My 11 Favorite Central Oregon Golf Courses

Central Oregon has quickly made a name for itself as a bucket list destination for true golfers from around the world. With 30 courses within 45 minutes of each other and three in Golf Digest’s Top 100, you can’t ask for much more. Throw in a zillion outdoor activities, nearly 30 breweries and perfect weather and, well, it’s a golf vacation paradise.

As a former assistant golf professional here in Central Oregon, I’ve had the chance to play just about every course here. Here are my 11 favorite tracks.

Widgi Creek Golf Club in Bend, Oregon
Widgi Creek in Bend

Widgi Creek Golf Club – Bend

I’m a bit biased as I spent the better part of five years playing this course nearly every day. But that’s the thing – it’s the kind of course that’s fun every single time you play. Tucked within the Deschutes National Forest, Widgi is tight and the Par 5s are long. Each set of tees helps create a different golf course of sorts. From the tips, none of the Par 5s are reachable in two and the Par 3s are BRUTAL. Move up just one tee and everything changes. I love it. (Named the Local’s Favorite Course more than 10 times.)

Tetherow Golf Club in Bend
Tetherow in Bend

Tetherow (Golf Digest No. 63) – Bend

A Scottish links layout in the heart of the High Desert, Tetherow is a feast for the eyes and a beast on your scorecard. But because you can play this course low to the ground, it’s actually a favorite among high handicappers and women who can get around it in decent shape thanks, in part, to very helpful forecaddies. (And on a Golfboard, just getting around Tetherow is half the fun.) After your round, The Row is one of the best spots in Central Oregon for beers, wings and other tasty dishes.

View of greens with Black Butte in the distance at Glaze Meadow Golf Course near Sisters, Oregon
Courtesy Mike Houska

Glaze Meadow, Black Butte Ranch – Near Sisters

Glaze Meadow is one of two courses at BBR (Big Meadow being the other) and choosing a favorite between the two is purely a matter of personal preference. Glaze is tucked way back into the resort, but it’s worth the winding drive to get there. A recent redesign earned it high praise from golf publications and players who appreciate the “new” classic look and feel. The new turtleback greens can be tricky – but if you play smartly from the tee and leave yourself in good positions to attack the pin, you’ll be just fine.

Pronghorn Golf near Bend, Oregon
The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn (Golf Digest No. 36) – Bend

By far one of the most immaculate golf courses you’ll ever play. Pristine fairways lead to the finest putting surfaces in all of Central Oregon. Beyond the green grass of the fairways and greens, the course is cut through unique lava rock outcroppings amid an ancient Juniper forest so it’s a scenic track for sure. The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn features rare back to back Par 5s on the back 9 – both are picturesque and neither yield many birdies.

5th fairway at Quail Run in LaPine, Oregon
Quail Run, La Pine

Quail Run – La Pine

Maybe the most underrated golf course in all of Central Oregon. Quail Run is WAY off the beaten path in La Pine (south of Sunriver), so it doesn’t get a ton of play. That means you get a course that’s quiet and always in great condition. There’s nothing fancy about Quail Run. It’s just a really good golf course with some fun holes and at just $55 during peak season, it’s a huge bargain as well.

Crosswater Club, 9th Hole

Crosswater Club (Golf Digest No. 50) – Sunriver

Crosswater is hands down the most famous course in the region and for good reason. It’s hosted a Champions Tour major championship, several NCAA National Championships, the PGA Professional National Championship (four times) and was the site of a Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match between John Daly and Fred Couples back in 1999. Crazy wide fairways are welcoming off the tee, but the course comes back to bite you with tough approach shots to shallow greens and hazards on nearly every hole. All told, Sunriver Resort has 63 holes including a fantastic short course called Caldera Links.

Juniper Golf Club – Redmond

A sneaky good course located just down the street from the regional airport in Redmond, Juniper Golf Club should be on your must-play list when visiting. Consider it “Pronghorn Light” in that it resembles the Nicklaus gem a great deal, but is packaged in a more laid-back muni-course vibe. In fact, it is the only municipally-run course in the region. Juniper was host of the 2007 and 2010 Oregon Open and a repeat US Amateur qualifier site for six consecutive years, 2006-2011.

