Coyote Moon is best of the best

The first thing you notice while driving into the Coyote Moon parking lot is the unfinished business. But in this case, looks are deceiving, because the course cannot get any better.

Don't let the trailer clubhouse or the lack of a driving range fool you - Coyote Moon is first class all the way.

Located in Truckee, Calif., Coyote Moon has only been open for a month. It opened on July 8 to little fanfare, in part because the club hasn't done a big advertising blitz. The operators don't want the course played very much until next year, giving the grass some time to grow and the greens a little time firm up.

Still, the course is immaculate.

Every hole forces you to deal with some sort of elevation change, whether it be holes 75 yards above you or 200 yards below. You do gain some distance on your tee shots due to a 6,300-foot elevation, but it doesn't help much when every shot is uniquely different.

The first hole is a great example. You drive onto a wide fairway, but once you clear a small dip, the fairway turns into a steep ascent toward the hole. In the middle of the fairway is a giant rock, and while you want to avoid it, the left side leaves you with a better shot than the right.

Not much better, though. Surrounding the green are three giant sand traps, and a couple smaller bunkers. Clearly it takes a great second shot to get a birdie chance, and suffice it to say that nobody in our foursome was capable.

There are two par-3 holes on the front nine, but only one is a makeable birdie.

Perhaps the easiest hole is No. 6, a dogleg left hole. If you can put your tee shot about 250 yards near the top of the hill, you'll have a shorter iron shot to the hole and a birdie chance on this 396-yard par 4.

Our foursome struggled more on the back nine, although I had a little more success than on the front. There are a couple holes, No. 17 and No. 11, where you're hitting into a steep downhill slope.

On No. 11, also known as Switchback, you get a glorious look into a little valley below the tee box. There are numerous trees lining the right side, but a shot down the middle will leave you with an extremely long second shot. Your best chance of getting birdie would be to hit it long with a slight fade to the right, but if you don't have the distance to clear the trees, you're in serious trouble. It's a hole of tough choices, which is normal at Coyote Moon.

The 17th hole is also a tough call. To get a decent second shot, you need to drive it about 240 yards over a severe downhill slope, all the while trying to clear a lake in the middle. You can play it save and put it left of the lake on the fairway, but you're looking at 300 yards to the green if you do. The green is also protected by several bunkers, making this one of the tougher holes out there.

Hole No. 12 is memorable. Known as Rocking Stone, its best feature is the huge sand trap on the back side of the green. Sitting in this trap is a huge boulder with a crack down the middle. Boulders also line the left and right side of the green, leading one of our players to call it "Stonehenge."

The signature hole is No. 13. What a hole it is.

Known as Brakeman, this 227-yard par 3 cliff hole presents a daunting task: clearing a 200-yard canyon and trying to put your ball near the pin while dealing with a 170-yard drop. A 6-iron seems to be the best club on this hole, but you have so many variables to worry about that putting the ball near the pin seems to be as much a function of luck as it is skill. The green is long from left to right, but if you overshoot it, a large bunker awaits you on the back side.

Coyote Moon offers four sets of tees, with the black tees playing at 7,177 yards. The white tees measure 6,211 yards, and the gold tees play at 5,022 yards.

Brad Bell designed the course, and he is known for outstanding courses such as Teal Bend and Turkey Creek, both located near Sacramento.

What I found most striking is that you feel completely removed from civilization while playing, even though Truckee and Interstate 80 are only a few miles away. You can't see the town or building structures anywhere, giving you the feeling that this course was indeed built into a tranquil setting.

I personally enjoy natural beauty when I play, and this course offers plenty. From soaring pine trees to Trout Creek, the natural elements come into play in addition to offering spectacular views.

Some of you might recall the review I did on Montreux a few weeks ago. After playing Coyote Moon, I'd say the two are comparable. In some respects, I like Coyote Moon better.

Coyote Moon is located off Interstate 80 in Truckee. A round costs $125, although the course offers a twilight rate of $85. And while there is no practice range or clubhouse yet (both should be in place by next spring), Coyote Moon does have an outstanding putting green that is second to none.

For information, or for tee times, call Coyote Moon's pro shop at (530) 587-0886.

Jeremy Littau is the Nevada Appeal sports editor.

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