Believe it or not, the state of Oregon isn’t pronounced oree-gon, it’s ora-gun. One of our writers is a proud Oregon resident and was all too quick to point that out to us when we visited for an extended golf trip to the great city of Portland.
During that trip which you can read about here (insert link to Best Courses in Portland Article), we learned that it doesn’t rain all the time like we thought. In fact, it’s only the western third of the state that’s seasonally wet. In fact, most of the state sees in excess of more than 300 days of sun per year.
And that makes for some great golf which isn’t in short supply in the Beaver State. After much deliberation and back and forth, we came up with a list of the courses in Oregon that are absolute must plays.
The 103 holes of golf at Bandon Dunes are unlike anything else in the United States. Every damn one of them. Instead of listing all the courses individually (because each one truly deserves a spot on our list), we’ve decided to list the resort and all its courses together.
Having been there a handful of times, I have to say that Pacific Dunes is my favorite. Never have I played a course whose difficulty changes so much depending on the weather. Catch this track on a windless, sunny day and chances are you’ll feel pretty good about your game. As soon as the wind kicks up and that coastal mist starts pelting you in the face however, it becomes a bear.
Don’t get me wrong, the golf at Bandon Dunes is out of this world. It’s the entire experience that makes this place so special though. Everything from the cast of characters that are the caddies, to the breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast, to the facilities, to the camaraderie that never disappoints amongst friends make this place otherworldly.
If you’ve never been to Bandon Dunes, you haven’t experienced golf as it was meant to be.
Eugene Country Club
Established in 1899, Eugene Country Club is one of the most iconic courses west of the Rockies. It’s played host to more USGA Championships than we can count, and Ben Hogan called the par four third hole, his favorite par four in the world.
Even though this track sits in the middle of city, you feel like you’re in a different land as you stroll the fairways. The parkland style design features towering fir and oak trees that line the fairways and the greens are some of the most challenging in the whole state.
What makes Eugene Country Club so great from a design standpoint is that’s it’s straight forward. There’s no guessing where to hit it and every shot is right in front of you.
It’s a stern test though. Members boast about having the toughest set of the par threes in the state and I can’t argue.
The fifth hole is a thing of beauty as you stand on the tee. Water fronts a shallow green and the colorful blossoms behind the green are a sight to behold. Don’t be fooled however, the hole can stretch all the way to 230 yards and there’s zero room for error. As Eugene Country Club is a private club, they are happy to accept reciprocal rounds from other clubs to be set up between PGA Professionals.
Gearhart Golf Links
Founded in 1892, Gearhart Golf Links is the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River. Located near the beach in Astoria, Gearhart is an iconic beach links course. Firm, fast conditions make this windswept track a great, yet fair test for all level of golfer.
Aside from the golf course, Gearhart’s amenities are second to none. The Mcmenamins Gearhart Hotel is directly on site and only a few steps from the first tee. Inside the hotel you’ll find spacious, well-appointed rooms. The Sand Trap and Pot Bunker Bars are a great place to gather for a meal and one of Mcmenamins’ award winning beers after your round. If evening entertainment is your vibe, be sure to check out the events calendar.Gearhart Golf Links is open to the public and greens fees are reasonable. If you find yourself on the north coast of Oregon, you won’t to miss this gem.
Tokatee Golf Club
Nestled on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains, along the McKenzie River, lies Tokatee Golf Club. This course is truly a slice of heaven. So much so that, our writer from Oregon wants his ashes spread on the property when he dies.
Tokatee is an hour’s drive from the nearest real city but that hasn’t stopped golfers from making the trek since 1966.
The first thing you’ll see when you get to Tokatee is a sign along side the highway with the course’s name and the insignia “Everyone Welcome.” The driveway is framed by a thick fir forest that opens up to a breathtaking expanse of holes one through four.
There are no houses along the course and traffic noise is nonexistent. Splendid views of the Cascade Mountains can be seen from nearly every hole.
Though Tokatee isn’t the most difficult course in the world, it’s always in outstanding shape and features some more than memorable holes.
The par four fifth hole only measures 388 yards from the back tees, but you’d better pay attention. After a placed tee shot, you’re faced with an approach to a small green that’s guarded left and right by three towering fir trees. While the trees look like they come into play more than they do, they’ll definitely have your pucker factor in full effect.
The 17th hole is arguably the most fun par three in the entire state. At only 151 yards from all the way back, the tee shot plays significantly downhill to a green protected by water and bunkers. When you hit your tee shot, the ball seems to stay in the air forever causing moments of anxiousness and relief when it finally hits the green (so you hope).
There’s no pretention at Tokatee and that’s just the way they like it. To that end, it’s not uncommon to see folks playing in T-shirts and even barefoot. No one cares. They’re simply there to have a good time and enjoy the natural serenity.
Indeed, there’s no such thing as a bad day at Tokatee.
We mentioned Crosswater Club in our article about the Top Courses in Bend, Oregon (insert link) but it’s also one of the best courses in the state.
Located less than 15 miles south of Bend, Crosswater sits along the shores of the Little Deschutes River with views the Cascade Mountains to the west. In fact, the river crosses the course seven times and comes into play on a number of other holes.
Crosswater is the epitome of target golf. The straight-forward design makes it obvious where shots need to be placed. That doesn’t mean it’s easy though. In fact, quite the opposite.
Even though the fairways and landing areas are wide, errant shots almost guarantee a big number on the card.
The good news is that there’s six sets of tees to choose from so golfers of all abilities have a chance to score.
Playing Crosswater in the morning when steam comes off the Little Deschutes River is nothing short of magical. The same can be said for an evening round watching the sun set over the snow-covered peaks of the Cascade Mountains.
