Northwest Trip, Part 2: All Around Portland

Well, I am up in the Portland/Vancouver area this week and hope to squeeze in a couple rounds while here. For this post, I am grouping together the first few rounds to keep things easy and manageable…

The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club (North Course) • Aloha, OR • 10/24/15

I made it a point to get up here early and be sure to get in a round on the first morning. I set an 8:15 tee time through the course’s site because it was the same price on GolfNow (but without the booking fee). $65 with a cart I thought was somewhat reasonable for a Saturday morning. That’s on the higher end of the price spectrum for this area if you don’t count Pumpkin Ridge, but I’ve always heard The Reserve is one of the best complexes around and what I paid is the full weekend rack rate. So, figuring that’s as high as the price gets, it’s not bad. Also, walking is an option here ($49) and there were a lot of walkers out there because the courses are both set up well for it.

There are two courses at The Reserve: North and South. What’s interesting is that one course is generally reserved for member-only play while the other is open to the public. This time of year, they alternate every couple weeks. I played the North on Saturday, and I am hoping I might be able to squeeze in a round on the South before I leave town. It will be tight.

The days are shorter up here, so it really doesn’t get light until almost 8:00. I was in the fourth group out behind a couple of twosomes and a foursome of members. They all played fast, so myself and the twosome I was paired with really never had to wait beyond the first couple holes. The group behind never pushed at all either, so it was a nice relaxed four-hour pace. The guys I played with walked. Otherwise, it probably would have been much quicker for us.

What I may remember most about The Reserve is the conditions, which were excellent. Things were very wet and soggy in the morning and never really dried up during our round, but the grass was beautiful throughout the course. Things were very well kept and manicured from tee to green. Speaking of the greens, they were aerated very recently. I was aware of that when I booked the time because the alert was on Greenskeeper.org and on the course’s site when I booked the time. I knew I might not get ideal conditions, but most courses around here have punched within the last few weeks, so it’s just a nuisance I am expecting anywhere I play while here.

However, the practice green was immaculate and rolling well. I walked over to the 9th green while waiting to tee off to see how it compared and there appeared to be no evidence of aeration. I talked with the starter and he said they used a new machine with a new aeration prong this year. Apparently, it pushes the grass down and fills with sand rather than pulling the plugs and leaving the big holes. He said that the greens were back to normal within a few days!

The exceptional conditioning may outshine the North Course itself when I reflect back upon my experience at The Reserve. That said, it is a nice course with plenty to enjoy. Overall, it’s more of a modern prairie links design by Bob Cupp, reminiscent of some East Coast and Midwest courses I’ve played in recent years. Some of the more open holes blend together, but there are a few different ones mixed in to shake things up. There is a stretch of holes that plays along a marshy water hazards and a few holes that bring trees into play along the fairways. The South Course (designed by John Fought) definitely looks like it has more of a wooded overall look and I have a feeling I’ll like it more (at least aesthetically).

The Reserve complex has hosted some big golf events, including the Jeld-Wen Champions Tour tournament for a few years. The big clubhouse has a unique look and the facilities are fantastic all around. The staff was also super friendly.

The North Course does feature a good mix of hole lengths, with some longer ones that are more wide open off the tee and a couple really short ones where strategy really comes into play.

Maybe the most interesting feature is the three-headed green that connects holes 1, 8 and 17. It is really spread out and it looks like they are letting the grass that connects the 1st green grow in more so it won’t technically be connected anymore, so there isn’t a lot of overlap. It was just kind of a cool set up. I’ve seen plenty of double greens, but I can’t recall a triple green anywhere else.

Something else that caught my eye was the lack of sand traps throughout the course. It really wasn’t until the 10th hole when I realized it had no bunkers up by the green. Then, i started thinking back to consider that I hadn’t really seen but a few all day. The guys I played with told me that at some point, they removed a lot of bunkers on both courses to soften the challenge, improve pace of play and appease the members. It sounds like there used to be a lot more. Now, there are many grass bunkers and mounds with some shaggy fescue rough that still provide some trouble worth avoiding and complement the links look. There are also a number of water hazards in play, so the North Course is still far from a pushover.

I would highly recommend The Reserve to anyone and I hope I am able to check out the South Course soon. I am just scratching the surface for golf in this area, so I don’t have a lot to compare to, but it was a really good way to start my visit!

