Lahontan Golf Club is located to the north of Lake Tahoe on land that was once home to the Washoe Indians in the spectacular Martis Valley. The trout-laden waters of Martis Creek meander through the property, skirting lush meadows and wetlands on its way towards Gooseneck Reservoir. As a backdrop, the forested peaks of Lookout Mountain, Sawtooth Ridge and Bald Mountain add further beauty to an already picturesque setting.
Avoiding the distractions offered by vistas of the Pacific Crest range between Tinker's Knob and Silver Peak, golfers tee off on the opening hole at Lohantan in fine fashion with a 423-yard right doglegged par four that plunges 50 feet from the tee to a landing area that leads to a generously proportioned, lightly-bunkered green.
A series of demanding par fives and long two shotters follow, punctuated by a couple of short holes at the 3rd and 5th before the outward half concludes with a short par four at the 9th hole. The configuration of holes on the back nine is somewhat unconventional as the round ends with a brace of par fours at 13 and 14, a pair of par threes at 15 and 16 and a couple of par fives at 17 and 18.
The most important lesson Tom Weiskopf learned early on when transitioning between being a top tier Tour player and designer was in providing for playability. Unlike Jack Nicklaus, who early on often created layouts that only supremely gifted players could play -- Weiskopf has often been vastly underrated -- both when he played at the highest level and from the various designs he created -- initially with his co-partner Jay Moorish for a time -- then when venturing into solo practice.
Lahontan is blessed with a beautiful site and fortunately Weiskopf did not overstate his case. There's enough teeth for those highly skilled players who wish to test themselves but, as I mentioned at the outset, Weiskopf always remembers that the bulk of people playing are those who need a series of different routes to sufficiently challenges themselves without being overwhelmed.
The configuration is rather interesting -- a par-72 layout but one that features an equal number of par-5 and par-3 holes with five each respectively. Often architects would have a difficult time in providing for enough differentiation but the totality of those holes is done well. There's enough risk for better players to reap the rewards that the par-5's present -- my favorite being the split fairway effort at the 17th and the devilishly placed center bunker that must be avoided from the tee. The 2nd is also well done -- tempting players to decide how much of a risk that wish to take with the 2nd shot as water pinches in the landing area.
The par-3's require dexterity with a range of clubs and they each sport a quality green complex where pin positions can vary greatly and mandate a deft touch for those lacking a skillful approach.
Nonetheless, having just eight par-4s leaves out a few opportunities that could have been included. Given the elevation, Weiskopf eschews going with extreme long par-4s and his mixture is quite good but not simply comprehensive enough.
You also have an interesting mixture of holes for the final six. Once again, Weiskopf opts for a rather curious combination with the 13th and 14th serving as par-4s, the 15th and 16th as par-3s and the final two holes as par-5s.
Lahontan is blessed in a stunning locale. The Sierras are truly beautiful to behold during the peak summer months when the sun warms the air and the golf beckons. Credit Weiskopf in bringing to life the property and doing so with a routing that has to deal with the obligatory housing component albeit at a discrete distance from the golf. By the way for those who can wiggle an invite -- the superb Martis Camp is literally right down the street.
M. James Ward