golf course could be built on such abrupt terrain. Suddenly, you arrive at an exit ramp for the facility and you are taken to a spot where there's sufficient enough land to capably host a golf course.
I have had the good fortune in playing numerous Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore golf designs. The talented duo excels in generally creating fun, classic member's courses. C&C realized early on in their partnership that too many courses were being built that were fairly one dimensional -- simply way too long for the bulk of players and devoid of key strategic details accentuating sound thinking and top tier execution. Crenshaw & Coore were in the vanguard in bringing back to life a range of classical architecture elements.
The tough part for Clear Creek is that it came into existence just as The Great Recession was hitting with full fury. What would have been an easy sell just years before became a much tougher climb with the economy in free fall.
Clear Creek resurfaced just a few years later and the course received a follow-up visit from Bill Coore in 2012 added a few retouching contributions making the course only better.
One of the first things you notice when driving onto the property is the stellar practice area -- it has it all and it's hard to tear oneself away and head to the main course.
Clear Creek is located on 1,600 acres of land but the actual golf course routing makes up only a fraction of the total. Incredibly, only 55-acres of turf area were used. The genius of C&C is that in creating courses they blend in seamlessly with the existing terrain -- not standing apart from it. Far too many architects fail to realize that the wherewithal to work in concert with Mother Nature is so important in giving players a real sense of what being at a given location is all about.
Interestingly, the 1st hole at Clear Creek was an uphill long par-4 hole often playing into the prevailing breeze and featuring a demanding green with fall-offs on each side. When Coore returned in '12 -- the hole was changed to a par-5 and somewhat lengthened. The idea was to give players an opportunity to stretch muscles and not be so overwhelming right off the bat.
You'll never forget the stunning par-4 508-yard 3rd -- plunging 200-feet from tee-to-green. But, the key when playing the hole is how C&C mandate players shape their tee shots to gain a maximum advantage. The back tee is 5,830 elevation above sea level and the view from there is simply mesmerizing.
What is truly striking is how C&C are able to route the layout in such a way that abrupt uphill terrain changes are not forced upon the players. The 7th hole plays 459-yards and is aptly named "relentless" -- featuring a 3-foot rise in the back right corner to keep approach shots from going over and into certain oblivion. The closing hole on the outward side is one of the finest C&C holes I've played. There's no less than six-feet of elevation change from back-to-front -- the most ever on a C&C layout. Just a grand vista from tee-to-green -- when pin is in front it takes special care and attention.
The inward half of holes is not located on such hilly terrain but the total diversity of holes is arguably more comprehensive. The 10th -- called "swift's station" is a muscular par-4 of 470 yards -- there's a wide fairway but the hole is fortified by a deceptive false front that must be respected.
The 13th hole called, "contemplation," is a 635-yard dog-leg right par-5 featuring a delicious green providing a stunning backdrop of the Carson Range of the Sierra Mountains.
Generally, a C&C course will include a devilish short par-4 and the 14th hole fits that bill. At 320 yards it would appear to be a pushover and easy birdie. Quite the contrary. The longer you seek to hit the ball the narrower the landing zone becomes. The green is another first rate creation -- long and narrow and calling upon players to possess a deft touch with the wedge.
As good as the 14th is - the par-4 15th at 448 yards is brilliant stuff. A dry creek bed swings in on the left of fairway and then cross on right side of green. Positioning -- not simply blind power -- carries the day here.
Equally memorable is the par-3 17th at 148 yards. Appropriately named "temptation" the approach is played from an elevated tee to a green that provides an array of internal contours that will prove vexing to all but the surest of putters. Knowing how to include crucial change of pace holes is what makes a top tier routing - a quality that C&C have few peers. The closing hole is a risk/reward par-5 hole that gives players one last final opportunity in leaving with a smile. I liked the hole but feel it failed to provide the absolute tying together from what you experienced up to that point.
All in all, Clear Creek is another first rate layout by C&C. The duo excel in never mandating a certain type of shot on any hole they create -- options are presented -- the player ultimately makes the final call. Consummate shotmaking is de rigueur. Proper positioning, not just mindless lugging the ball, is always a foremost consideration to score well. Clear Creek provides a wonderful setting -- the air so refreshing -- the backdrop of pines working so harmoniously. A true treat to play.
by M. James Ward
Date: June 01, 2017