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Jack Nicklaus-designed Old Greenwood a real gem in Lake Tahoe

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The illustrious name alone – Jack Nicklaus draws golfers to this scenic course in Lake Tahoe. And for most golfers, after they play a round at the Nicklaus-designed track, they vow a return trip to Old Greenwood.

That was the case for Larry Ballew and his son Marcus, who played Old Greenwood for the first time in late August. It was a very enjoyable father-son day for the Napa residents.

“I love it,” said Larry Ballew, a single-digit handicapper said after sinking a par putt on No. 18. “It’s a Jack Nicklaus course, and he’s one of my favorite golf architects. I love the way he shapes the greens, the way he positions the traps, and some of the water holes. Jack didn’t disappoint me with Old Greenwood.”

A famed Hall of Fame golfer with a knack for designing unique layouts, Nicklaus didn’t disappoint the Tahoe crowd. Located on the eastern slope of the Sierra range in Truckee, Old Greenwood resides in a natural setting on over 800 acres of gently rolling terrain that is framed by some gorgeous pine trees and sage brush that can easily hide a golf ball.

The course is a challenge, yet forgiving. Old Greenwood won’t overly penalize the errant tee shot, but requires accurate irons and a solid short game around the demanding greens.

Old Greenwood is no pushover, especially from the tips, which stretch to 7,518 yards. However, the course is actually a player-friendly track with spacious fairways that offers many thought-provoking holes and some beautiful scenery to gaze at if you’re game goes sour.

No need to play the tips – that should be for low-handicap golfers only. Three other more playable distances measure 6,944, 6,457 and 5,419 yards. The course has several long par 5s and also provides two tantalizing par 4s that if you’re willing to gamble, can be reached off the tee.

“You can gamble and hit driver on some of the shorter holes or you can play it safe and lay up” said Marcus Ballew, who plays to about a 12-handicap. “You need good course management to score on this course.”

On a good day when play is quite light, one can even dip a fishing pole into one of the several ponds along the course. But plan to devote full concentration on hitting the golf ball because Old Greenwood does require it.

While its fairways are generous, miss one or hit the drive a little too long or short and your golf ball just might land in one of the deep, sandy-white traps that Nicklaus strategically placed along the course. But every fairway has its share of “safe” locations.

Although the greens are not difficult to read, approach shots need to be executed in regards to pin placement and the slope. And don’t forget to check out the trap locations, which guard every hole.

“The greens were rolling nice,” Marcus said. “They weren’t bumpy at all and putts definitely had some speed to them.”

The course will stay open until late October, whether permitting. Cost runs between $60-$200, depending on the time of season and the time of day.

For more information, visit www.oldgreenwood.com or call 530 550-7010.

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