Tetherow Golf Club

Bend golf course provides exhilarating challenge

By Zack Hall / The Bulletin / @cogolfguy

Breaking down the course

A closer look at Tetherow. For more information on the items below, B6

Difficulty

The hills and bumps on the fescue-carpeted course make Tetherow among the most challenging layouts in Central Oregon and well beyond.

Strategy

Think through every shot and use your imagination. Accuracy and an ability to hit myriad shots will pay dividends on the links-style course.

Verdict

Not for everybody, but those who are attracted to such a style of golf will fall in love with David McLay Kidd’s unique design.

No surprise that I found myself in a tough spot at Tetherow Golf Club.

My ball rested in the fairway at the foot of the green on the drivable 316-yard, par-4 10th hole, and I was looking severely uphill to a pin some 25 yards away. In my way was a deep, gnarly bunker to the left and a putting surface with the extreme hills that help make the links-style golf course in southwest Bend unique.

From a thin lie, an ever-present predicament on the firm-and-fast fescue at Tetherow, I waffled between a chip shot or difficult flop shot.

My playing partner yelled: “Ah, just putt it from there!”

He thought he was joking. I threw my 8-iron to the ground and reached for my putter while our forecaddie, Devin, scrambled to point out to me the extreme line I needed to get close.

On no other course in Central Oregon would I consider putting from off the green from that distance. But here, it was the smart play.

At Tetherow, sometimes you must think differently about golf, which is what makes the course so exhilarating.

“What Tetherow attracts is someone who loves the natural beauty, loves that unique style of golf, and they’re not out there to just worry about their score,” said Chris van der Velde, the managing partner at Tetherow and a former European Tour player. “You have to hit every shot at Tetherow.”

I happen to be among those who find themselves drawn to the scraggly moonscape at Tetherow.

After initially struggling to build the membership after opening in a rough economy in 2008, Tetherow has grown from 43 golf-playing members five years ago to more than 200 now, van der Velde said.

In fact, with a new 50-room hotel near the clubhouse and homes popping up all around the course, signs are everywhere that Tetherow is on the right track.

Plenty has changed on the golf course, too, which has continued its process of softening the original design of famed course architect and Bend resident David McLay Kidd. Most of those changes have involved the expansion of some greens and the removal of some of the more testy bunkers.

Van der Velde is also considering expanding other greens, including the signature par-3 17th hole.

Still, do not expect Tetherow to ever become easy. That would take away from the character of the design.

“If your goal is to go out at Tetherow and shoot your best score ever, you better play there 10 times, because maybe on the 10th time you have a chance,” said van der Velde. “There are so many humps and bumps and quirks and bounces. That’s what golf is all about.”

More than that, Tetherow has continued to improve the way it has maintained the course — and it shows.

“It is so playable and it is probably the best condition it has ever been in,” van der Velde said. “It still plays firm and fast, but there aren’t burned-out spots.”

Tetherow did have some trouble earlier this year with a chemical it used to kill Poa annua, an annual bluegrass that tends to eventually take over greens on Central Oregon golf courses. The chemical killed some unintended patches of turf, most notably on the greens on the par-3 third and 17th holes.

The problem was caught early, avoiding a complete kill-off of some greens. And Chris Condon, Tetherow’s only superintendent since the course opened in 2008, and his crew have done a nice job mending the greens and keeping the surfaces playable while they return to health (which van der Velde expects to happen within weeks).

Other than that, Tetherow is still a wonderful place for a golfer who loves to attempt new types of shots.

Like usual, it got the best of me. But I accept my fate when I play Tetherow, which seems the key: Accept the challenges and enjoy the journey.

As I walked off the 16th green, after missing what should have been a gimme par putt, I shook my head and jokingly apologized to my caddie for making him endure the ongoing futility.

“Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse,” Devin said.

That was good enough for me.

Difficulty of course

Few golf courses are as challenging … not just in Central Oregon, but anywhere in the country.

Tetherow is carpeted with faded-green fescue, which makes for thin lies. The oversized greens often present severe undulations that will punish golfers who stray too far off the mark, even at times when the ball is still on the green. And though the fairways are generous, the twisting, mounded terrain can produce hilly and uncomfortable lies.

If that is not enough, the deep bunkers that dot the course often are a chore to escape.

