From Central Oregon’s sunny and mild summer weather, to its dramatic High Desert landscape, to its wild snow-fed rivers, to the locals’ famous love of the outdoors, the Cascade Range has forever shaped the region. Central Oregon golf is no exception.
The peaks of this section of the Cascades have guided some of the world’s best-known golf course designers — a constant call to architects to use the natural beauty of the region as every course’s best attributes.
“The mountains are to Central Oregon what the ocean is to Bandon Dunes,” Bend resident David McLay Kidd says of the defining common attribute of Central Oregon’s 30 golf courses.
Kidd should know. After designing Bandon Dunes, turning him into one of the world’s biggest stars in golf course architecture, he moved to Central Oregon while designing Tetherow, one of three Central Oregon courses ranked among Golf Digest’s Top 100 in the U.S.
Kidd, though, is not alone in his view on the importance of the mountains to Central Oregon golf. Those volcanic peaks have inspired some of golf’s most influential architects. Bob Cupp, Tom Fazio, John Fought, Robert Muir Graves, Peter Jacobsen, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Kidd, and others have all left their marks on Central Oregon, many with designs considered among each architect’s best work.
This is no happy accident. The best architects in the game accentuate their designs with a region’s natural beauty, says John Fought, an Oregon native who co-designed Crosswater, and redesigned Sunriver Resort’s Meadows course and Black Butte Ranch’s Glaze Meadow.
“It allows you to create things that are interesting and fun,” Fought says. “You can do golf on dead-flat land, but it is surely more fun when you can work with rock outcroppings or rivers, spectacular vegetation, and a climate that is good for growing grass.”
From Bend, the region’s vibrant cultural hub and its largest city, desert links carved from the region’s volcanic rock, classic parkland-style designs, Scottish-style links, and mountain courses with fairways shaped by ponderosa and lodgepole pines are all within 30 minutes.
As the region has emerged as a golf destination, Central Oregon has grown up with a rich culture and culinary scene, as well as its well-earned reputation as a mecca for craft brewing.
But like everything in Central Oregon, what makes golf unique in the region is its natural beauty.