by Zack Hall / Photo © Sunriver Resort
How can a golfer top a trip to a perfectly manicured course in a picturesque setting? For starters, extend the vacation. Then travel to a destination dotted with a diverse set of golf courses all within a short, scenic drive from one another. The Northwest has an embarrassment of riches in this regard. All three of these Northwest golf loops are set on the drier side of the Cascade Range with summer days that stretch well past 9:00 p.m. Each grouping is centered near cities or villages that intertwine the world’s greatest game with a divergent mix of off-course offerings that should entertain all in the group, golfer or not.
Oregon Loop: Bend & Sisters
This sunny golf mecca enjoys a high-desert geography at the foot of the Cascades, teeing up 30 golf courses with a vast array of design styles. No stop on this loop is farther than 30 miles from Bend, home to three of the region’s most highly regarded golf courses, more breweries per capita than any city in America and the region’s top shopping destinations at the Old Mill District and downtown.
Tetherow Golf Club (tetherow.com)—a fescue-carpeted links course—rests just three miles from downtown. A 10-mile drive down the Powell Butte Highway takes you to amenity-rich Pronghorn (pronghorn.aubergeresorts.com) and its two impeccably conditioned desert courses. The hip Tetherow Lodges, which opened last year, and Pronghorn’s luxurious residences offer easy access to both golf and Bend.
For a wholly different feel, stop 20 miles northeast of Bend at the 1,800-acre Brasada Ranch (brasada.com) in sleepy Powell Butte. This course is perhaps the most player-friendly in the region as it wends through desert hills and frames panoramic views of the Cascade peaks. A stay at Brasada’s residences comes with access to its spa, horseback riding, resort-style pool area and three restaurants.
Sunriver Resort (sunriver-resort.com) has been a favorite of golfers for decades and is just an 18-mile drive south of Bend. The resort offers three championship courses, including picturesque Crosswater and a par-3 course. Shopping and dining is plentiful at Sunriver Village and the resort has a water park, miles of paved bike trails and direct access to the Cascade Lakes and Deschutes River. Next, travel to Sisters, a western-themed village 22 miles northwest of Bend. Just west of town, Black Butte Ranch (blackbutteranch.com) offers two championship golf courses, including the newly redesigned Glaze Meadow, specifically geared for golfers of all skill levels. And horseback riding, parks and hiking are ample at this sprawling resort.
Bend is the cultural center of Central Oregon, but this loop can start at any of these stops. Central Oregon is known for its outdoor recreation, and the busy summer-festival season is highlighted by August’s Bend Brewfest. Fly directly into the Redmond Airport, which serves the entire region. For more information, visit centraloregongolftrail.com.
Washington Loop: Tri-cities, Walla Walla & Pendleton (OR)
Kennewick, Pasco and Richland tee up 10 golf courses in the heart of Washington wine country. Canyon Lakes Golf Course (canyonlakesgolfcourse.com) in Kennewick is among the most heralded and affordable (fees top out at $62). A traditional parkland-style layout, Canyon Lakes is known for its superb conditioning and the 12,000-square-foot 12th green, believed to be the largest in the Northwest. Horn Rapids Golf Course (hornrapidsgolf.com), just north of Richland, borders the Yakima River and weaves through indigenous sagebrush. The 7,000-yard design is playable for beginners and experts alike. Fun off the course can be had with some 160 wineries within a 60-mile radius of the Tri-cities and a burgeoning culinary scene. For an uncommon experience, take a walking tour of the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Hanford site or a drive through Columbia Park. Golf packages are available at the Red Lion Richland Hanford House (www.redlion.com/richland).
Next, take a 50-mile drive east through wine country to Walla Walla and its Wine Valley Golf Club (winevalleygolfclub.com). One of Golfweek’s Top 100 Modern Courses, the minimalist design stretches across rolling terrain and native grasses. The 7,600-yard course is carpeted with fescue that gives the exposed track a links-style feel. Off the course, downtown Walla Walla is a thriving home to art galleries, wine tasting rooms, restaurants, shopping and nightlife. Stay at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel (marcuswhitmanhotel.com) and receive special golf packages.
Travel 40 minutes south along the Blue Mountains to finish the loop at Wildhorse Resort & Casino (wildhorseresort.com) near Pendleton. Set on a high-desert plateau, the 7,100-yard layout is shaped by five lakes and 66 bunkers in a peaceful setting. Instruction programs specifically designed for women and children make golfing there particularly family-friendly. And with 300 rooms, myriad dining options and a 40,000-square-foot gaming floor, there is no room for post-round boredom.
Begin the loop in the Tri-cities area, a three-hour drive from either Portland or Seattle, two hours from Spokane; or fly into Tri-cities’ own airport. For planning, go to visittri-cities.com, wallawalla.org and pendletonchamber.com/visit-us.
Idaho Loop: Idaho Falls, Driggs & Victor
On the doorstep of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Eastern Idaho has been a playground for sportsmen and sightseers for generations. The region has also emerged as a growing golf hotspot.
Begin the loop in Idaho Falls, Eastern Idaho’s largest city, which also has its own commercial airport. Pinecrest Golf Course (golfif.com) is the headliner of three courses in the city. The municipal facility hardly feels like one. Built in 1936, the historic course features treelined fairways and small, bentgrass greens that harken back to another era in golf design. Idaho Falls is also home to numerous museums, a symphony, Tautphaus Park Zoo, and a bustling downtown. Or take in an Idaho Falls Chukars minor-league baseball game. Golf packages are available with the GuestHouse Inn & Suites (guesthouseintl.com/hotels/idahofalls).
Next travel east 70 miles down the Teton Scenic Byway to the Teton Valley. At the foot of the sky-scraping Teton Range, this valley has plenty of worthy golf stops. Teton Reserve (tetonreserve.com) near Driggs is a player-friendly public course designed with generous fairways and a reversible layout to offer a variety of looks. It is also relatively affordable (green fees top out at $60). Stay at its Teton Reserve Clubhouse Suites for special golf packages. A few miles south sits Teton Springs Lodge and Spa (tetonspringslodge.com) in Victor. This plush resort is anchored by the Headwaters Golf Club. Rolling fairways and spring-fed ponds shape the layout and keep the course in tune with its natural setting. Fly-fishing and rafting opportunities at nearby Snake River and hiking and biking trails are abundant. Attend the free Music on Main concert series in Victor every Thursday night for a unique post-round experience. For planning, visit idahogolftrail.com, tetonvalleyfoundation.org, yellowstoneteton.org.