By Rick Barlupi

Photos by Rick Barlup & Nakoma Resort

In 1923, Frank Lloyd Wright conceived Nakoma’s stunning clubhouse design.  Nakoma is a Chippewa word which means “I do as I promise.” It took six years to adapt the drawings to a full set of plans, obtain permits and construct the building, with a dedication ceremony held in 2001. It took three years to complete the golf course designed by Robin Nelson of Mill Valley, California, who also designed the famous Dunes at Mauna Lani on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The owners of Nakoma, at that time, wanted a commanding and impressive course, which Robin achieved.  The name of the 18 hole course said it all, “The Dragon.” Reviews were outstanding. In 2001 it was nominated for Golf Digest’s “Best New Course of the Year.”  Golf For Women Magazine was so captivated with the course surroundings that they ranked The Dragon among their “Top 100 Fairways for Women” in 2003.  Bob Highfill’s 2001 newspaper article Slaying The Dragon stated, “The Dragon is a scenic masterpiece that will challenge all players.”

Within the first three years of play, par was never broken, even when The Dragon hosted several PGA professional tournaments.  While the low handicapped golfers appreciated the challenges it produced, the average golfer found it extremely penalizing, discouraging, and was not likely to return.  So, what was the solution to the golf course playing extremely ferocious as the name implied?

In 2010, the new owners retained Robin Nelson, the original architect, to “tame” The Dragon with the objective to modify the course, making it welcoming to a wider field of players.  One phenomenon that remained constant was the breathtaking vistas of the Sierra Nevada mountain range from all 18 holes.  For the average golfer The Dragon is still challenging, yet player friendly for any skill level.

When I walked into the pro shop to check in and verify my tee time, I was amazed at the interior design.  This was not the customary layout of a typical golf shop. The high beamed ceilings with stain glass skylights and indirect lighting gave it a warm and cozy feeling with a wealthy ambiance.  The pro shop offered many brands of golfing equipment and the best-stocked selection of apparel that I have ever seen.  I understood why the golf-and-retail shop has won numerous awards, including being voted a top 25 resort pro shop in the U.S. by Golf World Business Magazine.

Playing The Dragon was a round of golf that I will always remember. Some of the reasons why are:

• The 6,908-yard layout is surrounded by the magnitude of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

• A million dollar bunker renovation has restored every hole to postcard perfection.

• Greens management was remarkable; all were semi-fast and consistent to speed.

• The course maintenance was impressive, including the practice green and range.

• The 18 holes constructed through the pines, not saturated by either commercial or residential developments, felt

like a walk through nature.

The Dragon has consistently been the area’s most remarkable golfing experience and it’s clear why it debuted in Golf World Magazine as one of America’s Top 75.  Five sets of tees offer a challenge for golfers of every age and ability, including junior tee markers to make it fun for the whole family.  The 18 hole “aerial” tour link designed by Best Approach will give you an amazing view of a beautifully designed golf course with clues to ball placement off the tees. Give it a glance before you tee it up at:  Even though the course is in the pines, the fairways are wide so you can GRIP IT AND RIP IT!  It is easy to schedule a tee time online at: If you need to modify your reservation, call the pro shop +1.530.322.3333 at least 24 hours in advance.

Just in case you overlook it on Nakoma’s website, they have a dress code to maintain the game’s traditions. A collared shirt — traditional cotton, microfiber or polyester is required for men.  During the warm weather, cotton shorts that extend to the knee with a pleated or flat front will do.

In the cooler months, wear long golf pants made of cotton or a water-resistant material.  Women get to wear long trousers, capris, dress shorts and golf skirts. Denim jeans and t-shirts are not allowed!

After finishing the round with a friendly and outgoing playing partner, Thomas Reddy from Sonoma County, I met-up with Jamie Bate, the resort’s Media/Marketing Consultant for dinner in the impressive FLoW Bar & Lounge. We both had salmon ravioli with a cream sauce.  Being Italian and having what I thought were some of the finest ravioli made from scratch in several of San Francisco’s North Beach restaurants, I must admit that I have never had ravioli that tasted this good.  Wow!  During dinner, we talked about the various amenities the resort has to offer, including the recent addition of a new 42-room lodge and a 12,000 square-foot recreation center currently under construction that will open in September.

After checking into my room at the Nakoma Lodge, I sat outside on the private patio, bordered by huge pines and thought about the 3 JOYS of GOLF: How you play, Who you play with and Where you play.  The first 2 are most often overrated.   Where you play is the most important! Spending the day on The Dragon proved that motto.

Devote some time and tour Nakoma’s impressive website, photo gallery and book one of their all-inclusive play, stay, and dine packages.  I promise that you will not be disappointed.  It is one of the premier resorts in the Sierra Nevada.  348 Bear Run, Clio, CA 96106 | +1.877.462.5662 |


You will feel immediately at home as soon as you enter the welcoming lobby of the new 42-room Lodge at Nakoma.  Guest rooms average 400 square feet and several connect for families or friends travelling together or attending a special event at the resort.


Located in the Nakoma Clubhouse, celebrate that special occasion in the impressive Wigwam Room restaurant with the four-sided central fireplace that rises into the soaring ceiling, creating a surprisingly cozy atmosphere. It is the perfect place to enjoy high-altitude California cuisine while viewing the splendor of the Sierra Nevada surroundings.


It’s time to relax and unwind with the personalized pampering you have been longing for: massages, facials, manicures, hot tub, sauna and steam room.


Nakoma Resort’s unique venues provide flexible, year-round options for weddings and special events. A friendly and knowledgeable staff are committed to giving all clients the highest level of service and attention on that special day- yours!


Plan a retreat that will re-energize your co-workers. A Nakoma business retreat, filled with mountain air, winter and summer activities, will get everyone back on track and build team morale.


Opening September 2017- Altitude will be home to a fitness room, children’s center, climbing wall, lap pool, hot tubs and tennis courts, all under high ceilings and immersed in light with floor-to-ceiling windows.