Breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains can be seen from a golf green in Bend that rolls both quick and true.
Two bunkers are perfectly manicured with a light-brown sand that accepts a wedge with ease.
The approach areas are pristine, grown with bentgrass that offers perfect lies.
But this green is not found at Widgi Creek, or Broken Top — or even Pronghorn, for that matter.
This 7,000-square-foot green is in the expansive southeast Bend backyard of Marjorie Miller and Rick Humphrey.
Avid golfers, the part-time Central Oregonians are co-owners of a successful tax consulting firm. And they know how to spend at least some of their wealth.
“If you have a property like this, you have to landscape it anyway,” says Humphrey. “And when you looked at that, we are saying, ‘This is a beautiful spot. What would look prettier there than a golf hole?’ Nothing.”
Humphrey does not acknowledge that his statement would sound insane to a nongolfer.
“So we invested some money into it,” he continues, “and we get a lot back from it.”
What Humphrey and Hamilton got back was a backyard unlike any other in Central Oregon.
The married couple, with the help of former Pronghorn head of agronomy John Anderson, turned the 20 acres of land surrounding their home into probably the most unique golf practice facilities in the region.
Humphrey and Miller want to show off their creation like a mother with a newborn baby.
To that end, the couple offered me a chance to play the course, along with Tetherow Golf Club architect David McLay Kidd, and I did not turn them down.
Named “Fore 3 Labs” (the couple owns three Labrador retrievers), the course includes nine sets of tee boxes arranged in a semicircle around the massive double green.
The tees range in distance from 89 yards to 338 yards (the layout also includes a small fairway for the par 4s) to the two pins on the green, giving two distances from each tee box to create essentially 18 different holes.
And the course features a small pond, which I proudly christened with a wayward 8-iron. (Humphrey, who has a 3 handicap, also credits me with the first hole-in-one after I holed out with a 100-yard sand wedge. Just thought I’d mention that.)
The green, however, is what makes the course special.
The putting surface was built to United States Golf Association standards, and it looks and feels similar to the greens at Pronghorn — considered by many to have the best conditioned golf courses in the region.
The similarities to the private golf course northeast of Bend is not an accident, as Humphrey and Miller are founding members at the club.
“It will help my putting tremendously if I come out and practice,” says Miller. “We can really practice here and have it translate to Pronghorn.”
The green is surrounded by fescue grass, and the two bunkers are filled with sand brought in from the shores of Washington’s Puget Sound.
In other words, the green is the real thing. But don’t take my word for it.
“I’ve played many of the golf courses in Central Oregon, but the quality of this (green) is probably better than anything,” says Kidd. He is the acclaimed golf course architect and Bend resident who designed Tetherow Golf Club in Bend and the first course at the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon Coast.
“It’s probably the best green in Central Oregon.”
Kidd is not affiliated with the project, except that he has played the course. So he is not ready to say that the course is better than another of Bend’s prime golf facilities, newly opened Tetherow.
“I’ll give them best green,” Kidd jokes, to which Humphrey replies: “We think this is the best TRULY private golf course in Central Oregon.”
What does a project like this cost?
Humphrey won’t say, offering only that “I’d be embarrassed to tell you how much money we put into this.”
But Anderson, the Pronghorn agronomist, and Humphrey admit it was not cheap.
Anderson is hoping to take on similar projects for other well-to-do families in the area. He says the cost for a somewhat smaller green (maybe 5,000 square feet) of quality similar to the Miller-Humphrey project would be roughly $50,000.
“It’s expensive,” Anderson says. But, he adds, measured against the cost of an upscale landscape project, “it’s very comparable to that.”
And if you think you can do the work yourself, forget it. It’s hard to grow the proper grasses and maintain them in a way that will allow for a putting surface to roll at a speedy 11 on the Stimpmeter, a device that measures the speed of a green, which is the case at Fore 3 Labs.
Miller and Humphrey have the real golf-course-quality equipment to maintain the green, and Anderson is considered one of the best greenkeepers in the country, Kidd says.
“If we didn’t have John to do it, then we couldn’t have done it,” Humphrey says. “It’s partly the opportunity, but John was available to do this and was interested. You can see how he cares about it. So that was really the inspiration.”
A VARIETY OF GOLF HOLES
The Fore 3 Labs course offers a variety of different looks into the 7,000-square-foot green. Some tee shots bring trees into play, while other tee shots must be played over one of the two bunkers. Here is what each hole looks like from tee to green.
The double green at Fore 3 Labs uses United States Golf Association standards. The putting surface uses A-4 creeping bentgrass, and the approach areas are Penn Eagle II creeping bentgrass.