Tee time at Old Brockway
April 9, 2008
If the start of golf season were a race, Old Brockway could pride itself on being Lake Tahoe’s lifetime defending champ.
In a sense, it is a race, and those in charge at the 84-year-old course do take pride in being No. 1.
“We’re always the first to open and we’re always the last to close,” said Dave Laurie, golf course superintendent at Old Brockway since 1991. “It takes aggressive measures to make sure that happens.”
Nevertheless, it always happens. And this year is no exception, as the vintage Kings Beach course is scheduled to open all nine holes on Wednesday.
“The course came out in great shape, so we’re really excited about having a good season,” said Lane Lewis, owner and operator of Old Brockway since 1993. “We always shoot for Masters weekend. The phone’s been ringing off the hook.”
The April 9 opening is far from a course record. Last year it opened March 26, and Laurie remembers it opening March 24 one year during the late ’90s.
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On the opposite end of the season, “We frequently play all the way to December,” Laurie said, adding that golf has been played at Old Brockway every month of the year.
There are a number of reasons for this.
First, Lewis explained, Old Brockway is nestled in the “banana belt” of Lake Tahoe, which receives less snow than most areas around the lake. This is because of a large shelf that extends off the North Shore, keeping the water shallow ” about 6 feet deep ” some 1,000 feet out, Lewis said. The shallow water heats up in the sun, thus creating a micro climate with slightly warmer air than places nearby, Lewis said.
The Old Brockway staff also spreads an organic compost over the snow during the late winter months. The compost ” nitrified humus ” is black and helps melt the snow, Laurie explained. In addition, it also provides an early nutrient supply to the soil.
And as Lewis pointed out, Old Brockway designer John Duncan Dunn did not overlook how to maximize the short season in the Sierra Nevada. With this inevitable setback in mind, the Scotsman laid out the fairways in a way that best soaked up morning sun as well as sun low in the southern sky.
Walking the course with Laurie on Tuesday, the few vestigial clumps of white dotting certain fairways served as testament to Old Brockway’s ability to shed the remnants of winter. As far as dealing with those few patches of snow on opening day ” most are near the back holes ” Laurie said they’re treated as water hazards.
“Things are still waking up here,” he said. “But it will be open (Wednesday) and it will be clean.”
In this day of ritzy new golf courses, particularly in the Truckee-Tahoe area, remaining relevant in the industry is always a challenge.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher in this market,” Laurie said. “It’s increasingly more difficult to compete, especially as a stand-alone course with no real estate. But we cater to the entry-level golfer and common person coming to visit Tahoe. And usually if people play here, they come back.”
Besides its close proximity to Lake Tahoe ” the lake is visible from every hole ” Old Brockway does holds one distinct advantage over its neighboring courses: history, Laurie said.
“We have something the others are trying to create. We’ve been here since 1924. They’re trying to create something that looks like it’s been there since 1924. But this is the only classic golf course (in the Tahoe area).”
It’s also one of the few remaining courses on the West Coast from the Roaring ’20s.
“Most (classic courses) got bulldozed over,” Laurie said. “We happened to be on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe where elite people wanted to be. So it survived, miraculously.”
Old Greenwood: May 16
Coyote Moon: May
Gray’s Crossing: second or third week of May
Lahontan: May 9
Timilick: June 20 (grand opening)
Tahoe Donner: May 23
Resort at Squaw Creek: May 23
Ponderosa: Not scheduled to open
” Info from course personnel or Web sites