With the snowcapped peaks of the Three Sisters and Mt. Bachelor looming in the background, “spectacular” is about the only way you can describe the setting of Bend, Oregon. Being my first time to the North West USA I was not even aware that a High Desert existed but I sure do now………. and I like it! All of my previous desert golf experiences came with high heat and although it was a dry heat it was still closing in on 100 degrees. Our Oregon heat was mid to high 70 degrees or approximately 23 degrees Celsius.
Rising high above the horizon Mt. Bachelor, although it stands apart from the nearby Three Sisters all are evident just about anywhere you find yourself. They are part of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the Cascades Range of Central Oregon. Fear not…they pose little threat in becoming active volcanos.
The Sunriver Resort played host to the 10th Annual IAGTO North America Convention, so I had no choice (LOL) but to park my butt there for that and of course, since that was almost all business and no pleasure (LOL X2), it was a must that I remain out for a few extra days and experience some of the great golf that I had heard about. The weather, outstanding for the entire stay. Warm sunny days and cool nights. Little did I know that Bend and the high desert get only 12 inches of rain per year – no rain checks required!
Sunriver Resort is a world class resort featuring many styles of accommodation with activities spearheaded by golf in the summer, three, 18-hole tracks plus a 9 hole, par 3 course at Caldera Links. Skiing in the winter, it doesn’t get much better than Mt. Bachelor – 20 minutes away with its average of 370 inches of snow per year! Other summer activities that keep people coming back include: canoeing, kayaking, rafting, horseback riding, hiking, biking and tennis! You are in wine country and as a golfer at some point you are going to make it to the bar. You need to try the house Pinot Noir at the Twisted River Tavern – awesome!
Convention over, we found ourselves enjoying meals and refreshments at the Sunriver Village, a 15 minute walk or five minute drive away with a collection of shops, bars and restaurants with some friendly local flare. One of our favorite stops included daily breakfast at Café Sintra; never have to wait for coffee – always ready, help yourself, nice big mugs – just like home! Our one free night was a choice of Marcello’s Cucina Italiana and South Bend Bistro – Italiana won out, awesome food, great service, with a great selection of wine to boot! South Bend is also highly recommended! You can’t leave without a sampling of Goody’s, the Sunriver ice cream icon! www.sunrivervillage.com
We did manage to catch a glimpse of Bend and wow what an interesting downtown. Thinking that if might be the kind of place I could hang out in on my next visit! Drive to golf, walk to dinner and wherever! Try the Brickhouse for a great steak!
The Crosswater Course, at Sunriver, which I was fortunate enough to play as part of our NAC Tournament Day would be considered the premier course of the resort and has been honored by Golf Digest naming it to its list of “America’s 100 Greatest Courses.” The Meadows Course is no slouch either having hosted numerous USGA and NCAA Championships. The 3rd of the 18-holers is a Robert Trent Jones JR design giving one plenty of water to deal with while navigating its tree lined fairways and lava rock outcroppings. www.sunriverresort.com
Considering that we were ever so close to mountains I was rather surprised by the lack of elevation change throughout the Crosswater Course. Nonetheless the experience is a great one, meticulously maintained fairways are crossed a number of times by the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers. Fairways provide generous landing areas so best to get the most out of your tee ball to have the shortest possible iron in to the large greens. The par 5 – 12th hole, with a lake down the left hand side, has bunkers and trees lining the right. It might be considered the signature hole but there are truly a number of holes that could fit that bill.
Second stop in the Bend area was Black Butte Ranch. It’s such a great name that I had to buy a tee shirt and a hat! Two courses here and personally I love the one up top. Glaze Meadows a little more private, but public accessible, although a little off site and while on route along some of the dirt roads you might question yourself on whether or not you are on the right track. Once you get to the security gate you know that you have almost arrived!
Big Meadows is the course closer to all of the Resort action and the older of the two and is an award winner in its own right, having been recognized by Golfweek as one of the best courses in Oregon.
Both courses are outstanding for scenery, conditioning and quality. Carved out of dense forest you are surrounded by beauty, be it the meticulous white sand bunkers, the contoured fairways, majestic pines or the looming Three Sisters in their blue sky background. www.blackbutteranch.com
For days at the convention my colleagues raved about their experience at Pronghorn Resort and all it takes is for you to pass through the stone gates to begin to feel why! Two courses at Pronghorn, the Tom Fazio Championship Course which is accessible but caters to the members and home owners. The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course which in 2016/17 was voted #38 on Golf Magazines list of Top 100 Courses You Can Play! We played Jack’s course and it was plenty good for me!
Keeping the ball on the fairway is critical here for an enjoyable day on. Choose the right tees – take on more than you should and you will be in the desert way more than you want. You will have a forecaddie – listen to him or her! You will have more time to take pictures of your days and believe me you will want too!
Tee shots are demanding with some interesting middle of the fairway obstructions that surprise me from Jack! A number of greens with false or a Pete Dye feel to them. Greens are hard and slick with a fair bit to them – so again listen to your caddie! Two favorite holes: on the front the Par 5 – 8th with water running all along the right side. On the back considered the Signature Hole the par 4 – 13th, risk reward on the short part 4 with water everywhere including a waterfall to the right of the green. Pictures here for sure! www.pronghornresort.com
It was our last round of golf in Bend and can say that we saved the best for last!
If you have never been to the North West USA for some golf – you need to put this on your list of places to play! I will be back – no doubt in my mind!
Not sure where you might be coming from to get to Bend but do not overlook connections through Seattle! Many daily’s to Bend!
For more information on Bend www.visitbend.com
For more information on golf in Central Oregon and assistance with booking golf packages, visit www.visitcentraloregon.com and a member of their golf Concierge team will be pleased to assist you!