Kevin Duke

Welcome to the golf mecca that is Central Oregon.

I do not throw around the term “mecca” loosely.

But that is truly what we have here, with 30 golf courses in the Bend area or just a short drive away.

So what’s your pleasure today?

Mountain courses, with majestic pines lining every fairway? High desert courses with tight fairways surrounded by scrub and juniper trees on every shot? Or the links style of one of our more famous courses, Tetherow? All await the golfer looking for his or her next challenge in Central Oregon.

I arrived in Bend last spring for this job as the golf writer at The Bulletin, and I actually ran out of good weather before I could get out to every course.

But I did manage to get in rounds on 18 of the 30 beautiful courses in the region. The remaining dozen will be on my list for this season.

I hope you get your chance this year to play as many as possible.

Public courses

In 35 years of playing golf, I have lived and played all over the Southwest and throughout California — and the public golf courses in Central Oregon are a step above those I have found in other parts of the country.

Each one I played last season was in immaculate condition, belying the word “public.”

The scenery alone makes them all worth the trip.

Play in the woods at Widgi Creek, The Old Back Nine, River’s Edge or Lost Tracks in Bend.

Widgi is a gem, designed by one of the most famous course architects in the world, Robert Muir Graves. Graves also designed River’s Edge, where the elevation changes will challenge your game — and the views from the eastern flank of Awbrey Butte are awe-inspiring.

To the south, Quail Run outside of La Pine is an affordable public track that sits nestled in lodgepole pines. You’ll want to take a camera, as the sights of Mount Bachelor on the journey to the course are by themselves worth the drive.

Or make the short trip to Redmond to play high desert golf at Juniper, or at one of the finest executive courses you may ever play, The Greens at Redmond (another Graves design).

Meadow Lakes in Prineville sits in a beautiful valley on the west side of town, below Ochoco Wayside State Park. It is not called Meadow Lakes by accident — water is in play on nearly every hole.

I would recommend taking the little detour up to the park on your way there. The emerald green fairways and blue waters of the lakes provide quite the stunning vista from above the course.

To the north, Crooked River Ranch (pictured on the cover) and Kah-Nee-Ta Resort will also inspire the golfer (and photographer) in you, both sitting in beautiful high desert valleys. For a quick nine, Smith Rock Golf Course and Desert Peaks, both north of Redmond, offer low-cost alternatives for golf in the region.

Resort golf

Resort courses in the area offer the same variety.

Sunriver Resort is one of the most famous golf resorts in the world, featuring four courses in the woods and grasslands in the shadow of Mount Bachelor.

The Woodlands and Meadows courses are open to the public, while one of the most acclaimed courses in the West, Crosswater, and the nine-hole par-3 Caldera Links, are private but available to play for resort guests.

Perhaps you are looking for a links experience. Again on the list of top courses in Oregon is Tetherow, on the west side of Bend. David McLay Kidd (who also designed the renowned courses at Bandon Dunes on the southern Oregon Coast) put together a track that will remind you of Scotland and give even the most skilled golfers all they can handle.

Pronghorn, with the public Nicklaus course and the private Fazio, is a can’t-miss venue in the area. Located on the high desert northeast of Bend, both courses are true target golf, with juniper trees galore, lava rock and scrub waiting for errant shots.

Just past Pronghorn toward Prineville is Brasada Ranch, an incredible golf course situated in the western foothills of Powell Buttes. Full views of the Cascades — from Bachelor north to Mount Hood on a clear day — are amazing.

The three courses at Eagle Crest, west of Redmond, also provide incredible views of the Cascades to the west, and 54 holes of golf if you are staying at the resort and just want to hang out there.

Finally, outside of Sisters are three gems that you do not want to miss. Aspen Lakes (another acclaimed course in Oregon) is famous for its red cinder bunkers and the peaks of the Three Sisters looming over many shots. Black Butte Ranch tantalizes with similar views of the mountains and two championship courses (Big Meadow and Glaze Meadow) in the woods on the eastern slope of the Cascade Range.

Private clubs

In Bend, three clubs offer private memberships … and awesome golf courses to boot.

Central Oregon’s oldest golf course, Bend Golf and Country Club, removed more than 200 trees last year. But don’t let that fool you — it remains a stern test of golf and hundreds of trees still flank the venerable south Bend facility.

Awbrey Glen and Broken Top, on the west side of Bend, are both amazing golf courses. Tom Weiskopf designed the course at Broken Top. Awbrey Glen winds it way through huge rocks and trees in a canyon on the west side of Awbrey Butte.

You can tell I am more than impressed with the incredible golf available in Central Oregon.

I know you will be too.

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

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