Take a drive up to Oregon to experience 10 splendid courses at five resorts amid gorgeous scenery, or stay here in Northern California and explore a couple of valley courses with spectacular views. Either way, it’s great to get away to golf.
South-central Oregon, especially the stretch between Klamath Falls and Bend, is undeniably jaw-dropping gorgeous. The majestic slopes of the Cascades rise to the west; verdant rivers run through its heart; wetlands, woods and wildlife in all their color and variety dazzle in a realm of clear air and, for most of the year, temperate weather. And there are the many fabulous golf courses to be played here: complex, utterly arresting layouts that embrace these wonders while demanding the best in your game.
From Sacramento, it’s about 300 miles to Klamath Falls, and from there, about 160 miles to the areas of Bend and Redmond. Throughout this middle ground, you’ll find five of the best golf resorts in the West, with multiple courses, great dining and additional outdoor recreation (boating, fishing, hiking, sightseeing, and more) to make the trip utterly rewarding.
– Start with the Running Y Ranch along the wooded shores of Upper Klamath Lake. A cattle ranch turned resort, the Y boasts the only Arnold Palmer golf course in Oregon: a 7,133-yard par-72 beauty weaving through rolling, verdant meadows abutted with juniper and sagebrush, stands of ponderosa pine, and restored wetlands.
Five tee boxes suit players of all levels, and the 4,095-foot altitude should help your long game. Shot control and course management is everything here, as you must negotiate none-too-straight fairways, narrow approaches and snappy-quick greens. The front nine plays along open meadow and wetlands edged with native grasses, climbing toward a plateau of pines. The back nine starts on open mounded holes made treacherous by stretches of glimmering lakeshore. No. 17, a 535-yard par 5, is spiced by a choice of two fairways. You finish with a difficult 469-yard par 4 at the clubhouse, pro shop and 18-hole putting course.
The lodge has 82 guest rooms and suites, a full-service spa, equestrian center, sports center and top-notch Northwest cuisine.
Running Y Ranch, 5500 Running Y Road, Klamath Falls, Ore.; (888) 850-0275; runningy.com
– Less than 20 miles south of Bend and Mt. Bachelor, Sunriver Resort is great for the whole family, with outstanding lodging, dining facilities, recreational activities and service. Add in three truly impressive golf courses and it’s clear why Sunriver won Golf Magazine‘s Gold Medal as one of America’s best golf resorts.
The 6,908-yard Meadows course features extreme variety in its 18 holes, seven of which border the meandering Sunriver. At 6,880 yards, loaded with water, directional and fore-bunkers, and outcroppings of lava rock, the Woodlands course demands distance accuracy to score well.
Although the immaculate Crosswater course is private, you can play it if you are staying in a Sunriver Resort private home or condominium. It is fabulous: 7,683 yards situated on 600 pristine acres of woodlands and wetlands threaded by the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers. Beware the subtle greens here; misread them and you will weep.
Facilities include stables, pools, a marina, rental bike barn, even an observatory. ATV tours can get you into the backcountry, or sign up for a guided fly-fishing excursion as another way to swing your wrists.
Sunriver Resort, 1 Center Drive, Sunriver, Ore.; (800) 801-8765; sunriver-resort.com
– There’s nothing flashy about the Riverhouse Resort Hotel and the River’s Edge Golf Course, a surprisingly tough yet enjoyable 6,683-yard par-72 layout graced by the Deschutes River and views of 11,239-foot Mt. Hood. With four sets of tees and hundreds of trees, it features lots of angled approaches and elevated greens that put a premium on club selection, especially if the wind kicks up.
Consider Hole No. 6: a 344-yard par 4 offering a narrow fairway (try to stay right), and a dicey approach to an elevated, three-tiered green fronted by a pond and 25-foot waterfall. If you really enjoy ball flight, the 16th (216 yards, par 3) has the green 300 feet below.
The adjacent hotel offers 220 rooms and suites with river views and fireplaces, plus complimentary continental breakfast, indoor and outdoor heated pools, spa, exercise room, jogging trails, tennis and fishing.
The River’s Edge Golf Course, 3075 N. Business 97, Bend, Ore.; (866) 453-4480; riverhouse.com
– Just outside of Redmond, on 1,700 acres in the high desert, Eagle Crest Resort offers three courses carved out of an ancient juniper forest at the foot of the Cascades, marked by meticulous grounds, fast and true greens, and beautiful wildflowers in summertime.
The original par-72 Resort Course is 6,673 yards, perched on the rim of the Deschutes River canyon. The signature hole here is No. 2: a dogleg-right par 5 where you tee off 80 feet above the canyon floor. Even at 6,927 yards, the par-72 Ridge Course is generally flat, easy to walk and meant for golfers of all abilities. The new, par-63 Challenge Course has nine par 4s and nine par 3s&emdash;basically a way to indulge your iron play.
The resort has 100 comfortable rooms and suites as well as fully furnished chalets, luxurious condos and custom homes.
Eagle Crest Resort, 1522 Cline Falls Road, Redmond, Ore.; (800) 682-4786; eagle-crest.com
– Five Cascade summits, spring-fed Phalarope Lake, stately Ponderosa pine and delicate aspen trees form the unforgettable setting of Black Butte Ranch and its two 18-hole courses, Glaze Meadow and Big Meadow.