The course has softened some over the years, and its wide fairways will keep mediocre players in play, which makes Tetherow a bit more manageable. But it is not the easiest place to learn the game.

Favorite hole

Making this selection is a chore at a course I enjoy so much.

The 481-yard, par-4 fourth hole is a brute in the truest sense. Not only is it long, every shot is demanding.

The tee shot must be played over desert into an uphill fairway that doglegs slightly left. Drives that drift even a touch right can run through the fairway and into the bordering native area.

From the left side, the approach shot into a cavernous green is manageable. From the right, the approach must be played over a massive, unforgiving bunker. From that sandy grave, par becomes nearly out of reach.

How to approach the course

Visually, there is no more intimidating course in the region. The mounded terrain twists and turns, and deep bunkers seem inescapable.

But really, Tetherow’s generous fairways give golfers freedom with club selection. Don’t just mindlessly grab a driver. Instead, target open, relatively flat areas in the fairway, regardless of distance. Position is everything at Tetherow.

Forget about stuffing your golf bag full of wedges, as Tetherow’s thin lies often make such shots too difficult. Instead, bring an imagination and a trusty iron for a bump-and-run game.

Sometimes it is preferable to be off the severely undulating greens on the more playable side of the hole rather than on the green in the wrong place. Two-putts are no given if you find a disadvantageous location on the putting surface, even if you are only 15 or 20 feet away.

Off the course

Tetherow has added a 50-room hotel and a new restaurant this year.

Beyond that, Tetherow is loaded with extras. Its golf academy is housed in a state-of-the-art building and is headed by Mike Lewis, a respected and longtime area teaching professional.

The course offers a huge driving range and two practice putting greens: Its main surface sits just behind the driving range and a smaller green rests just off the first tee. And Tetherow’s short-game practice area is spacious enough to work on all kinds of pitch shots.

The course’s sleek clubhouse includes a pro shop, and patios connected to Tetherow’s upstairs bar and restaurant offer a panoramic view of the golf course, the Cascade mountains and much of Bend.

Tetherow is also one of the few courses in the country that offer the rental of GolfBoards — a skateboard/golf cart hybrid made by a Bend company.

Verdict

The challenge of Tetherow is not for everybody, but golfers willing to accept that a career-best score is not likely might find themselves falling in love with the links-style course.

Topping out at $175 during prime time, a price that includes a cart and forecaddie, Tetherow is not cheap. But it is less expensive than many of the courses that rank among the nation’s elite public-access facilities, a group that includes Tetherow, according to many national golf publications. And for Central Oregon residents the price dips considerably, especially in October, when locals can play for as little as $80.

That price is doable for many who would like to treat themselves to a truly unique (at least in Central Oregon) golf course.

— Reporter: 541-617-7868, zhall@bendbulletin.com.

The basics

Number of holes: 18

Status: Open seasonally

Location: 61240 Skyline Ranch Road, Bend

Tee times: 541-388-2582

How to play: Available to members and their guests, with limited play for the general public

Course stats: Par 72, 7,298 yards

Green fees: Through September: $175 daily; October: $99 daily (All prices include cart, range balls, forecaddie)

Off-peak rates: Through September, $110 for Central Oregon residents, $145 for general public after 1:40 p.m. After Oct. 1: $80 for Central Oregon residents, $90 for general public after 1:40 p.m. (All prices include cart and forecaddie fee)

Head golf professional: Louis Bennett

Course designer: David McLay Kidd (2008)

Extras: Driving range (with short-game course), two putting greens, indoor golf academy, clubhouse, two restaurants and snack bar

Website: www.tetherow.com

Tetherow

SCORECARD

Hole Par Yardage

No. 1 4 400

No. 2 5 546

No. 3 3 197

No. 4 4 481

No. 5 4 429

No. 6 4 424

No. 7 3 226

No. 8 4 395

No. 9 5 532

Out 36 3,630

Hole Par Yardage

No. 10 4 316

No. 11 4 466

No. 12 4 425

No. 13 5 588

No. 14 3 190

No. 15 4 437

No. 16 4 476

No. 17 3 182

No. 18 5 588

In 36 3,668

*All distances from back tees

Editor’s note: This is another installment in a seasonlong series in which Bulletin golf writer Zack Hall visits each public and semiprivate golf course in Central Oregon.