NCGA Golf

Fall 2018

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24 FALL 2018 | NCGA.ORG expanding recreation options for guests, the Tavern commissioned a golf course in 1917, and assigned the task to one May Dunn-Webb, also known as Queenie. Part of a Scottish family that waged historic matches with Old Tom Morris, the Dunns were noted as professional golfers, clubmakers, greenkeepers, instructors and course architects. Dunn-Webb was born in England in 1880 and learned to play on a course laid out by her father. Coming to the United States in 1915, she landed a job writing golf instruction articles for the New York Herald, and for a time taught golf at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After moving west and designing a course in Nevada, Dunn-Webb took on Tahoe Tavern and fashioned a layout with six holes of sand greens, and then served as its head professional for several years. (If the name sounds familiar, Dunn-Webb's brother, John Duncan Dunn, designed Old Brockway in 1924, the other Tahoe nine- hole gem just down North Lake Boulevard in Kings Beach and featured in the summer 2017 issue of NCGA Golf.) Expanded to nine holes with grass greens in 1921, the Tahoe Tavern course lost about a hundred yards of fairway in the 1940s, due to Tahoe City development, which has left at least one enduring archi- tectural quirk—more on that later. With one par 5, four 4's and a quartet of par 3's, the par-33 layout measures as much as 2,691 yards. As Tahoe Tavern began showing its age and drive-in motels gained favor over large resorts, the course was sold to the Bechdolt family—of which Bonino is a member— who controlled it from 1948 until 2012, when the Tahoe City Public Utility District took ownership. Its glory days were in the 1950s, when it was the site of spirited money games between entertainers work- ing Nevada casinos, including the likes of Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Dean Martin, The Mills Brothers, Frank Sinatra and Andy Williams. While today's Tahoe City isn't groomed like the big-boy courses around Truckee, it's certainly less expensive. A two-circuit, 18-hole round tops out at $60 for an adult, and there are liberal discounts for juniors, seniors, military, students and season passes favored by locals. According to Bonino, the current ownership puts more money into maintenance than did the man- agement company that previously ran the course, treating the property as civic asset. In winter the course turns into the wildly popular Snow Park, which has an ice rink and hosts sledding hills, cross- country tracks, snowshoe areas and just about any snow sport that's not motorized. Moreover, in the old clubhouse is the Café Zenon, which features an eclectic menu with Pacific Rim flair, including warm beignets with chocolate syrup, chicken liver mousse, a kimchi hot dog and bowls of chicken or vegetarian Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup. And then there's Bonino, who is con- stantly flagged down by players who seem to know him well. He first managed the course from 1987-2004, and left to work in construc- tion in Auburn, and last year returned. Says Ruth Schnabel, who works the course's tee sheet and cash register and herself is a much-loved Tahoe City presence: "He's one of the kindest people I know, and I've known him since he was 10. We couldn't be happier having him back. It's really good for the golf course and the community." Over a fast-paced nine that takes less than 90 minutes, Bonino is the perfect part- ner, telling stories, offering encouragement and hitting high, straight drives and gentle pitch shots. He shares that his favorite Tahoe City hole is No. 8, a 318-yard par 4 where Lake Tahoe is visible to your right and the left side of the fairway is flanked by an imposing line of ponderosa pines. "Play your ball to the left and you might be blocked from all but one pin position," he explains. "Stay right and the hole is designed to give you access to all of them." My favorite is the 294-yard par-four fifth, which is a sharp dogleg right and downhill. Getting past trees guarding the corner requires a drive exceeding about 210 yards. The ensuing pitch is to a very shallow but wide green that slopes left to right. The right two-thirds of the green isn't more than 15-yards deep and the rest is about twice that—a shape that vaguely resembles a guitar—with the largest land- ing zone guarded in front by a large bunker. In other words, stopping a wedge on this green is like trying to stop a rolling marble in a bathtub. "Not many people notice, but the green was designed in the 1920s to accept shots from down there," says Bonino with a laugh, pointing to a paved area behind a service station that was lost to city expan- sion. "Still, many players like this hole best." And clearly, there's a lot to like about Tahoe City's divine little nine. Jay Stuller is a freelance writer based in Novato and a frequent contributor to the magazine. Celebrities from Bob Hope to Frank Sinatra to Sammy Davis Jr. are among the golfers who filled out the myriad scorecards through the years at Tahoe City Golf Club.

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