16th hole at Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend
Lost Tracks, 16th Hole

Lost Tracks Golf Club

Full disclosure: I also worked for a short time at this south Bend golf course so it’ll always have a special place in my golfing heart. Beyond the superb conditioning, Lost Tracks is known for the fact just about every Par 4 and 5 is a dogleg.  Also of note: the vintage railroad dining car that serves as a bridge to the island green on No. 16. Bring an extra bag tag to add to the hundreds that folks have left behind.

Broken Top Club Golf Course Sunset

Broken Top Club – Bend

Broken Top is a private club in the heart of Bend – in fact, you can see Tetherow from some of the fairways on the front 9. It’s a fun course that winds its way through the houses of one of Bend’s most upscale neighborhood. Expect a few holes with severely elevated tee boxes and lots of doglegs. You’ll get perfect putting surfaces and amazing views of the Cascades.

Bend Golf & Country Club

Bend Golf and Country Club – Bend

Bend’s oldest golf course opened in 1925. The private club has tiny greens, tight fairways and an undeniable charm. It’s absolutely one of my favorite tracks because it feels like a throwback golf course. Subtle elevation changes throughout create an interesting routing.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon
Aspen Lakes, SIsters

Aspen Lakes – Sisters

Arguably Central Oregon’s most scenic golf courses as its situated in the shadows of the majestic Cascades. Aspen Lakes is known for its red cinder bunkers and challenging design with water coming into play on half the holes.

Aspen Lakes Golf Course: A Refuge for Sisters Quilt Show Widowers

The Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show is one of the most popular annual events in Central Oregon – in fact, it celebrates 41 years this weekend. And while the event draws a pretty good mix of men and women, we know there’s a lot of husbands being dragged to Sisters for the event.

Lucky them.

In this story from the Aspen Lakes Golf Course website, golf writer Zack Hall talks about how the golf course has become a happy haven for husbands over the weekend.

View of greens and Black Butte near Sisters, Oregon

Need to play 36? We’ve got you covered with the Central Oregon Golf Trail – our 30 golf courses within 40-minutes from each other. The trail includes three courses in Golf Digest’s Top 100 (Pronghorn, Tetherow and Crosswater Club) and five of the state’s Top 10 courses according to Golfweek Magazine.

 

Golfweek Rankings Highlight Central Oregon Courses

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View of greens and Black Butte near Sisters, Oregon
Aspen Lakes Golf Course

The accolades for Central Oregon’s golf courses continue to pour in. Last year, Pronghorn, Crosswater and Tetherow were listed among Golf Digest’s 100 Greatest Public Courses. This year, five of the 10 best courses in the state are in Central Oregon according to Golfweek Magazine. 

Joining our “Big 3” in Golfweek’s rankings are the Big Meadow course at Black Butte Ranch and Aspen Lakes Golf Course in Sisters.

Recently updated in 2007, the Big Meadow course stretches over 7,000 yards from the championship tees and features expansive fairways, sweeping cape and bay bunkers and elevated green complexes to challenge golfers of all skill levels.

Immaculately maintained bent grass fairways and multiple tees combined with red sand bunkers create a playing experience unique to Aspen Lakes.

With amazing views of eight different Cascade mountains, Aspen is both challenging and breathtaking, easily one of the most scenic in Central Oregon.

The stellar collection of courses is just part of the Central Oregon Golf Trail, 30 diverse courses within 45 minutes of each other.

You’ll want to play all the golf gems of the Trail, from the high mountain courses at Black Butte, Aspen and Widgi Creek, to the High Desert tracks of Juniper and Crooked River Ranch, and everything in-between, you will find unmatched quality, diversity and value in our famous course designs.

Looking for a way to sample some of the best courses? The 21st Annual Pacific Amateur Golf Classic in September features 54 holes of net, stroke-play competition on Sunriver Resort’s Meadows and Woodlands Coures and the famed Crosswater Club. The top four players in each flight earn a spot in the winner-take-all Championship Round at Crosswater. Visit the PacAm website to learn more, register and find great stay-and-play deals.

Fairway on Big Meadow Golf Course at Black Butte Ranch in Central Oregon
Big Meadow Course at Black Butte Ranch

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Bend Area Golf Season Begins with Central Oregon Shootout

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon
Aspen Lakes Golf Course

No need to wait until summer to get those competitive juices flowing. In fact, one of the most popular golf events in Central Oregon is fast approaching. From April 28-30, hundreds of amateur golfers will descend upon Aspen Lakes Golf Course in Sisters, the Glaze Meadow course at Black Butte Ranch, and Eagle Crest near Redmond to play in the 14th Annual Central Oregon Shootout.

