Central Oregon

Black Butte Ranch, Big Meadows course

NO. 1 COURSE: BLACK BUTTE RANCH – BIG MEADOW

LOCATION: Sisters, Or.

DIRECTIONS FROM SISTERS: Take US-20 seven miles to Hawks Beard Rd. Take a left and go two miles. Course is on the left.

PHONE: 866-901-2961 (web site: blackbutteranch.com)

OPENED: 1972 (Architect: Robert Muir Graves)

GREEN FEES: Range from $59 to $73

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,002 yards (four tee positions);

LOWDOWN: This is a mature course that has all the natural Oregon amenities, lakes, meadows, tall firs, within a valley surrounded by the Central Oregon mountain range. It’s a great walk and reasonably priced considering all the higher-greens-fee resorts in the area.

Glaze Meadow is a sister course but it is undergoing $3.75 million worth of renovations and is closed until the spring 2012. Glaze Meadow is a par 72, 7,079-yard course.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 14, par-4, 401 yards. A most photographic hole, from the tee and fairway you have a dramatic view of the jagged Three Fingered Jack peak above the forest. Beware of the bunkers – everywhere – along with fairway landing areas and protecting the green.

NO. 2 COURSE: LOST TRACKS

LOCATION: Bend, Or.

DIRECTIONS FROM BEND: Go south from Bend on Hwy 97 and take the Knott Rd. exit. Head east for about 1 ½ miles. Turn right on China Hat Rd. The course is on the right.

PHONE: 541-385-1818 (web site: losttracks.com)

OPENED: 1996 (Architect: Brian Whitcomb)

GREEN FEES: Range from $40 to $85

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,003 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: With snow-capped peaks all around, this is indeed an unspoiled walk. There are several greens out on land spits with water carries.

There are few structures that border the course because it is adjacent to a national forest. It’s a quiet getaway amid the tall pines and still water.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 9, par-5, 573 yards. To begin with, it’s a severe dogleg left, not easy for draw-less right-handers. But what’s fun about it is you can cut some of the distance on your second shot by hitting over water and/or a waste area toward the green.

NO. 3 COURSE: TETHROW

LOCATION: Bend, Or.

DIRECTIONS FROM BEND: Head southeast on NW Wall St. Right on NW Colorado Ave., which turns into SW Colorado Ave. after traffic circle. Take third exit onto SW Century Rd. Turn right on Skyline Ranch Rd. Course is on the right.

PHONE: 866-234-4848 (web site: tethrow.com)

OPENED: 2008 (Architect: David McLay Kidd)

GREEN FEES: Range from $99 to $175

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,298 yards (five tee positions)

LOWDOWN: This would be higher on the list but it’s semi-private. The public can play at certain times and days – at a higher rate. It’s worth it because there may not be a tougher test of golf in the Pacific Northwest.

The course, with the image of the Scottish highlands in mind, is up and down with tough bunkers, uneven lies, plenty of waste areas and lots of roll. It’s wonderfully maintained. Fore-caddies are part of the package and they are needed for direction, distance and local knowledge.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 17, par-3, 182 yards. You hit directly into a pumice rock quarry with a 2,500-square-foot green.

NO. 4 COURSE(S): PRONGHORN (NICKLAUS COURSE; FAZIO COURSE)

LOCATION: Bend, Or.

DIRECTIONS FROM BEND: Take Hwy 20 east and turn left on Powell Butte Hwy. Turn left onto Pronghorn Club Dr. Follow road to clubhouse. The resort is 18 miles from downtown Bend.

PHONE: 800-541-9424 (web site: pronghornclub.com)

OPENED: 2004 (Nicklaus course); 2006 (Fazio course)

GREEN FEES: Contact club for list of green fees, based on visitor or resort member

LAYOUT: (Nicklaus) Par 71, 7,460 yards (four tee positions); (Fazio) Par 71, 7,462 yards (four tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Like Tetherow, these courses also are semi-private, otherwise, they would be higher on the list. But the public can find ways to get on these courses, albeit at a higher rate.

You are at 3,200 feet above sea level so the ball will fly farther and roll longer. They are designed to play like desert courses. You’ll see lava rock and granite outcropping throughout the complex. Nine Snow-capped peaks are in the distance.

SIGNATURE HOLE: (Nicklaus) No. 8, par-5, 625 yards. You get no breaks here. Not only is it exceeding long, but there is water along most of the fairway to the hole. The smallish green is protected by water and traps in front right and behind. (Fazio) No. 18, par-5, 566 yards. What a finish. It’s a slight dogleg left on your tee shot before all the trouble starts. Water on the left side will be a factor on your second and/or third shot. The fairway narrows considerably as you approach the green, making accuracy paramount. There’s a long trap on the left, with water behind, and a small bunker on the right.

NO. 5 COURSE: ASPEN LAKES

LOCATION: Sisters, Or.

DIRECTIONS FROM BEND: Take Hwy 20 west to Hwy 126. Take a left at Camp Polk Dr. and right on Aspen Lakes Rd. It’s ends at the course.

PHONE: 541-549-4653 (web site: aspenlakes.com)

OPENED: 2000 (Architect: William Overdorf)

GREEN FEES: Range $45 to $75

LAYOUT: Par 72, 7,302 (three tee positions)

LOWDOWN: Beautiful layout, especially with the backdrop of the peaks all around. The designers took great pains to carve the course with care and consideration to the natural elements, including red cinders that make up the bunker material. The course is enrolled in the Audubon Signature Sanctuary Program.

When the course opened, it was recognized as one of the country’s Best New Affordable courses by Golf Digest. Brainstorm Magazine ranked Aspen Lakes second in the Northwest for Best Overall Experience.

SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 3, par-5, 606 yards. Success on this hole all depends on your tee shot. Too short and you end up behind trees on this dogleg left. Too long and you could be in the trees. There is a narrow fairway opening for your second shot but you then have to hit over a small creek. The green is protected by a series of bunkers on the left and water to the right.

- Bob Sherwin