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Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s

A well-designed Par 3 will have a golfer talking for days. One great golf shot and you’ve gained a stroke on the field. One errant swing, and you’re digging yourself out from a bogey or worse with no margin for error. These “short” holes can make or break a round. Memorable par 3s on the Central Oregon Golf Trail are plentiful and all within a short drive from downtown Bend, Oregon. Here’s a look at some of the best.

Pronghorn Club – Tom Fazio Championship Course, No. 8 (Fazio Course)

Currently ranked No. 6 on Golf Digest’s list of “Best courses in Oregon,” Pronghorn’s Fazio Course has no shortage of memorable holes. The 187-yard, par-3 8th hole, though, is arguably the best par 3 in Central Oregon. A combination of geography and determination conspired to create this downhill Par 3, which is flanked by a pair of striking lava caves. The yawning cave 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. Just don’t hold up the group behind you.

Tetherow, No. 17

Architect David McLay Kidd has called the 17th hole at Tetherow the “cover girl” of the perennial Golf Digest Top 100 courses. You’ll know why the moment you move from the challenging 16th green to the elevated tee box of No. 17 and get your first glimpse of the dramatic hole carved from a decommissioned pumice quarry. From the elevated tee, you’re faced with a short downhill shot into a green that is nestled in the belly of the pumice pit. Like many of the holes at Tetherow, imagination plays a key part in club selection. Golfers can be rewarded for not aiming directly at the pin position. 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.

River’s Edge, No. 16

At 210 yards from the middle tees, the yardage to River’s Edge’s 16th hole is not what it seems on the scorecard. Built on Awbrey Butte, the 16th hole is a dramatic downhill shot into a relatively narrow green. The resulting tee shot feels like you’re hitting a ball off the top of a building to a flag located on a green in an adjacent zip code. The view is fantastic, with city views of Bend and distant views of Smith Rock State Park in the background. Club selection is the key here. But if you want to play it safe, use the steep bank left to feed your golf ball down to the green below.

Sunriver Resort Meadows Course, No. 16

The signature hole on the Sunriver Meadows golf course is a classic mid-iron Par 3. Architect John Fought, who renovated the pioneering resort course in 1999, used Sunriver Resort’s natural gifts to create this picturesque par 3. The 16th hole features a stunning view of Mt. Bachelor in the background. The green is sloped back to front and is guarded by a deep bunker front right. A tee shot left below the hole on the green is preferred. 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 Golf Club, No. 3

Built in 1925, Bend Golf Club—Central Oregon’s oldest golf course—is an ode to classic golf architecture. The first nine holes at Bend Golf Club were designed by renowned amateur golfer and architect H. Chandler Egan but the course’s most memorable par 3 came nearly a half-century later when architect Bob Badcock designed what is today’s front nine. The par-3 third hole features a forced carry over water to a dramatic multi-tiered green, evoking some of the other designs of the golden era of American golf architecture.

Pronghorn Club – The Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, No. 14

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus didn’t just design a golf course when he laid out his Signature Course and what is today known as Juniper Preserve. Lauded year after year on Golf Digest’s list of America’s Top 100 Public Courses, Nicklaus designed an awe-inspiring 18 holes. Emerald green fairways and pristine greens contrast with an ochre and sage desert landscape, creating a supremely manicured bentgrass oasis. The short par-3 14th hole is a perfect example. Here, golfers face a short forced carry to an elevated green over a native High Desert area, placing a premium on club selection and accuracy. Golfers will also want to avoid a long bunker that stretches from short right of the green to the back left. The panoramic views of the Cascade Range in the distance are stunning, offering a sense of calm before a challenging par 3.

Black Butte Ranch – Glaze Meadow, No. 5

Redesigned in 2012 by architect John Fought, Glaze Meadow at Black Butte Ranch is a purposeful homage to the golden era of American golf course architecture. Glaze Meadow is lined by towering ponderosa pine trees, wildlife is abundant, and the views of the Cascade peaks are stunning, reminding golfers that they are indeed playing a Central Oregon gem and not a Donald Ross design. No. 5 is easily one of the course’s most memorable holes. The medium length par 3 is guarded by water right, and the approach is guarded by a babbling brook, calling for a confident tee shot. A small bridge crossing over the creek completes this scenic shotmakers’ hole.

