Fall Golf in Central Oregon: Amazing Course Conditions & Even Better Deals

Considering we have three of Golf Digest’s Top 100 courses and half of Oregon’s Top 10 courses according to Golfweek, there’s really no bad time of year to play golf in Central Oregon. Even in the middle of winter, courses such as Meadow Lakes in Prineville remain open for play. But for my money, fall is by far the best time to tee it up. Here’s why:

PERFECT WEATHER

September and October are usually pretty mild and a welcome reprieve from the summer heat.  Sure, the daylight might not extend as far into the evening, but there’s still plenty of time to get in 18 holes. (And if you tee off early enough, you can even get in 36.)

Sunriver Meadows Course Near Bend

CHEAPER GREEN FEES

Beyond the weather, fall golf in Central Oregon means discounted green fees. As a tourist destination, some of the resort green fees during the summer are a little steep for some folks. Come fall though, those rates go down dramatically making some of the country’s best courses more affordable. Sunriver Resort, for example, is offering an amazing unlimited fall golf package that includes 3-nights of lodging for less than $260/person.

The Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn Resort

Fall = Pacific Amateur Golf Classic

For 21 years, the Pacific Amateur Golf Classic has been the Northwest’s premier amateur tournament. The event, now held exclusively at Sunriver Resort, includes 54-holes of tournament golf with a fourth and final championship round for the top qualifiers in each of several flights. The field is limited to 300 players and is held at Sunriver’s Meadows and Woodlands courses and the famed Crosswater Club.

River’s Edge Golf Course, Bend

FEWER PEOPLE

The crowds have thinned and the tee sheets are WIDE open, making it the perfect time for that group outing you’ve been wanting to throw for your clients or office. Pronghorn Resort has a sweet deal through September for groups of eight or more. Starting at just $549 per person, you and your buddies can enjoy:

*  2 nights in a luxurious 4 bedroom Villa

* Unlimited golf on the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course

* One box lunch

* Free round-trip airport transportation

* Unlimited range balls

Crux Fermentation Project
Crux Fermentation Project, Ben

OFF THE COURSE LIFE

The “shoulder season” as we call it in the tourism biz, also means fewer crowds at some of the region’s most popular off-the-course spots. Brewpubs like Deschutes, Crux and Bend Brewing Co. can get packed during the summer, but you’re better off quickly finding a table for you and your 7 bros come fall. (Speaking of Deschutes, a brewery tour is a fun group activity after a round of golf and before dinner. )

Looking for a great golf-n-grub combo? After a round at Tetherow, head upstairs to The Row for one of the best 19th Holes in Central Oregon.

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.

Pronghorn Resort Combines World Class Golf with a Leisurely Bike Ride

Pronghorn Resort in Bend is a Golf Digest Editors’ Choice as a top resort in the Pacific Northwest, Golf Magazine named it among the Top 25 Golf Communities in the Country and the Nicklaus Course is one of the Top 100 courses in the nation.

And now it’s one of the few places in the country you can play golf WHILE riding a bike.

As hundreds of golf courses across the country add GolfBoards to their options for players, (including Tetherow, Aspen Lakes and Caldera Links) a smaller number are letting folks hop on a bicycle during their round.

The Golfbike is a modified mountain bike with attachments on the rear for you to put your clubs and balls. It’s obviously a fun way to get around the course, but it’s also a faster way – especially if everyone in your group is on one.

Spin time! Golf bikes are a ⛳️ #musttry @thegolfbike Photo by @taramkidd #pronghornresort #inbend #golfbike #golf #playtroon

A photo posted by Pronghorn Resort (@pronghornresort) on

Pronghorn’s Director of Golf Jerrel Grow  said it was a no-brainer for the resort to add Golfbikes, considering when Central Oregon golfers aren’t on the links, they’re out mountain biking, hiking, or stand-up paddling. Few here like to sit still.

“We are always trying to look ahead, be forward thinkers.  When we saw the Golfbikes we jumped at the opportunity to try them,” Grow said. “People that have had a chance to use them on the course have given us such great feedback.  We have heard ‘way more fun than I expected.  ‘its like a spin class while you play golf,’ ‘a cross between mountain biking and golf.'”

We have heard ‘way more fun than I expected.  ‘its like a spin class while you play golf,’ ‘a cross between mountain biking and golf.'”

Grow said Golfbikes are here to stay at Pronghorn and expects many other courses to offer them in the future.

“I read an article recently that talked about healthy eating and exercise, re-emphasizing that this was is not a ‘fad,'” he said.  “People today are looking to be active, and if the Golfbike is an avenue for more golf and more active lifestyle – we are in.”

