Nakoma Resort, California

Nakoma Golf Club


If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, surely you understand how small, seemingly simple undertakings can mushroom into major projects. You decide to replace a few tiles in the shower and three months later you’ve remodeled your entire bathroom.

When Dariel and Peggy Garner start a project, it tends to build to a grand scale. They couldn’t seem to find the ideal house or perfect location—one with a spectacular, unspoiled view. When they did find land they wanted to purchase, it was either owned by a large timber company or tied up in the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.

After three years of frustration, the Garners concluded that the easiest solution was to go big: They would buy a large parcel of land and develop it. Within three months, they had found the perfect spot—1,300 acres in Northern California’s Plumas County, which measures roughly the size of Delaware but has only a single traffic light and a population of just 20,000. They closed the deal in 20 days.

Today, Nakoma is one of the West’s best-kept secrets, comprised of 400 homes, a gorgeous and challenging golf course, luxury villas, and world-class spa and dining facilities. But the centerpiece is the clubhouse, an original Frank Lloyd Wright design. Wright drafted the plans for Madison, Wisconsin’s Nakoma Country Club in 1924, but high construction costs led the club’s board to pass on the plans—and Madison’s loss became Plumas County’s gain.

Opened in February of 2001, Nakoma is one of only a handful of Wright-designed public buildings to be constructed after his death in 1959, and the only one to be built since Madison’s Monona Terrace Convention Center opened in 1997.

Wright’s influence is pervasive throughout this one-of-a-kind golf resort and community—you’ll find examples of his organic architecture everywhere. The Taliesin Architects, the modern-day continuation of Wright’s architectural practice, created the master plan for the real estate community and designed dozens of the homes, including the Garners’ long-awaited Shangri-La.

The Robin Nelson-designed Dragon Golf Course is a tree-lined mountain beauty. Playing to 7,077 yards, it can be either an exhilarating challenge or—thanks to tight, sloping landing areas and an opportunity to lose a ball on nearly every approach shot—an impetus to put the clubs away for a few months. Several club-professional events have been played here, yet the course record is only 71.

You’ve heard similar warnings before, and if you’ve never heeded them, pay attention now: The starter will ask for your handicap and suggest one of six tee options. By all means, follow his advice. Ignore the pins and aim for the fat portion of each green. And most importantly, after you hit your tee shot on No. 1, put the headcover back on your driver and do not remove it until the 18th tee.