Central Oregon, Part 1: A Long Drive with Endless Rewards

Well, I guess I lied when I posted last night about not being able to update my blog from the road the next few days. That may still hold true after today, but I got a very quick early morning round in today and have a few hours to spare before my late afternoon round here in Bend.

It started yesterday with a very long drive up from Southern California all the way to Bend (about 13 hours, give or take). Of course, I stopped along the way for some golf…

The Running Y Ranch • Klamath Falls, OR • 6/29/13

This is a course I’ve always been dying to play. Though my hometown is only about 3 hours from here, it’s still just far enough out of the way that I kept skipping over it in favor of more convenient options. There isn’t much other reason for me to go to Klamath Falls (about 2.5 hours due south of Bend and an hour or so east of Medford), so this was the perfect opportunity to finally check The Running Y Ranch out on the way to Bend.

I had booked a 3:10 time on GolfNow for $46, which is a great rate for this course and I knew I’d have no problem finishing at that time. With warm weather forecasted all weekend, I didn’t expect it to be too crowded that late in the afternoon. It wasn’t. I joined up with another single (a guy from Seattle on his way to Tahoe, making the opposite trek). We were stuck behind a slow threesome and a slower foursome for awhile, but they ultimately let us through on the back nine and we enjoyed a 3.5-hour pace on a beautiful day. It was warm (high 80s), but breezy and felt great.

Klamath Falls is a pretty blue collar logging town with lots of recreation, but The Running Y Ranch resort is a bit out of place here it seems. It is a fairly good sized property and everything seems top-notch there. The golf course holds distinction as the only Arnold Palmer design in all of Oregon. Over recent years, I’ve come to enjoy his style at desert courses like Classic Club and SilverRock.

Running Y definitely carries through Arnie’s signature design elements. It’s very aesthetically pleasing. He really knows how to use the landscape and nice visual touches to create a great looking layout. And like most of his designs, it’s a very “flexible” layout, meaning it can be enjoyed by the casual resort golfer (older couples, kids, high handicappers), but also offers enough challenge for low handicappers. I like to say it’s as hard as you want to make it.

In other words, aggressive players can take advantage of a lot of risk/reward opportunities. The word “risk” is important there because there’s not a lot of margin for error if you take really aggressive lines. On the other hand, more conservative players like myself can still post good scores by taking advantage of some generous landing areas and bail-out spots in front of and around the large greens.

The greens here are the trickiest element. They are very difficult to read and the fall-line windows seem really narrow. Aim a bit too much on the high side and it just won’t break. Aim on the line you think is right and it will dive-bomb under the hole at the very last second. We had so many lipped out putts between us it was comical after awhile.

There are five sets of tees. Most guys will choose between the whites (5,976 yards), greens (6,581) and the Palmer golds (7,138). We played the whites and both agreed that was a bit too short. However, the greens seemed a tad too long after we both were stiff after just getting out of our cars. I think a combo set here would be a nice idea. That said, there is some elevation here and thinner/dryer air, so you tend to get a little extra distance. In retrospect, I think the greens would have been fine and played more like the 6,300 range I generally prefer.

The course winds its way through a nice secluded property with some holes being lined by homes and resort lodges. About half of the holes play in a little wetlands valley with a lot of long native grasses, water hazards and mounding to create a semi-links feel. Then, the other half of the holes play in more wooded areas. These bring in a few elevation changes (and some tighter angles).

The course starts with the wetlands holes for the first half of the front nine, then the second half finishes with the woodsy ones, culminating in the really fun 9th hole that has an elevated tee and plays straight down the hill–easily drivable for longer hitters. Then the first few holes and last few holes on the back nine are more wetlands links while the middle section is in the woods. It’s a nice mix the way it’s set up.

As for conditions, all I can say is stellar. These may be the nicest greens I’ve ever putted on. They were pretty receptive on approaches and you could get good bite on chips, yet so amazingly smooth on top–true as true can be. I was blown away how the ball just kind of glided across the surface effortlessly. The best analogy I can make is it’s almost like an air hockey table.

The fairways were immaculate, as well. The bunkers were great. There were only a couple negatives. One is the rough, which is mostly great with consistent lush grass coverage. It is not deep, but it is so thick and sticky it really makes you work. However, they are having a serious ground squirrel epidemic it seems, so there were all sorts of holes and patchy areas because of that. Nothing you notice until you get up close, though, but definitely an issue they can hopefully solve before it gets worse. Also, some of the fringe collars around the greens looked a little burnt out, but otherwise the course is in gorgeous condition!

The Running Y Ranch was worth every second of the wait and exceeded my lofty expectations on all levels. I just wish I had more excuses to come to Klamath Falls, so I could play this gem more often. If you are driving through the area, do yourself a favor and stop here. You won’t regret it.

Some pictures from The Running Y Ranch (6/29/13):

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

This morning, I finally broke the seal on my Bend golf wish list. This is a place I’ve dreamed about coming to for years, but it never quite worked out until now. Though this is my first visit to this high desert part of Central Oregon, I can guarantee it will not be my last. I am falling in love already!

Widgi Creek Golf Club • Bend, OR • 6/30/13

This was just my “warm-up” round for the trip which features a couple of premier resort courses later today and tomorrow morning. I didn’t really set any expectations, but man was I impressed with this place that’s considered one of the “average” tracks up here.

A friend of mine had told me this was a good option to mix in as an affordable round amongst the more expensive resort courses. They had an early bird time on GolfNow (7:09 for $49), so I snatched that up. The rates go up to $75 or so mid-morning, but that’s still a reasonable deal for the quality of golf you get at Widgi Creek. They have good early bird rates here and also good afternoon deals. I saw a sign for unlimited play after 1:00 for only $49. I think early morning and evening would be the best times to play here anyway. With all the trees, it makes the course more beautiful with all the shadows in play–even though it’s a bit harsher when trying to take pictures.

Widgi Creek is a fun name to say, but the course is even more fun to play. This is my kind of track. There aren’t any major elevation changes or dramatic views on the course, but the setting is so nice in a heavily wooded area not far from downtown Bend near the Deschutes River. Though in a residential community and near a couple of relatively busy streets, it’s still a nice secluded setting that is so peaceful–especially for an early morning round.

They let me go off by myself as the first one out. I teed off a little before 7:00 and was finished by 9:00, thus giving me ample time to write this post this morning.

This is just a good solid forest style layout. There are some very tight holes, some tricky doglegs, but also a few short and forgiving holes where you can take advantage of scoring opportunities. There aren’t really any holes that jump out to me in my memory, but I found myself smiling all morning just loving that fresh pine scent and enjoying a picture-perfect morning on a fantastic course. It really suited my eye on all levels.

And like Running Y yesterday, I was treated to pretty much immaculate conditions. The rough here did have a few patchy areas, but overall was nicer without the ground squirrel infestation. Otherwise, the tee boxes and fairways were downright perfect and the greens were just as nice as yesterday. I am really overwhelmed by the greens around here so far. Maybe it’s because I just played some of the worst greens in the country recently in Alaska, but these are incredible by any standards. I cannot begin to describe how absolutely perfect and smooth they are.

Widgi Creek is an excellent option in the Bend area. It’s the first course I’ve played here, so I can’t make any direct comparisons yet. All I can say is, if other courses here are significantly better than this as advertised/priced, I will not know what to do with myself. I’m in for one hell of a golf weekend!

Some pictures from Widgi Creek Golf Club (6/30/13):

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: