Two days ... 782 miles ... five golf courses ... 51 holes.
Those are the key numbers from the golf journey my oldest son and I took halfway across Nevada on a lazy couple of days in May.
You might have noticed some of the small golf courses to the side of the freeway as you drive across I-80 on your way to California.
There's Toana Vista in Wendover, Chimney Rock in Wells, Jackpot Golf Club in Jackpot, Ruby View in Elko, Spring Creek in Spring Creek and Mountain View in Battle Mountain. All are within 300 miles of Salt Lake, closer than the golf courses in St. George that Utahns frequent, especially in the winter.
In these days of rising gas prices, which incredibly have gone up nearly a buck since we made the trip, you may not want to take the same adventure. But if you're heading across the desert anyway, it might be fun to stop and experience a couple of these small-town courses along the way.
If you go on a weekday, you're likely to get right on at any of the courses with little traffic in front of you. The price is right also, with greens fees ranging from $10 to $18 for nine holes walking and carts required only in the mornings at Toana Vista.
Spencer and I headed out on our journey on a Monday morning before 8 and pulled into Wells by 10:30. We saw two cars in the parking lot at Chimney Rock when we arrived. The course is named for an interesting rock formation that looks like guess what a chimney, in the mountains to the southwest.
The local town doctor was just about to tee off, but he said he wanted to play at a leisurely pace and allowed us to go first. Even walking, we were able to play the flat-as-a-pancake course with dead straight holes and railroad tracks on the west side in just an hour and 25 minutes.
Next we drove north up Highway 93 toward Jackpot, a town on the Idaho border with a name that explains itself. A few years earlier we had tried to play the same course during a school spring break after playing a course in Twin Falls the day before, only to awaken to a couple of inches of snow on the ground.
After the hour's drive and arriving just after lunchtime, Jackpot was much busier than Wells. However, we got on the first tee with little wait, and after a foursome waved us through at No. 2, we were cruising. We played the front nine in 90 minutes and toured the newer back nine in a cart, stopping to play a couple of open holes.
It would have been nice if there was a road going west out of Jackpot, but we had to head right back down the same two-lane road retracing the 67 miles back to Wells before going west on I-80 to Elko.
It was getting late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Ruby View course on the northeast side of town, just off the freeway, and we had just enough time to play the front nine and check out the back nine, again stopping to play a few open holes.
Ruby View, named for the view of the Ruby Mountains to the south, was in the nicest condition of the five courses we played, with tree-lined fairways and smooth greens. The course was very playable and had a nice variety of challenging holes.
We left by 9 the following morning, heading west toward Battle Mountain. The forecast from the night before showed high winds in the area, and we discovered them when we got to Battle Mountain and saw the dust flying. The wind gusts must have been 40 to 50 miles per hour, and we nearly turned around after stepping out of the car.
When the starter told us that the woman just coming off the course usually played 36 holes every day but was leaving, we wondered how stupid we were to be playing golf in those conditions. But after driving 70 miles, we weren't about to turn back without swinging our clubs a few times.
The holes with the wind at our backs weren't bad, the crosswind holes sent our balls way off line and we skipped any holes into the wind.
We considered going another 50 miles to Winnemucca, but I had already played the course, and we needed to start moving east with the wind behind us.
There was one more course on our list, Spring Creek, in a community of the same name, 15
miles south of Elko. I expected to see a small course in a tiny community, but there was quite a large development around the course, which we would have never found without directions.
The course had obviously been through a rough winter based on the condition, but you could tell it was well-designed with an assortment of interesting holes. The clubhouse sat on top of a hill, meaning the first and 10th holes featured quite an elevation drop, while the ninth and 18th were almost straight uphill, a tough way to end your round.
We still had enough time to play some holes at Toana Vista in Wendover, but since we'd already played there a few times and wanted to get home before dark, we skipped it.After playing 51 holes, touring 21 more and and driving nearly 800 miles in less than 36 hours, bed sounded awfully good.
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