Incline Village Mountain Golf brings silly challenges to the green, making golf more accessible to newbies and more fun for the pros |

Incline Village Mountain Golf brings silly challenges to the green, making golf more accessible to newbies and more fun for the pros

Golf is an art form. Lining up the shot, choosing the right club, managing to gracefully yet powerfully drive 'er home — it's an intricate sport, which takes years of practice and can be intimidating to newbies.

Golfing is a favorite pastime among Lake Tahoe locals and visitors, who eagerly spend their free time in the sunshine, working on improving their score.

For those who haven't grown up in the sport, the Incline Village Mountain Golf Course has taken an entirely new approach, making golf more accessible to beginners and even more fun for pros.

"The whole idea of Wild Bill's Thrill & Grill is to be silly and unintimidating – we're using eight-inch cups, so it's definitely not taken seriously," explained head golf professional, Robyn Bradford.

Bradford explained the rules sheet that is given to each foursome before the start of the shotgun game.

"You'll have to putt using a hula-hoop, using a putter backward, there are all kinds of fun things in store," she said.

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Teams of four load up in golf carts and the course's staff head out onto the course, dropping teams off at different holes to start the game.

Some rules for holes are to play a regular scramble to the green, followed by a putting challenge. Other holes feature a die, which players roll to find out which club they're supposed to use to tee off.

"Every week is different," Bradford said.

"Last week we did a sports-themed event where everyone had to do a sports-related challenge like teeing off with a whiffle ball," she laughed.

Each group of family and friends laughed and grinned as they looked over the rules sheet, as repeat-players shared their particular expertise from past challenges.

"We love it. I found that I'm particularly good with a pool cue," said Frank Spees, who was attending Wild Bill's Thrill & Grill along with a few of his attorney colleagues.

Spees said the challenges made for a fun round on the back nine, even for experienced golfers.

"I laid down right on my belly and shot that golf ball with a pool cue for a solid 20-foot putt! Another challenge we had to sit in a chair to tee off and I actually made it on the green," he said.

The Parker family, visiting from Los Angeles, eagerly read through the rules sheet and laughed while planning their strategy for different stops on the course, in advance.

"This is our first time at this event, and we are just so excited for this fun family day," said Deborah Parker.

"We read through the rules and they are hysterical," she added.

As the gorgeous, sunny afternoon rolled on, groups could be heard laughing and cheering each other on as they attempted to putt with a shovel or with a giant putter and ball.

One challenge had guests wearing "The Thing hands" (action figure hands) while attempting to successfully putt. Another required participants to tee off, and then ring-toss the flag instead of golfing all together.

The course staff drove by in carts, checking on the players and looking for a putter that went missing (turns out it was part of a challenge and a good Samaritan wanted to return it).

They'd encourage players, shouting, "Don't worry, it's not the U.S. Open!"

After each foursome had played through all nine holes, they made their way back to the clubhouse to enjoy a complimentary beer tasting and barbecue from the back deck.

Families and new acquaintances shared stories, pictures and videos from their challenges, trading tips on how to really make that heavy shovel work for the shot, or what angle is best for holding a putter with the equivalent of boxing gloves on.

For the remainder of the season, Incline Village Golf Courses offers Sunday family days, "Nine and Wine" events (with limited availability), as well as opportunities for golfers to train in a competitive atmosphere with flexible hours through their Tahoe Golf League Fridays.

"We're really focused on player development here, I'm the queen of player development and we just want to get people interested in golfing, get them outside to build a Bloody Mary, and get people having a great time playing golf," Bradford said.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.