Not many nine-hole golf courses can boast of having hosted such luminaries as Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dean Martin and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Not many are surrounded by picturesque mountains and a wondrous lake. And not many have the mettle to test some of the game’s best players. That is to say, not many are like Old Brockway Golf Course. Situated on the north shore of Lake Tahoe, on the California side, this tree-lined course is a refreshing throwback to the 1920s that’s had more than its share of history and remains a delightful place to play.
Old Brockway was developed by hotelier Harry Comstock and designed by John Duncan Dunn (son of the prolific English course architect Tom Dunn). At nearly 3,400 yards, it presents a formidable challenge. Towering Jeffrey pines snarl errant drives, and the tiny, sloping greens require precise approaches. Highlights of the course include the 199-yard Redan-style par-three third and the demanding 578-yard par-five seventh.
Crosby played often at Old Brockway in the 1930s while in the area for gigs at the Tahoe Biltmore. He chose the course for an outing with friends in 1934 and 1935, a gathering that eventually became the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. (The late Masters champion George Archer, who lived in Lake Tahoe, also played here regularly.)
The Rat Pack teed it up at Old Brockway in the fifties and sixties, when Frank Sinatra owned the nearby Cal Neva Resort. A story has it that the loop formed by holes one through three and eight and nine is called the Whiskey Run because Martin would play the course in that sequence so he could get back to the clubhouse for a drink more quickly.
Old Brockway has benefited from judicious updating under the ownership of Lane Lewis, who began leasing the course in the 1980s and purchased it a decade later. Lewis had a new log clubhouse built in 1998 and installed a modern irrigation system. He’s also provided hickory-shafted clubs and gutta-percha balls for rent. (But be advised not to use this equipment from the back tees if you hope to finish an afternoon round before dark.)
Hey, any course that was good enough for Crosby is good enough for me. When you’re strolling down the fairways, you can almost hear him whistling “Straight Down the Middle.” At Old Brockway, even more than on most courses, that’s sage advice.