Some pictures from The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club (North Course) (10/24/15):

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With heavy rain on Sunday and family obligations on Monday, it wasn’t
until Tuesday before I could sneak back out for some golf. I took
advantage of it by playing 36 holes. It was the last decent-weather day
forecasted for the week, so I am not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze in
any other rounds before leaving.

Tuesday ended up being a great
day with two excellent courses played. The second one was a course I
expected to be nice, but the first one was a bit of a pleasant surprise…

Chehalem Glenn Golf Course • Newburg, OR • 10/27/15

As
I scoured tee time options Monday night, nothing was exciting me too
much. There were plenty of options available, but not a lot jumped out. I
did need to play more on the west side of Portland for convenience, so
that narrowed down the field somewhat. Of the courses I was looking at,
Chehalem Glenn looked fairly interesting and when I saw they had an 8:06
GolfNow “hot deal” for just $15, it ended up being an easy choice.

This
deal was just the walking price, but I actually didn’t mind. It was
cold in the morning, and I knew walking would help keep me warm. It was
unfortunate because when I arrived, there was a beautiful sunrise and
things looked to be clearing up. However, by the time I teed off, a
dense fog had rolled in and blanketed the course almost the entire
round. Needless to say, my pictures really won’t show much of what
turned out to be a beautiful course.

Though I had no intentions of
getting a cart, I did flirt with major temptation to try out the new
Golf Boards they have for rent at Chehalem Glenn. They are $25 to rent
and you do have to watch a 7-minute video and sign a waiver. This is
common practice anywhere they have them, so plan accordingly if you want
to rent one. With the fog and the wet/cold conditions, it just didn’t
seem like the right time to try a Golf Board out. You can be sure I will
get on one eventually, though!

The fog definitely put a damper on
the round, both literally and figuratively. I enjoyed the course a lot,
but I knew I would appreciate it even more if I could have seen it
better. I played along with another single and we went off second,
walking behind another twosome in a cart. The total pace was nice at
just under 3.5 hours. The guy I played with was a local and a regular
player here, so he told me a lot about this course.

It seems this
is a course that doesn’t get a ton of attention from locals. For one, it
is definitely a bit out of the way in Newburg. Also, it is a fairly
challenging layout and that keeps some people away. It is very hilly and
there are a number of tough forced carries to contend with. There are
many trees here, as well, but they don’t come into play a ton. There are
a handful of tighter holes on the back nine where the trees do factor
in more than on the front.

In an effort to soften up the course a
bit, several holes were recently altered. My playing partner walked me
through some of the changes. The most notable is the 12th hole, which
used to be a very tricky par-5 and is now a simpler par-4. I can
understand why this hole was not universally loved as there is a big
ravine cutting across the fairway. It was at an awkward distance that
made it difficult to navigate for both long, aggressive hitters wanting
to make it a two-shot hole and short, conservative hitters who were
faced with a difficult second shot. My playing partner didn’t care for
this change, but a guy I played with in my afternoon round said he likes
the hole way better now. So, it depends on who you talk to I suppose.

Though
challenging, I felt the course was mostly forgiving off the tee with
relatively wide fairway landing areas. There are bail-out areas around
most greens, so you have a reasonable chance to get up and down if you
miss on your approach. The forced carries and hazards throughout the
course undoubtedly provide the biggest elements of challenge, but I
never found anything so challenging enough to understand why locals
might hate this track.

In addition to being an amazing deal, the
course was in great shape. The tee boxes, fairways and rough were all
lush and green with consistent coverage throughout. The fairways seem to
drain well, so there weren’t many soggy/mushy spots. The greens were
soft and rolling smooth at medium speeds. They punched about a month ago
and are pretty much healed. The back nine greens showed more visual
remnants of the aeration than the front, but it didn’t affect anything.
The bunkers were mixed. There was a maintenance guy going around and
fluffing them up with the tractor, but he didn’t seem to be doing them
all. One I found was just firm and muddy. The other was damp, but good.

I
wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Chehalem Glenn to anyone. It’s a scenic
course that represents its Oregon setting well. The layout is fun and
challenging, but I felt like a good score can be achieved if you play
the right strategies and execute your shots.

