By Kevin Duke

The Bulletin

If you play golf in Central Oregon, you might find that your favorite course has made some changes during the offseason. Several courses in the region have worked on bunkering, added tee boxes or removed trees to enhance playability and to promote better turf conditions on specific holes.

Sunriver Meadows

Probably the most significant work in the area has taken place on the Meadows course at Sunriver, where all the bunkers on the course were redesigned in the second phase of a project that included all the greens being redone last year.

The project is an effort “to elevate Meadows to championship-caliber play,” says director of golf Josh Willis.

The four-step process included redesigning each of the bunkers, then crews shaped them, laid new sod and put in new sand.

Fescue grasses, allowed to grow up to a foot high, were planted on the green side of each of the new traps, but fairways extend to the front side of many. Bunkers that were formerly more oval-shaped were reshaped to include more fingers, and therefore reduced in size.

“It will look and feel completely different from the old to the new,” Willis says. “We’re trying to make it more dramatic, but fair, and wanted to give back to the golfer by reducing the size of bunkers some 40 percent.”

Aspen Lakes

The course outside of Sisters, famous for its red cinder bunkers, brought in more than 500 yards of the material to make the traps more similar to what golfers might find at other courses.

“The old material was not as fine as we wanted it to be,” says Rob Malone, the director of golf at Aspen Lakes. “This makes the bunkers more consistent. The lighter material makes it play more like white fluffy sand.”

Players are finding the consistency much better and report that shots are coming out of the bunkers as they would expect, Malone says.

The course is also in its second year of a new maintenance plan in which golf course superintendent Josh Knapp is making changes to the overall maintenance of the course.

“We used a less-invasive aeration at the end of the fall and that has allowed the greens to come out of winter in better condition,” Malone says.

Bend Golf and Country Club

The area around the first tee and ninth green at Central Oregon’s oldest course will look different to players this season, as the club expanded the tee box on No. 1 and cleared some trees to allow for the expansion.

“We removed junipers from around the first tee and the ninth green to create a better visual,” says Chris Meyer, the head PGA professional at the club.

The ninth green is now more visible from the clubhouse following the removal of a few trees and shrubs, he notes.

Bunkers on No. 10 have been cleaned up and reshaped, and a bunker on the par-3 11th, the back bunker on No. 12 and a bunker on the back right of No. 14 were removed over the winter.

All of the work is part of the overall plan to get the course closer to its original design.

“It was pretty apparent the back bunker on 12 was added later,” Meyer says.

“We’re trying to get rid of some of the extra stuff that was added over the years and didn’t really fit.”

Awbrey Glen

The club in northwest Bend has added seven new forward tee boxes to make the course more player-friendly for members who play from those tees.

“We felt the golf course was too long for our forward tee players,” says Mark Amberson, chief operating officer and general manager at Awbrey Glen. The new boxes take more than 600 yards off the length, from 5,379 yards to about 4,700. The Oregon Golf Association will re-rate the course in May for the new distance.

The new tee boxes will also give the club more flexibility in setting up the course for tournaments.

Additionally, trees were removed or thinned along holes No. 6 and 18 to remove some of the shade and thereby improve turf quality in those areas.

Tetherow

The David McClay Kidd-designed course on the west side of Bend expanded its practice space, eliminating an upper tier of the practice tee on the range and making it one level.

A new putting green will also be built below and on the north side of the existing practice green. The two renovations will give the links course approximately 30 percent more practice space.

Also, the club has completed a reconstruction of the green complex on the fifth hole. A bunker in front of the green has been taken out, and two bunkers have been added on the right side. The green has been extended 20 yards in depth to the back and right of the old green.

The removal of the front bunker gives higher handicappers a chance to run the ball up to the green, while the additional green area will make for a tough pin placement on the back right side of the green.

Other area courses

• Lost Tracks in Bend filled in a small pond on No. 5 after a tree went down during a storm over the winter. “It was a significant tree on No. 5, so we filled it in with a grass bunker to catch the golf balls the tree would normally catch,” says Lost Tracks owner Brian Whitcomb.

• Widgi Creek on the west side of Bend removed some trees around the practice green to improve sunlight to the area and improved several tee boxes on the course.

• At Juniper in Redmond, new forward tees that were added last year to shorten the course were leveled and finished over the winter. The tees shortened the course from 5,500 yards to 4,974 and the OGA re-rated the course after the new tees were put in.

• Meadow Lakes in Prineville has removed three weeping willow trees from behind the 17th green and a few other trees that had died around the course.

• At Desert Peaks in Madras, new bentgrass seed was laid down on the greens during aeration in April. “We haven’t done it in four or five years,” says course superintendent Jonathan Burchell. “It will infuse more bentgrass into the putting greens for a smoother roll.” Also, seed was put down on the fairways during verticutting this spring, and a new forward tee box has been added on No. 7.

• At the nine-hole par-3 Smith Rock Golf Course east of Redmond, new tees have been added to increase the length of the course from 700 yards to more than 800, also giving the club more options for tee placements for golfers who play 18 holes.

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

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