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.

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.

Central Oregon Golf: Juniper Shines in a Region of Great Courses

When avid golfers fly into Central Oregon, they don’t have to travel very far to get in their first swings at one of the region’s finest golf courses. Located just 2.4 miles from the Redmond Airport terminal, Juniper Golf Club is Central Oregon’s only “municipal” course and a local’s favorite.

But throw away your preconceived ideas of a “muni.” Juniper is a true championship-caliber course that Golf Digest named the best municipal course in the state of Oregon for 2009/2010. The golf course offers seven sets of tees – ranging from just shy of 5,000 yards from the forward tees to nearly 7,200 yards from the tips.  The course hosted the 2013 Oregon Open and is a six-time site for Oregon’s US Amateur qualifying.

Juniper Golf Course was designed by golf course architect, John Harbottle III. Utilizing the high desert topography of Central Oregon, John gives you spectacular views of the Cascade Mountain range while wandering the course through the native juniper trees, lava rock and sagebrush. A peek at Smith Rock and Powell Butte will surprise you as well.

For many, Juniper is the first or last stop on their trek along the Central Oregon Golf Trail thanks to its proximity to the airport. First or last – just don’t let your visit to Central Oregon go by without a round here.

Central Oregon Golf: Best Par 3s

Lost Tracks, 16th Hole

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.

8th hole on The Fazio Course at Pronghorn in Bend, Oregon
Pronghorn (Fazio Course,) 8th Hole

Pronghorn #8 (Fazio Course)

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.)

Landscape of 17th hole at Tetherow near downtown Bend, Oregon
Tetherow, 17th Hole

Tetherow # 17

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.

River’s Edge #16

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.

Sunriver Resort Meadows Course #6

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 Golf and Country Club #3

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.

Pronghorn Nicklaus Course

Pronghorn #7 (Nicklaus Course)

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.

Black Butte Ranch Glaze Meadow #5

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.

View of lake, greens and Cascades in Sisters, Oregon

Aspen Lakes #8 (Sisters)

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.

Eagle Crest Resort Course #7 (Redmond)

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.

Widgi Creek Golf Club #5

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.

Black Butte Ranch Big Meadow #17

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.

View of snow covered mountains from Juniper Golf Course in Redmond, Oregon

Juniper Golf Club #3

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.

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

Lost Tracks #16

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.

Meadow Lakes Golf Club, Prineville
Meadow Lakes Golf Club, Prineville

Meadow Lakes #13 (Prineville)

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?

Crosswater #13

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.

Greens at Widgi Creek Golf Club in Bend, Oregon
Widgi Creek Golf Club, 11th Hole

Widgi Creek Golf Club #11

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.

The 13th Hole at Awbrey Glen Golf Course in Bend, Oregon

Awbrey Glen Golf Club #13

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.

 

Central Oregon Golf: Toughest Par 4s

Fairway on Crosswater Club golf course in Sunriver, Oregon
Crosswater Club’s 5th Hole

No. 5, Crosswater Club, 460 Yards – Sunriver

Take a deep breath and think happy confident thoughts before jamming your tee into the ground on this beautiful but cruel par 4 at Sunriver Resort. Clocking in at more than 450 yards from the back tees, Crosswater’s 5th opens with a difficult tee shot with a forced carry over the little Deschutes River. If you do find the fairway, you’ll face a long second shot into a huge, but difficult green where par is more than a good score.

10th hole at Tetherow Golf Club in Bend, Oregon

No. 11, Tetherow, 466 Yards – Bend

There is no shortage of challenging holes on David McKlay Kidd’s links style masterpiece. However, the 11th hole at Tetherow stands out as a particularly stern test. A sharp dogleg right means accuracy is more important that distance off the tee. Wherever you play from, you’ll face a difficult approach into a multilevel and heavily contoured green. It’s the kind of hole that illuminates why Tetherow recommends that new players bring a forecaddie to navigate the quirks of this amazing, but sometimes confounding design.

Fairway 15 on Rivers Edge Golf Course in Bend, Oregon
River’s Edge No. 15

No. 15, River’s Edge, 461 Yards – Bend

A local’s favorite, River’s Edge requires players to create all different kinds of shots around this eclectic layout in the heart of Bend. But on the challenging 15th hole it’s a matter of grip it and rip it. The tee shot plays dramatically uphill to a fairway that slopes right to left. Play a high fade and leave yourself a mid iron into the elevated green, but be aware: the uphill approach plays nearly a full club longer than the yardage.

widgi no. 13
View from fairway, Widgi Creek No. 13

No. 13, Widgi Creek Golf Club, 363 Yards – Bend

Put the driver away. This is one hole at Widgi Creek that requires strategy off the tee rather than blind power. A mid to long iron drive can leave you anywhere from nine iron to a five iron approach, depending on where your tee ball is placed on this severe dog left left hole. The approach shot plays over a deep ravine to a green guarded by a well trafficked bunker on the front edge.

No. 16, Black Butte Ranch Glaze Meadow, 441 yards – Black Butte

A recent renovation by Crosswater designer John Fought has revealed a dormant mountain golf masterpiece at Black Butte Ranch’s Glaze Meadow. This classic golf course isn’t short on scenery or shotmaking. Case in point, the difficult 16th hole where golfers must drill a precise tee shot on this long dogleg left hole. But even a well placed drive doesn’t guarantee anything. Golfers face a difficult approach shot to a crowned green guarded by a large bunker. Can you say blow-up hole?

lost tracks 4th
4th Green at Lost Tracks, courtesy Lost Tracks Golf Club

No. 4, Lost Tracks Golf Club, 458 Yards – Bend

If you made it out of No. 3 without a major catastrophe on your card, congratulations, but it’s not yet time to exhale. The Par 4 fourth at Lost Tracks requires two shots that are better than just good  to escape with par. The dogleg right fairway requires that players flirt with a corner guarded by several large ponderosas. If you do find the fairway, a tough mid-iron shot awaits. Smart players will lay back on the tee shot and play from a conservative position.

meadows 18th

No. 18, Meadows Golf Course, 467 Yards – Sunriver

With water lurking all down the left side, this difficult finishing hole has tanked many a round on Sunriver Resort’s showcase course. Get greedy with your tee shot and you may find yourself taking a drop from way way back in the fairway. On the flipside a shot played to conservatively will leave an impossibly long iron into a small well guarded green with water lurking on the left.

No. 5, Juniper Golf Course, 449 Yards – Redmond

Trouble looms on the left side all the way down this long par 4. Bail out right and you’ll face a long second shot to a green that is tucked behind a large rock outcropping. At that point, you’re better of laying up than trying to pull of a blind approach over the ball eating escarpment. Long and straight is the play off the tee box on this hole at Juniper. So grip it and rip it. No problem, right?