This beloved and livable city sits between the Cascade and Coast Range mountains seventy-five miles from the ocean. The home of Nike, it's a three-hour drive down I-5 from Seattle and a short flight from San Francisco; it's served by all major airlines. An artsy, walkable downtown unfurls beside the Willamette River and gives way to leafy neighborhoods full of Craftsman and Victorian homes and sprawling parks.
Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club, Ghost Creek
13920 Old Pumpkin Ridge Road, North Plains, OR; 888-594-4653, pumpkinridge.com. Yardage: 6,839. Par: 71. Slope: 145. Architect: Bob Cupp, 1992. Greens Fees: $45–$120. T+L GOLF Rating: **** 1/2
Host to two Nike Tour Championships in 1993 and 1994, the great Pumpkin was Oregon's first ultra-upscale public/private golf complex. And while the private Witch Hollow course may be slightly more refined, Bob Cupp's public-access Ghost Creek has become a local favorite. A clean-cut track whose conditions and service are without parallel in the region, it ambles through forests of fir, maple, ash and oak, darts across open meadows and encompasses two lakes. The spooky creek that lends the course its name appears and disappears half a dozen times throughout the day. Cupp employed classical bunkering with edges that hang over lips like grassy eyebrows, creating shadowy lairs where danger lurks. Several elevated greens set at the ends of corridors of tall trees make certain holes seem infinitely long. Built to host championships, the Pumpkin often leaves golfers feeling hollowed and carved.
The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club, South
4805 SW 229th Avenue, Aloha, OR; 503-649-8191, reservegolf.com. Yardage: 7,172. Par: 72. Slope: 133. Architect: John Fought, 1997. Greens Fees: $40–$95. T+L GOLF Rating: ****
Portland's other top tournament venue hosts the Champions Tour's Tradition tournament. It's another public-private golf complex, but unlike Pumpkin Ridge, the Reserve rotates its tracks so that each is private half the time. The North is a fun links-style layout, but Fought's South is the better of the two, a bold but sandy cabernet of a golf course.
More than one hundred bunkers on the South—alternately strategic, directional, penal or just plain aesthetically pleasing—are designed largely in the style of Tillinghast at Winged Foot. They also seem to replicate themselves as one plays. On the 205-yard second, a forebunker creates the illusion that the green is closer than it actually is. On the third, a bunker cluster reveals the best line off the tee. The eleventh features a bunker that actually divides the green. If it's any consolation, the eighth only contains two bunkers—but the par-four hole plays 487 yards and concludes on a tiered green. When all is said and done, a bottle of wine at the nineteenth might be needed to soften the blow.
Also Play: The Oregon Golf Association Golf Course (Woodburn, OR; $48, 503-981-6105) features immaculate bent grass that carpets the greens of this impeccable muni, creating some of the most delectable putting surfaces in the area. Close to the Portland airport, Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Heron Lakes Great Blue course (Portland, OR; $21–$40, 503-289-1818) is a Scottish-style, largely open, treeless layout emphasizing the "risk" in risk-reward. The Reserve Vineyards & Golf Club North course (Aloha, OR; $40–$95, 503-648-8191), designed by Bob Cupp, is shorter and shapelier than the South, with visually challenging design elements to delight students of course architecture.
The Heathman Hotel
1001 SW Broadway, Portland, OR; 800-551-0011, heathmanhotel.com. Rooms: $139–$209. Suites: $179–$775.
This elegant Portland hostelry in the heart of downtown features original artwork by regional painters, the French-accented Heathman Restaurant & Bar and a historic tea court. More modern amenities in its 150 rooms and suites include complimentary high-speed Internet access and free use of a library of more than four hundred films.
Higgins Restaurant and Bar
(Eclectic) 1239 SW Broadway, Portland, OR; 503-222-9070. $$$
Chef Greg Higgins is one of the pioneers of sustainable dining, using the best local, often-organic, in-season ingredients, such as wild salmon, huckleberries and mushrooms. Of the two dining rooms in the restaurant, the more interior is also the more intimate. But many locals ask for the bistro-inspired menu in the lively bar.
Thousands of windsurfers can't be wrong; traveling through the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area (even in a car) will put some wind in your sails, too. Multnomah Falls, thirty-five miles west of downtown Portland, makes a fine destination. Hoof it to the top of the 620-foot cascade and back and recover your strength with huckleberry pie in the small stone lodge. Continue motoring east to the Bonneville Dam (541-374-8820) for a tour and then detour to Timberline Lodge (503-622-7979), whose exterior was featured in The Shining. Finish the loop back in Portland, where—come the end of October—you can catch the ever-exciting, ever-tumultuous Portland Trail Blazers (blazers.com).