Nothing causes more disagreement or debate than a “top 10” list with the subject being something about which many people are very passionate. And as sure as there is a great number of golfers in Oregon, there are very nearly as many opinions about the state’s “top 10” courses. Fortunately for golfers in Oregon, there are enough great courses to merit debate. Whether you prefer coastal golf, valley golf, mountain golf, desert golf, award-winning golf, inexpensive golf, exclusive golf, or hidden golf, Oregon can provide it. Narrowing all of Oregon’s diverse golf to a ten best is a tall task, so we’ll start with the top five this time and provide the other five next time around, but let’s have a go, starting with the best.
1. Bandon Dunes, Bandon By The Sea. Yes, Pacific Dunes may top most lists, but Bandon Dunes was first, and that counts for something. When comparing Pacific Dunes with Bandon Dunes, well, it’s next to impossible. You can give credit to Pacific Dunes designer Tom Doak for doing it differently or you can give credit to Bandon Dunes designer David McClay Kidd for throwing the gauntlet down. It all started at Bandon Dunes.
2. Crosswater, Sunriver, OR. Sure, the number two course is supposed to be one of the other brilliant designs at the Bandon complex. Before Bandon came along, though, it was Crosswater that you had to play in Oregon. And now that the greens have been entirely rebuilt and the course gradually changed over the years, it’s a must-play again, fully living up to its previous legend. From the views to the world-class greens to the amazing fairway condition, you have to play Crosswater; it’s worth its own trip.
3. Pronghorn, Fazio Course, Bend, OR. It’s hard not to put this at number one. In fact, it’s difficult while playing the Fazio course at Pronghorn to not look around and ask yourself, “have I really ever played a better course than this?” Sorry, this one’s private. You’re going to need to find a member or become one. Either effort is well worth it…promise.
4. Tokatee, McKenzie River, OR. For some, this course would count as “hidden golf,” but to Oregon golfers in the know, this is Tokatee, and it doesn’t get much better in golf. A gem hidden along the McKenzie River, Tokatee is unlike any other course you have ever played. “Everyone Welcome” reads the sign and they mean it. World-class greens in a picturesque mountain setting at municipal course rates. You haven’t golfed in Oregon until you’ve played at Tokatee. And then once you have, you know why.
5. Tetherow, Bend, OR. Central Oregon’s golf reputation stands for good reason. David McClay Kidd’s Bend, OR design utilizes the 700+ acres of the Awbrey Hall Fire site (1991) to create a links-style golf experience that highlights big mountain views and a golf course unlike anything else in Central Oregon. The tightly-mown fairways and challenging greens demand skill from golfers to score; it’s a very difficult course. The beautiful landscape and mountain views, however, allow for a constant appreciation of Kidd’s idea of Central Oregon golf.
6. Old McDonald, Bandon By The Sea, OR – Well, it’s hard not to have a look at another Bandon course in any list of the ten best in Oregon. And while it may be easy to think of Pacific Dunes, an amazing course, we can’t ignore the scenic, adventurous challenge of Old McDonald. Different from Bandon’s other courses, Old McDonald still provides the ocean air and views that remind you where you’re at, but even when you know where you are, you’ll still be thinking of Scotland. Old McDonald is where the slogan is hammered home…”Golf as it was meant to be.”
7. Running Y, Klamath Falls, OR. This is Oregon’s only Arnold Palmer designed course, set on the perimeter of the forested surrounds of the beautiful Klamath basin. While far away from most everything else happening in Oregon, Running Y offers a great golf challenge, a relaxing Oregon resort experience, and a different golf flavor than most people expect in Oregon, all in a remote, picturesque setting.
8. Bandon Trails, Bandon By The Sea, OR. – The third course built in the rotation at the Bandon complex, Bandon Trails is a reminder that Bandon isn’t only amazing because of its ocean front setting. Bandon Trails winds its way through the coastal trees, meandering away from the coast, mostly, to explore the dense thickets of coastal vegetation that line this very challenging track. If Tolkien had golfed, and set his story on a golf course, it would have to look something like Bandon Trails. Don’t focus on your score here, because you’re going to be challenged…and sometimes even a little baffled.
9. Salishan, Gleneden Beach, OR. – Salishan is a throwback course to the time just before modern golf discovered Oregon, before the Bandons and Crosswaters and such changed the expectation level, the groundskeeping standards, the feel, of Oregon golf. Oregon has become a golf mecca of sorts, recognized around the golfing world, but before it became all of that, before the glamor, there was little Salishan, tucked away in the trees on the coast. Challenging any golfer from the appropriate set of tees, Salishan is a forgotten gem to many, combining beautiful coastal views with the challenge of tree-lined fairways. We certainly hesitate to call any course in Oregon overrated, but Salishan has to be considered underrated at this point.
10. Eagle Point, Eagle Point, OR. – You’ve played finer tracks than Eagle Point. You’ve played less expensive tracks than Eagle Point. Have you ever played a finer track than Eagle Point at a similar price? Probably not. Lush, green, and challenging, but still scorable, Eagle Point stands out because of its value, its beauty, and its convenience. Convenience? Well, yes, convenience. You’re going to have to make a golf pitstop between Bandon and Central Oregon (or vice versa) and the best route is going to take you right by Eagle Point. Go ahead and play it and you’ll see exactly why it’s on this list.