Antique cars as golf ball targets. The Nevada driving range is a tribute to Cadillac Ranch in Texas.
Antique cars as golf ball targets. The Nevada driving range is a tribute to Cadillac Ranch in Texas.

Cadillac Ranch Driving Range

Field review by the editors.

Carson City, Nevada

"Golfers like to hit things with golf balls," said Garth Richards, developer of the Silver Oak golf course, explaining why he buried vintage Cadillacs end-up in his driving range. The logic sounds almost reasonable, as does Garth's assertion that it was a "good use for some of the stuff I have," although few of us have dozens of old Cadillacs sitting around, like Garth does, that can be turned into golf ball targets.

Cadillac Ranch Driving Range.
Joe Briggs from Carson City takes aim at cars built in Detroit.

However, the story of the Cadillac Ranch Driving Range is a bit more complicated and strange.

Garth began collecting old cars and vintage roadside memorabilia in 1974, the year of the debut of Cadillac Ranch, a line of ten Cadillacs buried nose-down in a Texas pasture that's now a spray paint pilgrimage spot for art-minded travelers.

Garth knew about Cadillac Ranch, and when he realized he had more junker Cadillacs than he'd ever be able to use for parts, he decided to bury them, Ranch style, in his driving range. That was in late 2017.

Doral Academy Red Rock art students customize a '54 Caddy with a Nevada windmill.
Doral Academy Red Rock art students customize a '54 Caddy with a Nevada windmill.

Enter Gina Cifonelli, art teacher, artist, and possibly the world's most enthusiastic fan of Cadillac Ranch. "I have a commemorative tattoo of all the times I've painted cars at Cadillac Ranch," said Gina, who is 50 years younger than Garth.

In January 2018 Gina read about a contest created by Terrie McNutt, Silver Oak's general manager. Artists were asked to submit designs for the driving range Cadillacs, and the winners would get to paint their cars. "And I was, like, 'Oh my gosh!" said Gina. "'This has my name written all over it! I want in!'"

Gina didn't bother entering the contest. She picked up her phone and called Terrie. When Terrie learned that Gina was an art teacher, the two quickly agreed that a better approach than the art contest would be to turn all of the Cadillacs over to Gina's students. "Terrie had the idea," said Gina. "'Let's bridge the generations. Let's make it fun.'"

Terrie McNutt and Garth Richards with a 1957 Cadillac that Garth sliced in half.
Terrie McNutt and Garth Richards with a 1957 Cadillac that Garth sliced in half.

Gina said that her students, in the National Art Honor Society at Las Vegas Doral Academy Red Rock, were "pretty confused" at first, but then rapidly accepted the Cadillac Ranch concept. "They totally blew my mind; they fully jumped on," said Gina. "They made me so happy and so proud. It was so cool!"

In early April 2018 the buried Cadillacs were painted with themes commemorating the golf course's home state and hometown. "if someone hits a Cadillac with the state capitol on it," said Terrie, "they know they've hit that ball 150 yards." Gina supervised the teenagers, and while the students did most of the work, Gina got to paint a little on each Cadillac, too, which for her was a thrill. Even better, she got to know Garth, who she described as a man worthy of respect, but also "a fun dude" at heart. "I did not think anybody else in this world was as obsessed and interested in Cadillacs and vintage and the road as me. I was just blown away."

Hit a golf ball 125 yards and you could dent this 1962 Cadillac.
Hit a golf ball 125 yards and you could dent this 1962 Cadillac.

Garth had his own upper-income-appropriate perspective on the project. "I know a lot of people in the antique car business," he said, "and some of them said, 'Garth has finally flipped his lid.' Even my wife thinks I'm crazy."

It may be that what Garth, Terrie, and Gina and her students have created is in fact performance art -- strangers whacking golf balls at buried Cadillacs celebrating Nevada history and a Texas attraction -- but whatever its intent, there's no arguing with its success. Silver Oak is a public golf course, so everyone can hit a bucket of balls at the driving range for five dollars or just look at the cars for free. Garth said that it's been so popular that he wants to add lights to keep it open until midnight, and he wants to fill the driving range with even more buried Cadillacs. That prospect, of course, excites #1 Cadillac Ranch fan Gina, who looks forward to the day she can return and paint more cars.

Gina Cifonelli (kneeling), her students, and Garth Richards pose in Garth's garage.
Gina Cifonelli (kneeling), her students, and Garth Richards pose in Garth's garage.

"I know it's weird, and I know a lot of people don't understand it, and I don't care," she said. "With no shame I just love, love Cadillac Ranch. And my weird obsession allowed me to help make another roadside attraction, and that's so cool!"

Cadillac Ranch Driving Range

Silver Oak Golf Course

Address:
1251 Country Club Drive, Carson City, NV
Directions:
Silver Oak Golf Course. I-580 exit 41. Drive west on College Pkwy for one mile. Turn right at the stoplight onto Carson St., the make the first left (no stoplight) onto Silver Oak Drive, then first left again onto GS Richards Blvd. Drive to the traffic circle, make the first right, and drive to the golf course parking lot. The driving range is to the right of the clubhouse entrance.
Hours:
Daylight hours (Call to verify)
Phone:
775-841-7000
Admission:
$5 for a bucket of balls.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Yard Art - Fort CarsonYard Art - Fort Carson, Carson City, NV - 1 mi.
Mummified Cat, Mine, Slot MachinesMummified Cat, Mine, Slot Machines, Carson City, NV - 2 mi.
Big Head On A LawnBig Head On A Lawn, Carson City, NV - 2 mi.
In the region:
Haunted Spiral Staircase - Old Washoe Club, Virginia City, NV - 11 mi.

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July 19, 2018

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