BEND AND CENTRAL OREGON
On the dry, east side of the Cascade Range, central Oregon enjoys upward of three hundred sunny days per year. The sage-scented high desert is a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, fishermen, skiers, white-water enthusiasts—and golfers. Twenty-five courses lie within striking distance of Bend, the area's largest city, though many are at stand-alone resorts. Bend itself is a three-and-a-half-hour scenic drive from Portland. Flights from Portland, San Francisco and Seattle arrive at Roberts Field in Redmond (twenty minutes by car from Bend), served by Horizon, United Express and SkyWest airlines.
Sunriver Resort, 1 Center Drive, Sunriver, OR; 800-547-3922, sunriverresort.com. Yardage: 7,683. Par: 72. Slope: 153. Architect: Bob Cupp, 1995. Greens Fees: $139–$189. T+L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2
This high-desert layout features ample bird-filled wetlands and is ribboned by two pristine rivers that golfers cross as many as seven times—though not always on the first attempt. Indeed, the only drought on Crosswater may be of birdies. This six-hundred-acre heathland-style target course—like many natural beauties—is often cranky and unfair; from the tips, it's pure carnage. Teflon greens deflect fine approaches into hazards or reroute them toward tight collection areas requiring a magician's touch to get back to the putting surface. Bluegrass and fescue in the rough nicely offset the springy bent grass of the fairways and greens, but they're also absurdly penal. Forced carries abound: Consider the 460-yard fifth, requiring a long, precise tee shot over the Little Deschutes River but short of containment bunkers and woods. The daunting approach demands another wetlands crossing to the elongated, narrow, canted green divided by a dangerous ridge. If a slope of 153 is your idea of fun, Crosswater is your playground.
Aspen Lakes Golf Course 16900 Aspen Lakes Drive, Sisters, OR; 541-549-4653, aspenlakes.com. Yardage: 7,302. Par: 72. Slope: 139. Architect: William Overdorf, 1997. Greens Fees: $40–$59. T+L GOLF Rating: *** 1/2
This quiet collection of holes set amid aspens, junipers and ponderosa pines outside the Western-facaded town of Sisters was the first Oregon course to be enrolled in the Audubon International Signature Cooperative Sanctuary Program. Here, bunkers filled with red sand provide a dramatic counterpoint to the rich green bent grass, glittering blue lakes and black volcanic peaks topped with white snow. Water comes into play on eleven holes, often posing those age-old questions: How did so much water find its way into a desert?And when should I attempt to carry it?The number-two handicap fourteenth hole features double fairways laid end to end. From the back tees of this 479-yard conundrum, it's 279 yards to the end of the upper fairway and another thirty yards to the beginning of the lower fairway, with deep grass and unpredictable lies in between. You decide.
Also Play: The Challenge at Eagle Crest (Redmond, OR; $25–$45, 877-818-0286) is an artfully sculpted four-thousand-yard executive course unlike any other, a Mini-Me of strategic and well-crafted architectural layouts. Redesigned a few years ago by John Fought, the Sunriver Resort Meadows course (Sunriver, OR; $70–$125, 800-547-3922) wanders languorously through open land and a pine forest close to the main lodge. An aesthetically appealing venue, it features many design elements in the style of Ross and Mackenzie. Named for an extinct railroad, Lost Tracks Golf Club (Bend, OR; $43–$64, 541-385-1818) offers a remote collection of wild but lovable doglegs set amidst lava rock and an island green reached via a bridge made from a vintage railroad car.
1 Center Drive, Sunriver, OR; 800-547-3922, sunriver-resort.com. Rooms: $119–$209. Suites: $159–$299. Lodges: $159–$309. Condos/Homes: $199–$1,299.
Just a thirty-minute drive south from the town of Bend, this classic Oregon resort community offers a variety of lodging options nestled into a picturesque valley in the Cascade Range. The River Lodges, featuring stone wood-burning fireplaces and balconies overlooking the Meadows course, are Sunriver's best.
Pine Ridge Inn
1200 SW Century Drive, Bend, OR; 800-600-4095, pineridgeinn.com. Rooms: $130–$185. Suites: $210–$325.
Somewhere between a country inn and boutique hotel, with accommodations perched on cliffs high above the Deschutes River canyon, this charming collection of twenty rooms and suites lies just outside downtown Bend. Rates at Pine Ridge include a nightly wine reception, free movies and a buffet breakfast.
The Pine Tavern Restaurant
(American) Foot of Oregon Avenue, Bend, OR; 541-382-5581. $$$
Overlooking Mirror Pond in Bend, Pine Tavern has been serving hearty fare to hungry Oregonians since 1936, satisfying their protein cravings with filet, prime rib, meat loaf, sirloin, Oregon flatiron steak and pepper steak. The best seating options include the outdoor patio or a table beside the two-hundred-year-old ponderosa pine growing through the restaurant.
Outside Bend, porcupines, raptors and other curious creatures await your arrival at the High Desert Museum (highdesert.org). At the nearby Newberry National Volcanic Monument (541-383-5300), craters, lava fields and high alpine lakes all combine to create an otherworldly landscape that's worth a tour. Those looking to personally emulate the experience of fast-moving lava can take the Paulina Plunge (800-296-0562), an all-downhill six-mile mountain bike adventure that stops at six waterfalls and two natural water slides. For greater immersion, let Ouzel Outfitters (800-788-7238) guide you down the Deschutes River rapids.