Bend in the Road

Discover Bend, Oregon

Some climates, terrains, topographies and backgrounds are obviously better suited to golf than others. The Fife coastline, Sonoran Desert, Melbourne Sandbelt, and yes the Rocky Mountains give us more memorable golf than what you find in flatland suburbia. The well-traveled golfer has been fortunate to tee it up in most of these landscapes, ticking boxes and enriching his experience of the game as he goes.

His “education” will not be fully complete, however, until he visits Central Oregon’s high desert, which, because it sees 15 inches of rain a year, isn’t actually a desert at all but rather a semi-arid steppe. At an average elevation of 4,000ft above sea level it isn’t particularly high either, not to a mile-higher anyway.

However you classify the region though, there’s no doubt the sandy soils, sparse stunted vegetation, nearby snow-topped Cascade Mountains, and nearly 300 days of annual sunshine, combine to give you ideal golfing conditions.

Bend, a town of about 80,000 on the Deschutes River, is a little more than 20 miles from Mt. Bachelor and the nucleus of a golf trip to Central Oregon. Within 25 scenic miles of its attractive downtown area (where you’ll find a dozen brewpubs and micro-breweries), including Worthy Brewing which officially opened last week) there are 25 courses, about 15 of which would grace just about any golf trip and are certainly worth the 1,147-mile drive from Denver (or four-hour flight connecting in Salt Lake City or Portland). Six or seven of them might even make it on to your own personal Top 100.

Image: Pronghorn, a Jack Nickalaus design

Jack Nicklaus’s course at Pronghorn gets a lot of people’s vote for his best design outside of Muirfield Village; Glaze Meadows at Black Butte Ranch was brilliantly redesigned by John Fought and re-opened last year; Crosswater at Sunriver has been a Central Oregon favorite since it opened in 1995, and the splendid David McLay Kidd-designed Tetherow is all the better for having been softened shortly after opening in July 2008.

Image: Tetherow, designed by David McLay Kidd

Then there’s Brasada Ranch, a spectacular Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy course half an hour northeast of Bend, Aspen Lakes whose red volcanic sand bunkers give the course its unmistakable signature, and Juniper a wonderful hike through the scrubland adjacent to Redmond Airport and created by John Harbottle who tragically passed away last year.

Spring and summer are fine times to be heading to Bend but early fall, i.e. September, may be the best of all with an average high of 72 degrees and 10.4 hours of sunshine every day. And you can mix a great golf trip with a little friendly competition by entering the five-day Lithia Pacific Amateur Golf Classic to be played at Sunriver, Black Butte Ranch, Lost Tracks and Quail Run with the finals at Crosswater.

From Denver, Bend is roughly eight-tenths of the way to Bandon Dunes as the car drives. But don’t treat it as a stop-off en route to Keiser’s Kingdom on the coast. It’s quite a sizeable detour for one, and two, it absolutely warrants a trip all to itself. Find out more at