As is always the case, available space is quickly disappearing to play in a tournament that typically tees off with a full field. What draws so many to the Shootout year after year?

View of greens with Black Butte in the distance at Glaze Meadow Golf Course near Sisters, Oregon
Glaze Meadow at Black Butte Ranch/Courtesy Mike Houska

The 54-hole tournament owns a unique format, for one. Two-person teams play one round of scramble, one round of best ball and a final-round Chapman spread over three weekend days. The tournament also includes one gross division, four net divisions as well as ladies net and gross payouts. Best of all, each golfer is guaranteed to play a round at all three of Central Oregon’s favorite golf courses: Aspen Lakes, the Eagle Crest Resort Course and Glaze Meadow.

The $600-per-team entry fee is a particular value, too. The fee includes three rounds of competitive golf, with cart, of course. More than that, golfers receive a tee prize, merchandise, a welcome reception, and a daily lunch and continental breakfast. In addition, the prize payout is expected to be more than $20,000 in-kind, meaning a third of the field can expect to cash after the tournament.

View of pond & greens at golf course in Redmond, Oregon

The deadline to enter is just a month away on April 16, that is if space remains available. Already more than 83 teams have signed up. All entrants need is an official handicap (maximum of 36 for men, 42 for women) and a maximum six-stroke differential between partners.

For more information or to register, download the information flyer and registration form here.

Can’t make it to the Shootout? The 21th Annual  Pacific Amateur Golf Classic comes around again in late September. It includes three days of net, stroke-play competition. The top four in each flight qualify for a winner-take-all Championship Round at the famed Crosswater Club. As many as eight Central Oregon golf courses will be in the rotation this year and we’re expecting another great turnout!

Bend Area Golf’s Best of the Rest – Beyond the Top 100

crosswater 12th hole
Crosswater Club, 12th Hole

Avid golfers across the country are no doubt familiar with Central Oregon’s “Big 3” courses – Tetherow, Crosswater and the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn are annual members of Top 100 lists in virtually every golf publication out there.

But Central Oregon is home to 30 golf courses and each one of them has its own charm, challenge and character.

Here’s a rundown of a few of the courses in the region that might not get a lot of publicity, but are definitely worth adding to your Central Oregon golf vacation.

widgi no. 13
Widgi Creek Golf Club

Widgi Creek Golf Club

Full disclosure: I worked at Widgi Creek for five years. But if someone told me I could only play one Central Oregon golf course the rest of my life, I would want that course to be “The Widg.” Locals agree – Widgi was named “Favorite Golf Course” nearly 10 years in a row in an annual poll conducted by the alternative weekly newspaper. It sits within the Deschutes National Forest and is a tree-lined beauty. None of the Par 5s are reachable in two from the tips, the Par 3s are among the most challenging in all of Central Oregon and there’s enough variety on the Par 4s to keep your round interesting.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon
Aspen Lakes Golf Course

Aspen Lakes Golf Course

Located in Sisters at the base of the Cascades, Aspen Lakes is easily the most scenic golf course in Central Oregon, Aspen Lakes was ranked by Golf Digest as one of the Best Courses in Oregon in 2015. The red cinder bunkers are a hazard you won’t find anywhere else and one you actually hope to find yourself in just so you can snap a cool picture. The gently rolling terrain is challenging enough to have hosted state tournaments, but playable for folks of every skill.

lost-tracks
Lost Tracks Golf Club

Lost Tracks Golf Club

Another locals’ favorite, Lost Tracks is the closest Bend golf course to Sunriver.  The golf course is bordered by national forest land and carved out of a stand of Ponderosa and high desert pine trees with lava rock outcroppings. The gently rolling terrain and old-style design (short walks from greens to tees) make it a perfect course for walkers. Highlights include the old rail car bridge to get to the island green on No. 16 and the pro shop filled with unique Ryder Cup and other PGA memorabilia.

View of greens with Black Butte in the distance at Glaze Meadow Golf Course near Sisters, Oregon
Black Butte Ranch Glaze Meadow Course/Courtesy Mike Houska

Black Butte Ranch

Take your pick – the Glaze Meadow or Big Meadow courses at Black Butte Ranch are among the top courses in the state. Glaze Meadow has been getting all the pub recently after a nearly $4 million redesign by John Fought in 2012. The course plays longer than 7,000 yards now and features new green complexes and tees. Like Aspen Lakes, Black Butte is one of the most scenic courses in the region.