Some pictures from Chehalem Glenn Golf Course (10/27/15):

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That’s what it looked like after I showed up. About 20 minutes later when I teed off, here is what it looked like:

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The
rest of my day ended up being free, so I wanted to take advantage of
the decent weather as the fog finally lifted. It was finally time to
play a course that’s always been high on my wish list for the Portland
area…

Langdon Farms Golf Club • Aurora, OR • 10/27/15

This
is a course I’ve always heard good things about and it clearly seemed
to be one of the top public options in this region. I actually wanted to
play here in the morning, but they didn’t have any tee times available
until 12:54. Luckily, a single spot in that time was still open when I
finished at Chehalem Glenn, so I gladly snatched it up.

The place
was rather busy when I showed up, but everything was running on time.
The price was $51 ($39 plus cart). I opted for the cart on this round
because I had already walked 18 holes. In retrospect, Langdon would have
been a much better choice for the walking round compared to the hilly
Chehalem Glenn. Oh well.

I was paired with a twosome and another
single. We teed off right on time and the starter had everyone moving
along well at the first tee. We waited on most shots during the round,
but everyone ahead kept pace and things went well. We finished in just
over four hours on a very busy day, so you can’t ask for much better
than that.

From what I knew about the course, I was expecting a
semi-linksy farmland kind of track, reminiscent of some Midwest courses
I’ve played. That is definitely the style at Langdon Farms for the most
part, but there was more to this course than I realized. It lived up to
the hype and probably exceeded my lofty expectations.

Langdon
Farms was designed by Bob Cupp and John Fought, but it’s clear they
pulled some inspiration from other designers and classic courses. I
definitely sensed some Pete Dye inspiration on numerous holes. There are
a couple railroad tie planked bunkers, stairs leading down into deep
bunkers and plenty of mounding in the rough that all reminded me of Dye.
The short par-4 4th hole felt very Dye-esque, as well.

Then, you
also have a few “tribute” elements mixed in. The short par-3 6th appears
to be Langdon’s own version of the postage stamp hole at Royal Troon,
with an anthill style green and no room for error on your tee shot. The
church pew bunkers between the 8th and 9th fairways are an obvious ode
to the famous set at Oakmont Country Club. I’m sure there are some other
subtle tributes at Langdon Farms that I missed, too.

They
definitely embrace the farm theme with a big red barn style clubhouse
and the chicken-topped weather vane as a logo that sits atop every tee
box marker. There is an old red barn that you drive through on your way
up to the 8th green. I thought these touches were nicely integrated
without feeling gimmicky.

A few holes play into some wooded areas
and there is nice landscaping throughout the property. It’s very pretty
and not something I expected. Overall, the aesthetic presentation of
this course is excellent. Even when you are struggling to score well,
it’s hard not to enjoy your surroundings. I will say the freeway noise
on a few holes is somewhat distracting, but that is only a minor issue
amongst all the good things happening at Langdon Farms.

To top it
all off, the course was in exceptional shape. The tee boxes were
excellent and the fairways were pretty much immaculate. The rough was
thick and lush. It was not super deep, but just penal enough to make you
work for a recovery. There are outer edges with thicker fescue rough
that you definitely want to avoid. The bunkers were fantastic. The
greens were just a couple weeks out of aeration, but recovering very
well. They were probably rolling a little slower than they usually do,
but they were not bumpy and should be completely back to normal soon
after I leave, especially with more rain about to come through town.

I
will probably end up remembering the positive overall presentation and
experience at Langdon Farms as much as the course itself. However, there
are many memorable holes and the layout presents a lot of diversity.
It’s forgiving off the tee with wide fairways, but if you miss a fairway
you will have a tough lie and awkward stance. The greens have ample
undulation and can be tricky to navigate. Overall, there’s a good
diversity in the hole designs and lengths, so you get to use every shot
in your bag. At times, it’s forgiving and at others, it is very
demanding.

To continue the farming thing, I would say Langdon
Farms is definitely the cream of the crop in this region. Personally, I
would probably still rank Pumpkin Ridge (Ghost Creek) on top, but that
course is rather expensive whereas Langdon is priced for regular people
to enjoy a top-notch golf experience. On the scorecards and on a big
sign as you drive into the parking lot, they proclaim “Public Only.” I
love that sentiment to position itself against stuffy private courses
while offering a course and amenities that can rival any club around.

So yes, if you can’t tell, I really liked Langdon Farms!

Some pictures from Langdon Farms Golf Club (10/27/15):

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