Opened in 1972, Big Meadow recently has undergone numerous changes directed by original architect Robert Muir Graves. It now stretches 7,000 yards with remodeled tees (including a new set, four total) and dozens of redesigned Cape and Bay-style bunkers.
Tough No. 6 is a 417-yard par 4 right-to-left dogleg, with a hungry fairway bunker and a tricky mounded green. The corner of No. 10 looks tempting to cut, but just remember: It is 526 yards, a left-to-right boomerang with a long, narrow green. So if you take the bait, don’t choke on it.
Glaze Meadow will begin long-term remodeling this fall, so now is your last chance to enjoy the 6,600-yard original. The opening 514-yard par 5 is a great birdie op, while No. 12 (nicknamed The Monster) is a huge, uphill, 590-yarder with a rolling, banked fairway that plays into the wind.
The resort offers a wide choice of lodging from luxurious multibedroom suites to compact condos. When not using your clubs, try the Frisbee golf course. Otherwise, receive a massage in the brand new spa facilities, swim or enjoy games in the diverse Recreation Center, or enjoy horseback riding or hiking on the ranch or nearby mountain trails.
Black Butte Ranch, 12930 Hawks Beard, Black Butte Ranch, Ore.; (866) 901-2961; blackbutteranch.com
From Old Legends to Brand-Spanking New: Three Northern California Destinations
Designed by Sacramento resident Brad Bell, the much-anticipated 18-hole Cache Creek Golf Club in Capay Valley will open for VIPs this spring and to the general public later this summer. It lies about a quarter-mile behind the main resort property, nestled in a snaky finger valley defined by brushy foothills to either side, giving it a splendidly remote though slightly narrow feel. Developed by the renowned Troon Golf management company, it runs 7,300 yards from the tips.
Arresting curves and contours, lots of traps, a variety of native grasses abutting fairways and two lakes give visual and strategic interest. While walking-friendly, it is a bit of a shame that Cache Creek doesn’t take advantage of opportunities for elevated tees or greens, which would have added some variety and spice.
Even so, it is an exciting layout&emdash;the back nine in particular. Holes 10 through 13 form the heart of the course, with a kind of Amen Corner aspect to the design. The finishing holes are a classic trio of a testy 182-yard par 3, a thought-provoking 562-yard par 5, and a final 432-yard par 4, a dogleg right with, potentially, two shots over water to get home.
When fully developed, the site will include an 11,000-square-foot clubhouse with pro shop, driving range, practice putting and chipping areas and a restaurant with commanding views of the course.
The main resort hotel lets 200 rooms and offers a full-service spa, numerous restaurants and the allure of casino gaming. Look for a variety of stay-and-play packages and special events.
Cache Creek Casino Resort and Golf Club, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks, Calif.; (888) 772-2243; cachecreek.com
– Aiming to be a big player in the Central Valley golf and resort scene, Diablo Grande is a 33,000-acre master-planned community located in the ranch lands of western Stanislaus County, in the historic Oak Flat Ranch outside of Patterson. A quick 90-mile trip down Interstate 5 from Sacramento, Diablo Grande features two terrific courses: the Ranch Course designed by Denis Griffiths and Legends West by legends Jack Nicklaus and Gene Sarazen.
Undulating vineyards of neighboring Diablo Grande Winery, brush- and manzanita-studded hillsides and surprisingly abundant water hazards border the curvaceous, velvety fairways of the 7,246-yard Ranch Course. Dramatic elevation changes make it quite interesting to play and, if you club right, you have numerous opportunities to score well.
Get off to a great birdie start at No. 1, a 386-yard par 4 playing upslope to a neatly bunkered plateau green. Hole 12 is nerve-racking: a 650-yard par 5 sporting a narrow dogleg-left fairway, creeks and 400-year-old oaks; it demands three long, precise shots toward a well-bunkered green with commanding views of the surrounding countryside. Also brutal is the 461-yard 14th, requiring a long approach shot over a yawning gorge.
Golf Digest named the 7,112-yard, par-72 Legends West course one of the Top 100 Greatest Public Courses in the country. Similarly embraced by hillsides and vineyards, these winter-rye fairways also work their way through oak-laden canyons, with occasional but not severe elevation changes. Most fairways have sharp doglegs, creeks, ponds and dry washes among the hazards, making shot accuracy a must. Deep bunkers and harrowing roughs guard small, slippery bent-grass greens and punish any thoughtless approaches. The par 3s are particularly challenging&emdash;you basically have to hit the target.
The Clubhouse has men’s and women’s locker rooms and lounges, a well-stocked pro shop and superior dining room featuring estate-grown Chardonnay, Cabernet, and other varietals from the adjacent winery. Ambitious plans are underway to develop a 177-room resort complex with four more golf courses, a state-of-the-art spa, plus equestrian and tennis centers. In the meantime, if you want to stay in the area, the hospitality people can hook you up to hotels in the vicinity.
Diablo Grande Winery and Resort, 9521 Morton Davis Drive, Patterson, Calif.; (209) 892-4663; diablogrande.com