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Juniper Golf Course

This Redmond golf course is as challenging as it is beautiful. Consider Juniper a municipal course version of the upscale Pronghorn Nicklaus course. Ancient juniper trees and lava rock situated throughout the course are a treat for the eye, but penalizing for the scorecard. Juniper is always in great shape and one of the few courses in Central Oregon that is open year-round. It’s hosted several big-time tournaments including the Oregon Open for many years. And because it’s located just two-minutes from the Redmond Airport, it’s the perfect course to kick off your Central Oregon golf vacation.

Great Getaway: Sisters, Oregon

 

When pulling into Sisters from the West you’re greeted by a main-street cowboy town filled with local shops, western storefronts and lots of charm. But as you reach the far end of that main street (it’s actually U.S. Hwy. 20,) something different emerges. There’s some upscale lodging, a brewpub, movie theater and spa that gives Sisters a whole new attitude. At the heart of that transformation – the Five Pine Lodge, which has quickly become a destination for families looking for something different and for couples looking for a enchanting romantic retreat.  The Five Pine campus is a perfect home base for your Central Oregon summer vacation.

And while yes, you could go your entire visit without leaving the campus – we’d advise against that.

Five Pines Lodge

Day One

You don’t have to go very far away from Sisters to experience everything that is Central Oregon. Day one starts off on a relaxing note at Aspen Lakes Golf Course. Don’t consider golf “relaxing?” Well, then you’ve never experienced Central Oregon golf. At Aspen Lakes, wayward shots are sometimes swallowed by unique red cinder bunkers that will make you forget you’re in a hazard. And from the tee box of many holes, your target will be a majestic, snow-capped mountain in the distance. The views, not your score, is what you’ll remember most about Aspen Lakes.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon

After golf, its back to your cabin at Five Pine where you’ll fight over who gets the soaking tub first – or, better yet, you get romantic and compromise. Relax in your room with a game of chess before meeting up with other guests outside for the nightly beer and wine reception. It’s then just a short walk downtown for some window shopping and dinner.

Five Pine Lodge room interior near Bend, Oregon

Day Two

Today starts with a classic breakfast at the new Cottonwood Cafe. It’s all the fuel you’ll need if you’re heading out on two-wheels not to be bothered by cars on one of Oregon’s most scenic roads. The McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway starts in Sisters and takes cyclists up to a world all its own. For a month or so each spring, the road is only open to cyclists as road crews continue clearing the snow for car travel later in the summer. It’s a challenging 15 mile ride up the road to the Dee Wright Observatory, but the scenery is worth the effort. Beyond the giant snow banks winter left behind is a sea of lava rock creating a moonscape unique to Central Oregon. The road is currently open to cars and cyclists, so be alert regardless your mode of transportation.

Cyclist on the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway near Bend, Oregon
Cyclist on the McKenzie Pass Scenic Bikeway – Photo Credit: Aaron Theisen

After the ride you make a bee line to the Shibui Spa just a few steps from your cabin. A dip in the hot tub and a massage is just what the doctor ordered on this stress-free getaway.

Soaking tub at Shibui Spa in Central Oregon

Tonight it’s just a six pack of Central Oregon craft beer and a pizza while you hang out in your room – a much deserved evening of relaxation after a full day of pedaling.

Day Three

As hip and happening as Sisters is these days, it (thankfully) hasn’t shed completely its small-town feel.  That’s never more evident every June during the Sisters Rodeo. Dubbed “The Biggest Little Show in the World,” the rodeo is five days of rip-roarin’ fun that includes professional Xtreme bull riding and several family focused events like the Buckaroo Breakfast on Sunday.  After a late breakfast downtown, you hit up the matinee rodeo performance under the sun at 1 p.m.

Sisters Rodeo

When the dust settles you head back to campus and Three Creeks Brewing Co. – which you’ve had your eye on since you arrived in town. You split an appetizer of spicy cheese and crawfish dip over a couple of pints of Knotty Blonde and Hoodoo Voodoo IPA while you wait for the main course.

3 creeks outside

One final night at your upscale cabin on campus and this Central Oregon vacation is a wrap. You head back West through the main-street cowboy town knowing the best of both worlds is there waiting for your return.