Pronghorn currently has just four of the Golfbikes available for use and you’re encouraged to reserve one when you make a tee time. During peak months (May-October) the fee is included in your golf fees. The Golfbikes cost $25 during off-season play.

(When Jerrel isn’t riding a bike around the golf course, he’s busy preparing to play in the U.S. Open Qualifier at Pronghorn May 10th. You can follow his preparation on Twitter @PronghornResort #jerrelsjourney.)

Jerrel_GolfBike_Pronghorn

Golf Courses in Central Oregon Ranked Among Golf Digest’s Top 100

We’ve always believed Central Oregon has some of the best golf courses in the country, and this year the editors of Golf Digest agreed with us whole heartedly.

The venerable publication placed three Central Oregon courses on its Top 100 Greatest Public Courses list for 2017/2018. Pronghorn led the way at No. 36, followed by Sunriver’s Crosswater Club at 50 and Tetherow in Bend at 63. (All three courses were ranked in the magazine’s Top 100 for 2015/2016 as well.)

Here’s what the magazine had to say about each course:

Pronghorn Golf near Bend, Oregon

33. PRONGHORN CLUB (NICKLAUS)

Bend, Ore. / 866-372-1003 / pronghornclub.com
Jack Nicklaus (2003)
7,379 yards, Par 72 | Points: 58.7830

When it first opened, Pronghorn was strictly private and its Nicklaus Course was ranked second by Golf Digest among America’s Best New Private Courses of 2004. Four years ago, the club (which also has a Fazio-designed 18) began allowing public play on its Nicklaus track. Its back nine may be the most delightful Jack has ever designed, with gambling holes and gorgeous scenery at every turn.

100 Greatest Public History: Ranked since 2011. Highest ranking: No. 23, 2011-12


 51. CROSSWATER – SUNRIVER RESORT

Sunriver, Ore. / 800-801-8765 / sunriver-resort.com
Bob Cupp (1995)
7,683 yards, Par 72 | Points: 57.5239

Part of Crosswater was reportedly built in the meadow where John Wayne, as Rooster Cogburn, filmed his climactic charge with guns blazing in the 1969 film, True Grit. The Bob Cupp design is far more subtle than a Wayne western, with low-profile greens edged by graceful chipping areas and fairways intersected repeatedly by the Big and Little Deschutes rivers. Crosswater was Golf Digest’s Best New Resort Course of 1995.

100 Greatest Public History: Ranked since 2003. Highest ranking: No. 32, 2007-08


54. TETHEROW G.C.

Bend, Ore. / 541-388-2582 / tetherow.com
David McLay Kidd (2008)
7,298 yards, Par 72 | Points: 56.9440

A decade after David McLay Kidd established his architectural reputation with the original Bandon Dunes course, he returned to Oregon, settled in Bend and built another dazzling course, Tetherow. Far different than Bandon, with a manufactured landscape of lumps and bumps, far more bunkers, plus a couple of lakes, it nonetheless has the same fescue as at Bandon, so tee shots get plenty of roll and some approach shots can be bounced into flagsticks.

100 Greatest Public History: Ranked since 2011. Highest ranking: No. 54 in 2015-16


glaze-meadow

Black Butte Ranch’s Glaze Meadow Course didn’t make the Top 100 this year but was nominated by the magazine as one of the best new courses of 2012 after the completion of a $4 million redesign. Coupled with the Big Meadow Course, Black Butte Ranch is hard to beat when it comes to truly spectacular golf destination resorts.

These four courses are just part of the Central Oregon Golf Trail – which includes nearly 30 courses all within an hour drive of each other. Few places in the country can boast such a diverse selection of championship golf in such close proximity. What’s more? The Golf Concierge at the Central Oregon Visitors Association is ready to help you plan the perfect golf trip.

We’ll start with tee times and lodging, but we’ll make sure your trip includes a true taste of the outdoor paradise that is Central Oregon. Whether you want to take a lazy float down the river or a white knuckle guided raft ride down some rapids; relax your stress away at a local spa, hit up a great brewpub (which isn’t hard considering we have nearly 30 of those too) or find a hike deep into the Central Oregon backcountry – you’ll leave with just one thing in mind: A return trip.

Pronghorn Resort Perfect Golf Weekend

Pronghorn Golf near Bend, Oregon

Eight guys, four nights, three rounds of golf – And a bachelor party you won’t need to hide from your wife.