Whenever you choose to play Crosswater, we recommend bringing an extra sleeve of balls just in case.
Silvies Valley Ranch
When most Oregonians think of the country between the rural eastern towns of Burns and John Day, cattle ranching, elk hunting, and lack of people are the first things that come to mind.
While that’s certainly true, one of Oregon’s best new courses lies in the heart of a verdant plateau between these two small towns. Silvies Valley Ranch was established in 1883 as a 140,000-acre cattle ranch. It remained that way until recently when its latest owner decided to turn a small portion of the total acreage into a top-shelf golf destination.
When you book a trip to Silvies Valley Ranch, crowds are the last thing you’ll have to worry about. That’s largely because it’s a commitment to get here. It’s also because the owners aren’t interested in inundating their facilities.
Even though there are only 18 holes at the championship course, there’s really 36… I was wondering how that could be too. It’s because the course is designed in such a manner that it can play forward and backward. The directions are switched on a daily basis. Even though this might seem a little hokey, it’s anything but. Regardless of what direction the course plays, you’re going in for a stern, but fair test.
In addition, the Chief Egan course is a fun nine-hole par three course that’s perfect for beginners and warm up rounds.
Lastly, McVeigh’s is a seven-hole track that offers plenty of risk and reward. It’s the perfect venue to settle those matches that are tied after 18.
The accommodations at Silvies Valley Ranch are world class and the staff doesn’t overlook any detail of your experience.
While there’s so much more to experience than golf at Silvies Valley Ranch, you won’t soon forget a trip to this oasis in the middle of nowhere.
Running Y Ranch
Another gem in Oregon’s backcountry is the Running Y Ranch. The only course in Oregon designed by Arnold Palmer is located just minutes west of the town of Klamath Falls, the Running Y Ranch offers everything a golfer could want and so much more.
Built on the southeastern shoreline of Klamath Lake, the front nine holes offer views of surrounding mountains and ponderosa pine forests. The back nine plays more inland and challenges players to keep the ball in the fairway if they’re going to score.
Aside from great golf, the resort offers top-notch amenities. Whether you’re looking to rent a large home for a bunch of your buddies or, just need a room for a couple’s romantic getaway, the Running Y Ranch has plenty of options.
This resort is perfect for families. While you’re out playing golf, the rest of the family can enjoy horseback riding, the world class sports center, ziplining, and plenty of other adventures.
Even though getting to the Running Y Ranch takes some work, you’ll be anything but disappointed once you’re there.
Black Butte Ranch
There are two courses at Black Butte Ranch, Glaze Meadow and Big Meadow. Both deserve a spot on our list as they’re some of the best kept secrets in the state and epitomize classic mountain golf.
Because these courses are so closely located to the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, they open a little later in the season than some other courses in the area. Once they do open though, golfers are met with pristine conditions and an unrivaled golf experience.
Don’t get too distracted by the views of Black Butte, Mt. Washington, Mt. Jefferson, and the Three Sisters because both courses demand your attention with narrow fairways and well-protected greens.
If you’re looking for an extended stay, the accommodations are the best around and can accommodate parties of any size.
In addition to golf, Black Butte Ranch offers plenty of other activities to keep the family busy from sunup to sundown.
Prineville Golf Club
Prineville Golf Club isn’t likely to make it onto many top ten lists but it damn well should. I was lucky enough to play this course with one of our writers who lives in the area and I can honestly say, it’s the hardest nine-hole golf course I’ve ever played.
On paper, it’s short. And the par for 18 holes is only 65. Should be a birdie fest, right? Wrong.
Built into the base of ridge that overlooks the south shore of Ochoco Creek, the course features small, undulating greens that are hands down some of the fastest I’ve ever played.
The course opened in 1950 and remains virtually the same today as it did 70 years ago.
You don’t need driver except for a couple of holes and you’d better keep the ball below the flag if you want to have any chance.
Despite the quirky golf course that’s brought many a great player to their knees, Prineville Golf Club’s unchanged simplicity and charm is something to behold.
It’s like time stopped here. The drinks are cheap and stiff. The pro shop is simple and unimpressive. The staff and members set in their ways yet welcoming in the same breath.
Best not to show up on Poker Night as the old timers have been at it a while and you’ll probably get fleeced.The members of Prineville Golf Club are proud of what they’ve built and maintain to this day. It doesn’t appear that’s about to change anytime soon.
Centennial Golf Club
Centennial Golf Club is a tremendous public track located in Medford. Designed by renown architect, John Fought, Centennial Golf Club opened in 2006 to rave reviews.
Don’t let this course’s open layout lull into thinking it’s a pushover. Even though the fairways are wide, there are plenty of bunkers and penalty areas waiting to eat up poorly struck shots.
The bent grass greens are undulating and scary fast if you end up on the wrong side of the hole. If you get around here without a three-putt, you more than deserve that cold brew at the end of your round.
If competition is what you’re after, Centennial Golf Club has a calendar chalked full of events for men and women, hackers and sticks. When you find yourself in Southern Oregon, set aside a day for a round at Centennial Golf Club
Contrary to popular belief, Oregon’s landscape, people, and golf are some of the most diverse in the country. From the windswept sand dunes of the Pacific Oregon Coast, to the emerald fairways of the Willamette Valley, to the arid high desert and mountain views of the eastern part of the state, Oregon truly has something for every golfer and everyone.
When you come to visit this great state, don’t be taken aback by the hospitality you receive. It’s only in Oregon that people will go out of their way to hear your story and welcome you with open arms. Our only word of caution is that if you happen to hail from California, just don’t drive like it. Slow down, say hello, be patient, tip generously, and leave your hurried, entitled, city vibes back at home where they belong.