Aspen Lakes, No. 8

The flagship course in Sisters is a beauty by any measure. The red sand bunkers from a nearby quarry and the emerald green fairways contrast beautifully with the looming Three Sisters peaks. 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. The shot, though, isn’t the main event. The view of the nearby glaciated peaks in the background makes this a hole you won’t soon forget.

Widgi Creek Golf Club, No. 11

Nestled in southwest Bend, Oregon, Widgi Creek is a ponderosa-pine beauty designed by Robert Muir Graves. And its par-3 11th hole is one of the toughest short holes in Central Oregon. From the back tees, No. 11 plays at a beefy 216 yards. But from the blues, the hole shrinks to 186 yards. The scorecard, though, only tells part of the story. No matter the tees, you’ll have to carry an intimidating lake. Even if the shot makes it over the water safely, the large, three-level green angles away from the tee and is protected on the front-left side by a massive bunker. Par here is always a great score.

Eagle Crest Resort – Ridge Course, No. 7

With two championship golf courses, an 18-hole short course, and a fun-for-all putting course, Eagle Crest Resort near Redmond, Oregon, has plenty of stunning holes. But the par-3 7th hole at Eagle Crest’s Resort Course is a favorite among charity golf tournament organizers for that hole-in-one prize. It’s easy to see why: An ace, even by hole-in-one standards, is no easy task on this hole. Most casual golfers will 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.

Black Butte Ranch – Big Meadow, No. 17

Architect Robert Muir Graves designed Big Meadow to be beautiful, but it is a fun test of golf for players of all skill levels. The par-3 17th is a great example. Playing 211 yards from the middle tees, this hole was designed to tilt your scorecard away from par. Short hitters might 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 on to the finishing hole.

Juniper Golf Club, No. 8

Architect John Harbottle III designed some of the most interesting and acclaimed golf courses in the Pacific Northwest, and that certainly includes Juniper Golf Course in Redmond. Considered one of the top municipal courses in Oregon, Juniper is no ordinary muni. 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 eighth hole is no exception. Playing at 234 yards from the back tees, a long iron or hybrid is required to reach the green. And the punishment for going long can be enough to foul up a scorecard.

Lost Tracks, No. 16

The 16th hole at Lost Tracks gives off some serious 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass vibes. The short tee shot into a large green seems easy enough on the scorecard. But this green is surrounded by water, often swallowing nervous tee shots from casual players. 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, and inside you’ll find hundreds of bag tags from courses around the world left behind by previous players.

Meadow Lakes, No. 13

Designed by renowned architect Bill Robinson, Meadow Lakes serves a dual purpose. It’s one of Prineville’s premier recreational draws, hosting tens of thousands of rounds annually and numerous amateur golf events. But the course has a more practical function. The ponds around the course are treated as part of the city’s wastewater reclamation process. 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 one of the few holes at Meadow Lakes where water does not come into play. But the 180-yard hole is still a challenge. With towering rimrock canyon walls overhead and the Crooked River on your flank, it’s hard to think of a better setting for a birdie.

Crosswater, No. 13

After surviving the par-5 12th at Crosswater—another of Central Oregon’s Golf Digest Top 100 courses—and reaching the tee box for the par 3 13th you’ll want to take a breath and look up to the top of an old-growth ponderosa set right of the green. There, you’ll learn where “Osprey,” as the 13th hole is named, got its moniker. Depending on the year, it can be occupied by an osprey or bald eagle nesting pair, and it’s quite a sight to see. Co-designers John Fought and Bob Cupp also made this relatively short par 3 a fun-yet-challenging par 3, forcing players to carry over wetlands into a difficult green that is well-defended by bunkers.

Awbrey Glen Golf Club, No. 13

Perched on towering Awbrey Butte in Bend, Oregon, Awbrey Glen is framed by ponderosa pines and features an undulating design that can be exhilarating. The par-3 13th hole requires a solid mid-iron shot played 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.

Crooked River Ranch, No. 5

OK, so the fifth hole at Crooked River Ranch, which is set northwest of Redmond, isn’t actually a par 3. It’s a 260-yard, dogleg left par 4. But it is home to arguably the most unusual and spectacular risk-reward tee shot in Central Oregon. Perched on the edge of the steep Crooked River Gorge, the fifth can be played as a 215-yard par 3 if a golfer is willing to take a shortcut over a sliver of the canyon. Make good on your tee shot and an eagle is in your grasp. But miss short or left, and your golf ball can plunge hundreds of feet below. There is no other shot quite like it, and it is a quintessential Central Oregon Golf Trail experience.

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