An Expert Guide to the 6 Best Public Golf Courses in Central OregonPublished on 06/16/2023 · 10 min readPlanning a golf trip to Central Oregon? Golf Expert Tyler Monroe has some suggestions about which courses you should check out.
Photo by Tyler Monroe
The Central Oregon landscape is as breathtaking as it gets in America. The snow-capped Cascades mountains dominate the scenery until months of progressing heat restore the green colors and release new seasons of outdoor activities. Sparkling blue sky days are plentiful and stretch the imagination of active possibilities from early morning to 9 pm, making 54 holes doable in one day, with 36 for mere mortals.
Weaving through miles of lava rock and ponderosa and juniper trees, 25 stunning, unique golf courses sit in and around Bend, Oregon, including Resort Courses and Golf Digest Top 100 Best Public Courses Pronghorn Resort's Jack Nicklaus Course, Sunriver Resort's Crosswater Club, and a David Mclay Kidd course at Tetherow Golf Club; historic private clubs like the Chandler Egan-designed Bend Golf Club; and a number of general publicly accessible tracks that are an absolute must-play. From Meadows Lakes Golf Course in surrounding Prineville to Pronghorn Golf Club and one of the best Fazio courses with gorgeous views of the Cascades to a Jay Morrish design in Broken Top and River's Edge Golf Course in the middle of Bend, there is a course that will test your game amongst incredible scenery. Even if you're an avid golfer but not up for a semi-private course or can't fit a 18-hole championship golf round into the schedule, the Old Back 9-hole course at Mountain High is a fantastic public course to test your golf swing and gear with golf carts available if you prefer.
Fortunately, as a PGA Professional and Assistant, teaching golf lessons and working at the top clubs in the Bend area, I have been afforded the ability to play a ton of great golf up here in Central Oregon, and Quail Run, Widgi Creek, Crooked River Ranch, Aspen Lakes, Sunriver Resort, and Juniper Golf Courses all are at the top of my favorites list.
1. Quail Run Golf Course: Secluded Golf Under Towering Tree Shade
- Location: La Pine, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 70.0
- Slope: 125
- Yardage: 6353
Every drive in the high desert of Central Oregon is a relaxing expose to future adventures, and the 25-mile journey south of Bend through national forest land to Quail Run Golf Course in La Pine is no exception. The nearby upper Deschutes River winds its way down to Sunriver Resort and Bend, bringing serious anglers to fly fish its renowned waters, and carved through towering ponderosa pines lives this gorgeous, well-maintained golf sanctuary.
Quail Run is the ultimate breath of fresh air as you play through forests devoid of any homes—like you're Lewis and Clarke pioneering through new, untapped challenges. Four sets of tees stretch your game from a 5400-yard experience to a 6400-yard test, and offer fair, short par 3s you can pin hunt on and open fairways that beckon the driver to swing through the ball with confidence. For an amazing golf hike through nature, where you can truly get away and be the ball, get out to Quail Run Golf Course.
2. Woodlands Golf Course: Family-Friendly Golf
- Location: Sunriver, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 70.5
- Slope: 136
- Yardage: 6010
Discussing top-quality, championship-caliber golf in Central Oregon can't be done without mentioning Sunriver Resort and the four award-winning golf courses on its property. Beyond the epic—private Crosswater Golf Club members enjoy and host the 2022 Oregon Open—Sunriver is home to some of the greatest courses in Central Oregon. Resort guests have access to each of them, and there is a different course for whatever mood of golf you are in. Whether overlooking acres of wetlands and the meandering Deschutes River at the Meadows Golf Course (designed by architect John Fought), avoiding treacherous ponderosa and lodgepole pine trees at the Woodlands Golf Course, or looking to get a quick 9 in on a GolfBoard at Caldera Links, a varied and fantastic few weeks of golf await anyone looking for fun in the sun.
The Woodlands Golf Course, designed by Robert Trent Jones, features an abundance of water hazards to be wary of, lava rock outcroppings that when hit send golf balls to far-off destinations, and every fairway is lined with massive trees to penalize those errant tee shots. With a top-notch pro shop, practice facility, driving range, and an 18-hole putting course, your game will be on point and ready for your tee time. Like most Central Oregon golf, the Woodlands Golf Course exemplifies the contrasting beauty of blues, greens, and browns that become even more stunning with the white dot of a golf ball traveling unabated to the center of the green.
3. Widgi Creek Golf Club: In the Heart of It All
- Location: Bend, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 66.6
- Slope: 117
- Yardage: 5878
Climbing a few miles out of the center of Bend, towards the mighty Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, you will discover Widgi Creek Golf Club. A local favorite, this manicured, semi-private golf course has won numerous awards and has been reviewed annually by Golf Digest as one of Central Oregon’s “Best Places to Play.” Narrow fairways meandering through the trees both off the tee and through the green test your course management and shot shaping abilities, while undulating and expansive green complexes further defend par. Multiple tee locations, pushing yardages from 5,000 to 6,900 yards, offer a few distance possibilities, and like many Central Oregon golf courses, trees that are NOT mostly air will have you pitching back to the fairway if your shots start getting crooked.
