By Deston Nokes
The sharp, sweet scent of pine trees and the snow-tipped peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range combine to provide a glorious backdrop for a perfect golfing getaway in Central Oregon.
With 300 days of sunshine, the high-desert climate nurtures rolling fairways and firm, fast greens. Call me crazy, but the ball just seems to fly farther there.
According to Ted Taylor at Visit Central Oregon, there are more than two-dozen golf courses on the Central Oregon Golf Trail in the Bend and Sunriver area — with three award-winning golf courses ranked as the Top 100 public courses in the nation.
“I think the greatest selling point is the diversity of the courses,” Taylor said. “You have everything from the Scottish links-style course at Tetherow, to playing through the middle of an ancient juniper forest at Pronghorn.”
Located just a few hours away from Portland or Eugene (and easily accessible by air from most major western cities), Bend is a perfect destination either for you and your sweetheart, your favorite group of mates, or your whole family. Even if the other members in your party don’t golf, Bend’s has a wonderland of outdoor activities to keep them entertained. While you play, they can be swimming, cycling, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, fly fishing or hiking. Plus, after a full day, everyone can look forward to a wealth of top-notch restaurants and nearly 30 brewpubs.
Here are some of the resorts offering the finest in Central Oregon golf:
Pronghorn Resort is an ideal, upscale romantic break from the usual. Located in Bend, Oregon, this exclusive golf community includes two world-class courses: the private Tom Fazio course and the Jack Nicklaus course, the latter voted #36 in the country among courses you can play. While the Fazio course is sloped to help players reach the green, the Nicklaus course offers no such concession.
“We try to ensure a memorable experience, from when you arrive to when you leave,” explained Mark Meyer, Pronghorn’s first assistant pro. “We provide outstanding service from the bag drop to the tee, and then having a Pronghorn caddy help you on your round. We even greet players on the 18th with a snack or delicious beverage.”
If you want to sharpen your game, Pronghorn Academy offers a high-tech smorgasbord of technical wizardry. Led by director Tom VanHaarren, the academy has a three-bay indoor hitting facility with GEARS 3D, JC Video and FlightScope technology.
For players who want to try something new, Pronghorn rents GolfBoards and golf bikes. The resort is also building a new lodge with 104 rooms, which is slated to open in 2018.
Nearby, the Deschutes River is renowned for whitewater rafting and kayaking, with hair-raising rapids and rugged scenery. Hikers can walk around or climb the craggy spires of Smith Rock or trek along the world’s largest obsidian flow at Newberry Volcanic Monument.
Green fees online are $210 to $100. For more information, call 541-693-5365.
Black Butte Ranch epitomizes a fun, outdoors family experience. In addition to golf, it features horseback riding, arts and crafts shows, 22 tennis courts, rafting, 16 miles of bicycle paths and fly fishing onsite. It also has five pool complexes, so when you sneak off for a round of golf, you know your family will be happily splashing with their new friends.
For the golfer, Black Butte has two courses. Glaze Meadow underwent a $3.75 million makeover in 2012 by architect John Fought, and was named the best renovation in the nation in 2014. “It was done in ‘Golden Age of Golf’ architecture,” said Jeff Fought, Black Butte’s director of golf and brother of the architect. “It has sod roll bunkers, square tee boxes and some tree trimming revealed views that have not been seen in decades.” Angled fairways and elevation shifts require sure shots to stay in play. The greens rest on lava rock, which makes them faster.
Big Meadow is different with a landscape arch from the 1970s, Fought said. Designed by Robert Muir Graves, this mountain course allows players to be a little more aggressive with their drivers. But there are plenty of bunkers around the greens to bedevil careless approaches. On the 14th hole, golfers will find themselves agape in the shadow of Three Fingered Jack peak. Both courses are eminently walkable, but golf carts and GolfBoards are available to keep players zipping along.
Green fees are $79 at the high, but twilight fees drop to $49. For more information, call 541-595-1292.
Tetherow hired David McLay Kidd, the architect behind Bandon Dunes, to create its stellar, Scottish links-style course golf course. Most links-style courses are located on coasts, but the fescue grass mixture in this high-desert climate allows for firm and fast play. To keep it regional, even its bunker sand is from the Oregon coastal town of Florence. The course has been lavished with accolades as a best new course from numerous gold publications and it is ranked No. 63 of “Best Courses you can Play” for 2017-2018.
According to Ted Taylor, Tetherow was also the first club to feature a fleet of GolfBoards, which are essentially 4WD skateboards with a place to hold your bag. For an extra $20, this is the place to give it a try.
Tetherow recently transformed itself into a destination resort, by building lodging in 2014. It features a new pool and fitness center, meeting space and a huge event space. Some of the notable additions are free guitars for rent (acoustic, please) and a place to plug in your Tesla.
The summer green fee is $175, $100 for resort guests and locals can play for $110 after 1:40 p.m. For more information, call 877-298-2582.
Located just 15 miles south of Bend, Sunriver is a favorite of golfers and families alike.
Sunriver Resort’s 63 holes of championship golf are ringed by Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Jefferson, Three Sisters, Broken Top and other peaks – inspiring golfers to lean on their clubs, pause and gaze at nature’s magnificence.
Sunriver has four acclaimed courses, two of them public: Meadows, designed by John Fought, has seven of its 18 holes hugging a lazy river; and The Woodlands by Robert Trent Jones, where the water and lava rock outcroppings reward accuracy.
Sunriver’s Crosswater course was designed by Bob Cupp and built within a wetlands. In fact, golfers could end up crossing the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers seven times. This is clearly a course that requires one’s A game. This hacker lost a healthy number of balls into the drink, but the panoramic mountain views made it all worthwhile.
Next door is Caldera Links, another Bob Cupp-designed, family-friendly, nine-hole course perfect for a quick, fun round. “You haven’t played golf until you’ve done it in bare feet, three clubs in one hand and beer in the other,” one fan told me. “You can play this little par-three course in just an hour and a half. It’s just wonderful.”
Families love staying at Sunriver because it’s a self-contained recreational community. It has 35 miles of paved bicycle paths running alongside paved, ponderosa pine-lined streets. The resort has a warm, rustic ambiance without sacrificing comfort or quality.
Sunriver has an outdoor mall, which is a magnet for teens. It has a full grocery store, an old-fashioned soda fountain, a tasty Italian restaurant (Marcello’s) and shops where vacationers can rent gear for all types of outdoors activity.
For those who enjoy tennis, there are 28 courts, so there’s almost never a wait. There are four swimming pools, a stable for horseback riding, and a marina for launching all kinds of water vessels. The resort conducts guided trips on the Deschutes River through class-three rapids, or people can rent canoes and kayaks for a nearby, leisurely, six-mile float. Plus, fly fishermen will revel in the river’s sweet casting opportunities.
All eyes will be on Sunriver this fall as it hosts the 2017 Pacific Amateur Golf Classic on Sept. 23-28. This is the 21st year of the annual tournament, which offers divisions for golfers of every skill level including: the Open/Gross Division for golfers looking to play without handicaps and multiple Competitive Net Divisions separated by age (men, senior men, mid-senior, super senior and women). There’s even a Noncompetitive Division for the golfer who just wants to have fun and experience Sunriver’s Crosswater Course.
Golf fees vary depending on the course. To book a time or for more information, call 541-593-4402.