2015 Golf Guide: Changes afoot at area courses

Bend Golf and Country Club, Sunriver, Tetherow and Black Butte Ranch have updates

By Zack Hall / For The Bulletin

Bend Golf and Country Club embodies the very definition of “venerable.”

The private facility in southeast Bend this year is celebrating its 90th season of golf, making it by far the oldest golf course in Central Oregon. But that does not mean that Bend Golf and Country Club can’t change.

Bend G&CC is in the process of adopting a new master plan, hiring Portland-based architect Dan Hixson to devise a way to spruce up the classically designed country club.

Hixson, who designed highly regarded Wine Valley Golf Course in Walla Walla, Washington, among other notable golf courses, has devised master plans for some of the Northwest’s most historic golf courses, including Portland Golf Club.

“Instead of saying you need an overhaul or a renovation, using those big words that usually carry big price tags, (Hixson) basically says this is what you are going to work toward,” says Erik Nielsen, Bend G&CC’s longtime head professional. “He has a goal for everything.”

The details of the master plan have yet to be finalized, but already work has begun.

Earlier this spring the golf course removed some 200 trees, which Nielsen has characterized as the most dramatic change at Bend G&CC since it expanded to 18 holes in 1973.

That project helped open up the ponderosa pine-lined course to make its characteristically tight fairways more forgiving. The second, seventh and 18th holes show the most difference, Nielsen says.

“(The master plan) gives us a road map for what we need to create a better golf course,” Nielsen says. “The trees were a big part of that.”

Bend Golf and Country Club expects more changes — some modest, such as changes to mowing patterns, and some more dramatic, like changing the bunkering — in the coming years.

The reaction so far?

“It’s been fairly positive,” Nielsen says. “People have been pretty excited about it. Our members have been incredibly patient, understanding and helpful.”

Sunriver Meadows

In April, Sunriver Resort completed the work of rebuilding all 18 of the Meadows Course greens. Now when Meadows opens for the season on Memorial Day weekend, golfers will have the pleasure of putting on a smooth, hardy strain of bentgrass, called T-1.

The May 22 opening will also mark the completion of an ambitious five-year program to replace every green at Sunriver’s Crosswater Club as well as its Woodlands and Meadows courses. The total cost to replace all 54 greens is more than $1.2 million, according to Sunriver.

Meadows was renovated by John Fought in 1999, but slowly, Poa annua, an annual bluegrass, began to creep onto the putting surface, which is inevitable in the Pacific Northwest.

Not only will the T-1 bentgrass give Meadows pristine greens throughout the resort, the surfaces should drain more efficiently and recover from cold weather more quickly, extending the golf season in both spring and fall.

“The nice thing for us is that we’ve done all of this during challenging (economic) times,” Josh Willis, Sunriver Resort’s director of golf, said earlier this year. “We’re hoping that the light is bright for us in the near future in terms of growing golf and growing golf rounds in Central Oregon. And we’re ready to roll.”

Tetherow Golf Club

The links-style gem in Bend has a reputation for being diabolical. The fescue-carpeted fairways and greens, the unpredictable bounces off hilly lies, and bunkers that can feel like a scene from “Return of the Jedi” can indeed frustrate some golfers.

Tetherow has softened a bit over the years from Bend architect David McLay Kidd’s original design.

That work continued over the past year, including a significant change to Tetherow’s signature par-3 17th hole to create a far safer tee shot. Tetherow vastly expanded the green, which is set at the bottom of an old pumice quarry, to about 50 yards from front to back.

Tetherow also worked on the green of the par-3 seventh hole. There the course reduced the size of a dramatic hump in the back-right portion of the green, flattened out the back of the green and added an upper tier to add two more pin positions.

In addition, Tetherow added three new tees and replaced several waste areas to replace heavily trafficked native areas, says Chris van der Velde, managing partner at Tetherow.

“It will always be a difficult course for better players to make birdies ­— we don’t want to change that — but we’re trying to make it easier for the average golfer to make pars and bogeys, which keeps the game fun,” says Louis Bennett, Tetherow’s head golf professional.

Black Butte Ranch

The sprawling resort just northwest of Sisters has taken on two projects this spring at its Big Meadow course. First, it resurfaced the putting green on the 185-yard, par-3 13th hole.

Also, Phil Lagao, the superintendent at Black Butte Ranch, and his staff have spent the month of April improving all 65 of Big Meadow’s bunkers.

The crew has packed down the sand and soil of each bunker, and the drainage on some bunkers has been repaired. Then the crews freshened each hazard with new sand. As a final touch, the crew cleaned up the turf edges of every bunker.

The bunker project is nearly complete, and Lagao says the 13th green should be back to 100 percent by Memorial Day weekend.

Other changes of note

• Quail Run Golf Course in La Pine reworked its 10th hole, reshaping the left-front bunker and expanding the left side of the green. In addition, it removed some trees, cleaned out the fronting pond and installed a new fountain. In addition, Quail Run purchased a fleet of 55 electric power carts.

• Meadow Lakes Golf Course will receive a new fleet of golf carts arriving about July 1, “which we are really looking forward to,” says Zach Lampert, head pro at Prineville’s municipal course. In addition, Meadow Lakes plans to renovate several of the tee boxes throughout the course as the season progresses, Lampert says.

• Pronghorn Club near Bend has added FootGolf on its driving range. FootGolf — a golf-soccer hybrid in which “golfers” kick a soccer ball to giant holes, but strokes are counted as they would be in golf — will be open to the public, and there will be no charge for members and resort guests on Wednesdays and Saturday nights, says Jerrel Grow, Pronghorn’s head professional.

• The Old Back Nine at Mountain High in Bend has added a small fleet of power carts and new walking carts, says club manager Mark Reisinger.

• Aspen Lakes Golf Course will expand its fleet of GolfBoards, a skateboard-golf cart hybrid made by a Bend-based company, to more than a dozen. The Sisters course and Tetherow are the only two Central Oregon facilities with a fleet of GolfBoards.

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