4. Crooked River Ranch Golf Course: History in the Making
- Location: Terrebonne, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 71
- Rating: 64.6
- Slope: 103
- Yardage: 5355
Thirty miles north of downtown Bend, down in elevation and in a much different natural setting, lies Crooked River Ranch, a top-notch golf experience for golfers of all skill levels. In stark contrast to the browns and earth tones, ancient lava rock ridges, and cliffs etched away through time by raging forces of snowmelt, illuminated green fairways direct ball flights through amazing canyon terrain.
The Bunny Mason/Jim Ramey par 71 design with each 9 built two decades apart is a shorter course at 5800 yards from the back tees, though is still a fun challenge for many golfers. Two drivable par 4s and reachable par 5s in two by decent ball-strikers test your level of risk and make it the perfect scramble track for your group to take the glory from the field. The signature 5th hole can be reached cutting the canyon with a 221-yard shot, and with expansive views of the wide fairways below, your next few hours can be mapped from the tee box. The newer back 9 adds to the spectacular views as the deepest gorge in Central Oregon dwarfs any golf ball flight, and waterfalls and lakes attempt to torment the scoring. As golf is about the experience, Crooked River Ranch continues to be one of the most fun golf destinations in Central Oregon.
5. Aspen Lakes Golf Course: Adding Red to the Canvas
- Location: Sisters, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 71.9
- Slope: 131
- Yardage: 6535
Just outside great shopping in Sisters, 30 minutes west of Bend, nestled in the hillside, in the backdrop of the Three Sisters Mountains, you will discover Aspen Lakes Golf Course. Family-owned and run, this traditional-style, tree-lined, beautifully maintained golf course is a testament to all that is great about Central Oregon golf.
Distance is key, though tee shots are open and manageable with the driver and bring out the amazing fun of watching a great drive split towering pine trees like they were simply framing your aggressive, controlling authority over the ball flight. Using crushed red cinders, while developing the second 9 in 1999, as bunker sand gives the course a unique red hue surrounding bent grass green complexes and provides a different challenge as the sand is heavier than typical beach sand used in sand bunkers. Fairway undulation, slight elevation changes, ponds, and larger water features also play into your ability to successfully manage the golf course, making Aspen Lakes an all-around great test for your golf game. Add in the standard mountain views of Central Oregon golf, and you have another top-quality, affordable, public golf course to write down on the list.
6. Juniper Golf Course: Basecamp for Golfers
- Location: Redmond, Oregon
- Holes: 18
- Par: 72
- Rating: 71.1
- Slope: 126
- Yardage: 6653
A short drive north of Bend, next to the regional airport in Redmond, sits an incredible championship course, Juniper Golf Course. Developed in 2005 and the host of multiple Oregon Opens, with 7 sets of tees condensing the course from 7200 yards to 5500 yards, this impeccably manicured golf course rightfully boasts being one of the best golf courses in the area. Using doglegs moving in either direction and juniper trees and unique lava rock outcroppings to further penalize errant shots, Juniper Golf Course has many players grabbing a pint of local beer and scratching their heads post-round as to why it got the better of them.
Panoramic views of local mountains Mt. Bachelor and Three Sisters to Mt. Hood hundreds of miles away can be called a distraction. However, some of the fastest, smoothest greens in the area are likely more the culprit, as even shorter holes you feel you can attack are a sneaky test. Take nothing for granted, position yourself for the best approach angles, and prep your short game for a creative challenge at this wonderful, gorgeous golf track. Well-maintained practice facilities along with an excellent teaching staff put on informative clinics, and a relaxing clubhouse with stunning views make Juniper Golf Course another ideal choice to play in Central Oregon.
A Golf Trail You Will Never Forget!
Oregon is quickly becoming one of the top states to visit for exceptional public golf. From world-class golf courses to check off the bucket list (like Old Macdonald, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails, and a new course in Sheep Ranch at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean) to classics (like Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club or Eugene Country Club), and the many challenging championship courses in Central Oregon, Oregon was put on the map for accessible golf for anyone who wants to challenge their games in some of the most amazing natural settings you will find. Exceptional courses like Running Y Ranch Resort near Klamath Falls, Tokatee Golf Club outside of Eugene, and Bandon Crossings in Bandon—among many others—further dot the landscape providing plenty of fun tracks to play with amazing privacy and course features.
East of Eugene and Portland and the monolithic Cascade Mountain Range, boasting 300 days of sunshine a year, a dry climate, and a ton of other activities to add to your golf day—from riding trails, fly fishing, and kayaking, to skiing, snowboarding, and much much more—Central Oregon offers a 10-month golf season, with excellent shoulder season golf in September and often October showcasing some of the finest golf courses in the Pacific Northwest.
Whether staying at five-star resorts and spas like Brasada Ranch weaving through the Brasada Canyons, Eagle Crest Resort, or Black Butte Ranch with a fitness center, tennis courts, massage rooms, and all the amenities you need, top-notch Central Oregon lodging, or in a beautiful vacation rental, you will quickly discover Central Oregon is a fun destination for golf and every “ing” activity under the sun, with craft beer and fine dining to refuel after an amazing day. Each winter, as Mt. Bachelor beckons the snow sports community, golfers relish in the knowledge that snow-packed mountains will once again ensure miles of immaculate, lush fairways stripe the landscape through the rest of the year. Picking your golfing experience in Central Oregon is as unique as it gets in any golfer’s paradise—there is truly something different to see and play each time you tee it up.
If you have any questions on gearing up for your next trip out, please feel free to reach out to me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated for free advice and recommendations.