Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s
Play a good golf course and chances are that when you’re back at the 19th hole, you’re talking about the Par 3s. The short one you made double on. The bear where you snaked in a 20-footer for your only birdie all month. They’re the “short” holes that can make or break a round. Some of the signature holes on the Central Oregon Golf Trail are Par 3s. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Perhaps the most memorable Par 3 in Central Oregon is found on the Fazio course at Pronghorn where a combination of geography and determination conspired to create this downhill Par 3 that is flanked by a pair of giant lava caves. The yawning entrances are located in a deep swale between the tee box and hanging green. A quick pit stop to stop and explore the large tunnels is mandatory for all first time players. (Provided you don’t hold up the group behind you.)
Dubbed the “Pumice Pit” hole, this dramatic hole at Tetherow in Bend finds golfers staring down to a green that is nestled in the belly of a natural pumice pit. Club selection is a matter of taste here. The hole plays shorter than the yardage and offers players areas to bail out both left and long where the steep walls tend to feed slightly wayward shots onto the multi-tiered green.
At 210 yards from the middle tees, this hole at River’s Edge plays another 150 feet downhill. The resulting tee shot feels like you’re hitting a ball off the top of a building to a flag that is located on a green in an adjacent zip code. Take a moment to breathe in the Bend skyline and distant view of Smith Rock State Park, take at least one less club than the distance would suggest and make a confident swing. The good news is that if you go left, the steep bank will feed everything down to the green below.
The signature hole on the Sunriver Meadows golf course is a classic mid-iron Par 3. Designer John Fought used not only the natural terrain but also the skyline to create this memorable hole where the green frames a perfect postcard image of nearby Mt. Bachelor. While not overly long, the superintendent and crew are fond of tucking the pin just behind the front right bunker, just goading players to be overly aggressive.
Bend’s original gof course was designed by the renowned Oregon amateur golfer and architect H. Chandler Egan who laid out the front nine holes in 1925. The parkland style layout winds through the soaring pines on the property. Among the many memorable holes in the design is the Par 3 third. A forced carry over water to a dramatic multi-tiered green evokes some of the other classic courses of the era. (Think a certain course in Augusta, GA) Keep your eye’s peeled for a resident fox that’s been known to dart across the green and snatch up the occasional Titleist without so much as a courtesy mark.
Jack Nicklaus didn’t so much build a golf course at Bend’s Pronghorn resort as construct an amazing piece of landscape architecture upon which golf can be played. Emerald greens and fairways contrast with an ochre and sage desert landscape creating a bent grass oasis of sorts. The Par 3 seventh hole is no exception. Here players face a short forced carry to a shallow green, placing a premium on club selection and accuracy.
The newly redesigned Glaze Meadow Course at Black Butte Ranch opened last summer to universally positive reviews. A classic mountain style golf course, nearly all of the holes at Glaze Meadow are lined by towering pine trees and you’re likely to see more deer traffic than vehicle traffic around this track. One of several water holes on the course, the fifth is a medium length Par 3 guarded by water right and left that calls for a confident tee shot. A small bridge crossing over a creek completes this scenic shotmakers’ hole.
The indigenous red sand bunkers and verdant fairways contrast beautifully with the looming Three Sisters peaks at this phenomenal track outside Sisters. The second Par 3 on the front nine at Aspen Lakes plays just 145 yards from the middle tees, making this a great scoring opportunity as players close out the front side. However, it’s not so much the shot as the view of the nearby glacier clad peaks that makes this such a memorable hole.
During charity golf events, this hole is a favorite among organizers to serve as the big hole in one prize. I’ve never heard of anyone driving away with a new car, however. There’s probably a reason for that. Most casual golfers have better luck finding the water than they do the green on this picturesque Par 3. Club down at least one loft and make a good swing. Anything within 30 feet is a great shot.
One of the shortest on the list, but also one of the toughest. When the pin’s in front left location, this little 140-yarder appears tame enough. But with a cart path and OB dangerously close left, a double trunked tree long and a steep slope to the right, the margin of error here is minimal. When they throw the pin in the back portion of this “L” shaped green, the hole can play as long as 160 yards. The landing area closes in from front to back there, leaving only about five paces to the right and five paces to the left to cozy the ball up close. Two-putting here might be the highlight of your round.
Playing 211 yards from the middle tees, this tough set-up hole was designed to tilt your scorecard away from par. Short hitters might opt to pull out a hybrid here to give themselves a chance at par. Whatever, your handicap anything on the green is a good result. Make your two-putt and move onto the finishing hole.
Before his untimely death at 53, John Harbottle III designed some of the most interesting and acclaimed golf courses in the Northwest including the often overlooked Juniper Golf Club in Redmond. Winding through lava rock outcroppings and dotted with its namesake ancient junipers, the golf course is a stern test of golf at every turn. The Par 3 third isn’t among the most difficult holes, but a deep green can drastically affect club selection and anything left short or right will find a deep green side bunker where it can be tough to get up and down. This is a birdie hole where par still feels like a good score.
Reminiscent of the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, the 16th at Lost Tracks requires a only a short iron shot to an island green. That doesn’t stop most casual players from leaving it in the drink. A wet Titleist isn’t the only thing most players leave behind. A repurposed railroad car serves as the walking bridge to the island green. Inside the old sleeper car you’ll find literally thousands of bag tags from courses around the world left behind by previous players as a memento of their round.
Designed by renowned Canadian Architect Bill Robinson, Meadow Lakes serves dual purposes. It’s one of Prineville’s premier recreational draws hosting tens of thousands of rounds each year as well as numerous amateur golf events. But the course has a more practical function. The more than dozen ponds around the course are part of the city’s wastewater reclamation process. If you’re thinking, ‘wow, what a stink.’ Well, you’re wrong. The water has already been treated before it reaches the ponds that serve as settling areas. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about whether to fish your tee ball out of the hazard on the Par 3 13th hole. It’s mercifully dry, but plenty challenging at 180 yards. Soaring rimrock canyons overhead, the Crooked River on your flank. Can’t think of a better place for a birdie. Can you?
Dubbed “Osprey” by course designers John Fought and Bob Cupp, this short par 3 hole is famous for the namesake nest near the tee box. Depending on the year, it can be occupied by either an osprey or bald eagle nesting pair. Golfers are likely to get a glimpse at these majestic birds of prey before they let their tee shots fly. Add in mountain views, multiple crossing of the little Deschutes River and it’s no wonder why Golf Digest has consistently named Crosswater a Top 100 course.
This is one of the toughest in the region. From the front men’s tees it’s a 166-yard shot to a 3-tiered green guarded by water and a huge bunker in front. Miss left and you’re in the trees with a tough pitch to an elevated green. Miss short and you might roll back into the drink. A par here is a worth raising a pint when the round’s over.
A solid mid-iron shot plays slightly downhill to a green that is hemmed in by a lava rock outcropping and guarded by a pair of white sand bunkers. This gem of a par 3 is the signature hole on the course but just one of many memorable shots on this fun course at the foot of Awbrey Butte.