Your base camp for this Top 100 Collection itinerary is Pronghorn Resort, home to two of the region’s most highly-acclaimed golf courses including the Jack Nicklaus Signature Course, ranked No. 33 in Golf Digest’s Top 100 Greatest Public Courses in 2015/2016.

Located just 15 miles from Bend (and, roughly, the Redmond airport) off the Powell Butte Highway, Pronghorn has the look and feel of a gated Tuscan village.

That village – including the 55,000-square-foot clubhouse, rec center, spa and more – is all yours for the weekend. And your four-bedroom Residence Club unit includes a private patio with a fire pit and barbecue grill. There’s an air of exclusivity throughout the resort, which is nice. And not a bad spot to set up shop for a weekend with the fellas. A few of you will arrive with the help of a complimentary airport shuttle. The rest pile into an Avis rental van that’ll serve to get you around on your Central Oregon golf adventure.

Fairway on The Nicklaus Course near Bend, Oregon

With plenty of daylight left – the sun seems to shine longer here – there’s time for a group lesson, a gift arranged by the soon-to-be groom at the Troon Golf Academy on site. The academy is filled with the high-tech toys folks like Tiger and Rory use to win majors.

For you, it might just provide that one little tip to help you win a couple of skins come Saturday. After an hour or two bashing balls on the practice range – real Nikes, by the way – and having a little impromptu putting contest, you head back to your room before the blisters get too sore to swing. Dinner tonight is on the patio of your rental house with some foodstuffs the guys picked up on their way in from the airport. Some steaks, baked potatoes and some local craft beers highlight the perfect menu to truly kick off what is already starting out as the perfect weekend.

Pronghorn Resort Lodging, golf, near Bend Oregon
Pronghorn Guest Room, photo credit: Greg Pierce

Thursday morning you’re up at the crack of 9 a.m. ready for a great day of golf, Instagramming pictures non-stop to your buddies stuck back home in the office. You’ve got a 10:30 tee time, so there’s time for some breakfast and a bloody Mary or two in the clubhouse at Cascada. The rules of the weekend are simple, $10 straight up skins – no handicaps – tallied at the end of the vacation. Winnings aren’t enough to put anyone out on the street, but enough to wave triumphantly in front of the rest of the guys.

The Nicklaus Course showcases the Golden Bear’s eye for utilizing the natural landscape of a region to accentuate a player-friendly, but challenging design. A quick search on “yelp” and you find words like “magnificent,” “grand,” and “world class.”

After getting cleaned up at the villa, it’s back to the clubhouse for dinner outside (again) at Cascada, this time on the patio overlooking the property. You can’t help but laugh at the menu: Locally grown lamb tacos aren’t exactly everyday fare at the muni courses you’re used to playing with these knuckleheads.

Today, it’s another round at Pronghorn – a course worth playing two days in a row. You’re a little beat from the sun and the fact you “hydrated” all day with adult beverages – but it’s nothing a half hour nap and hot shower won’t cure. Tonight, dinner is in Bend at Deschutes Brewery, the birthplace of Central Oregon’s gigantic craft beer scene.

deschutes pint glass

Saturday morning after coffee in the room, you find a pair of matching socks and your least offensive smelling golf shirt and pile in the van back to Bend. Today you’re playing Tetherow, but not before a breakfast burrito at Longboard Louie’s in town – a good rec from the shuttle driver a couple of days ago.

Tetherow, ranked No. 54 in the Golf Digest Top 100 list, has quickly become Central Oregon’s most sought after golf experience. The unique Scottish-links course was designed by the same guy who did Bandon Dunes. Expect the same natural, rolling terrain here without the gale force winds and 90% chance of rain. This is not target golf – far from it. But if you ask anyone who’s played it they’ll tell you it’s the toughest – but most fun – course they’ve played in a while. Some of that fun has to do with the way you get around the course – on a golfboard. Part skateboard part snowboard, the golf board might be the most fun you have on a golf course ever. Period.

After your round, the best man collects the cards. There’s some adding to do at The Row, Tetherow’s version of a pub and one of the best 19th Holes in all of Central Oregon. (Looking for a side bet to make back your losses? Challenge one of the boys to the ghost chili hot wings.)

Before things get too out of hand, it’s back to the house at Pronghorn to pack up. Early flights for all in the morning so tonight it’s your last chance to say goodbye – to the boys and the single life.

This is just a sample itinerary of the Central Oregon Top 100 Collection. We’re more than willing to put together the perfect golf getaway package for you that includes a longer stay, more people and, of course MORE GOLF! Just give our concierge a call to set up your own custom itinerary at 1-888-280-3336.

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