A five-weight trout rod wouldn't hurt either because water winds through most of the course, shaping your .drives and seriously bothering your approach shots. The creek often runs right alongside a fairway or green, making things play far tighter than they might normally—and sometimes you're unsure if it's there or not, hence the name. The eighteen-hole, par-seventy-one, 6,989-yard course earned Golf Digest's vote as its number-one new public course of 1992, and it attracted national attention by hosting the 1993 and 1994 Nike Tour Championships.
Wisely, Bob Cupp let the land's natural features rule. The first few holes were built out of farmland, the rest out of woods. Many native Oregon maples and firs were left standing, and wetlands reign throughout. The left side of the fourth hole, a long par five, hugs a protected marsh; knock your ball in there and it's gone. Ghost Creek earned full certification from the Audubon Society in 1996, but the course's manicured parts are very manicured.
Still, Oregon's naturally moist air makes for damp greens, which confound many out-of-state golfers. "The air's a lot heavier than Arizona's, and the greens are slow," grumbled Charlie. "I've been between clubs all day." That should have been the least of his worries. On the ninth hole, for instance, a long par four that's often referred to as the toughest in the state, Ghost Creek hems in the right side, forcing your drives to the left. Then, 257 yards in, it crosses the fairway and feeds into a pond. The more you drive left, the more you have to carry over water. "Chop woods, carry water," Ed sighed.
The seventeenth hole took our breath away. There the creek follows the left side of the fairway, crosses it 230 yards out from the championship tee and finally settles at the severe, double-plateau green, which sits much higher than the water. A true risk-and-reward hole. Charlie drove for the green from the back tee and made all 329 yards, coming close to a hole in one.
The eighteenth hole is designed for a tournament finish. A greenside berm creates a natural amphitheater—where crowds might have seen Tiger Woods win the 1996 U.S. Amateur if Steve Scott had not taken him to extra holes. It's a long par five that forces you to carry water twice. Ed and I hacked along as we had all day, but an audience would have cheered
Charlie's putt for par, which let him finish at even par. After many unintended close encounters with Ghost Creek, I, on the other hand, was ready for some water-friendly recreation. It was time to go fishing.
Sea-Run Cutthroat Are The Most beautiful—and least known—trout on the coast," Milt Fischer announced as we hiked along the North Fork of the Nehalem River. The North Fork is a short coastal stream, seventeen miles that wander through conifer forest and small dairy communities that produce Oregon's famed Tillamook cheeses. Fischer had driven his guests (two bass fishermen from Iowa and me) a few miles upstream from River House, his modest fly-fishing lodge that attracts hardcore anglers like author Tom McGuane.
The walls at River House are filled with photographs of deeply spotted cutthroat trout, and gleaming wild steelhead, which are indigenous ocean-going rainbow trout—a collection to which we hoped to add.