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Central Oregon Golf Trail – Fantastic golf, naturally

Crosswater Club

The views in Central Oregon are striking. The snow-capped peaks of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters are ever-present, glowing under the sun and contrasting against the Pine forest just below. Look in another direction, red-cinder volcanic outcroppings and Juniper forest accentuate the rugged High Desert landscape.

The majesty of the setting is almost enough that you might forget you’re playing golf. Almost.

But the Central Oregon Golf Trail is no ordinary destination. The famed course architects that have made their mark here — names like Cupp, Fazio, Fought, Jones, Kidd, and Nicklaus — made full use of the diverse gifts nature gave them. The result is a seemingly impossible collection of unforgettable course designs, each utilizing a unique landscape to create vastly different golf experiences.

This is particularly true in regard to Central Oregon’s three Golf Digest Top 100 courses — Pronghorn Club’s Nicklaus Course, Crosswater, and Tetherow. Putting them together on a single list, no matter how impressive, obscures a simple truth: Nowhere will you find three more celebrated golf courses with such divergent experiences within 20 minutes of one another.

Bob Cupp Jr.’s heathland-style work of art at Sunriver Resort’s Crosswater criss-crosses the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers so often that one or the other comes into play on almost every hole, while Mt. Bachelor seemingly looks over every shot.

Jack Nicklaus’ signature course at Pronghorn Club is altogether different. Set in the High Desert east of Bend, the Nicklaus Course is a perfectly manicured gem shaped by the land’s volcanic history and an ancient Juniper forest.

Fresh off his success at Bandon Dunes, David McLay Kidd pushed the design envelope with Tetherow. Just on the outskirts of Bend, where Kidd now lives, Tetherow is a fescue-carpeted masterpiece — the only links-style course in the region — with imposing bunkers, undulating fairways, dramatic elevation changes, and firm and fast conditions.

With 29 courses, memorable designs on the Central Oregon Golf Trail aren’t limited to those in the Top 100. Black Butte Ranch offers two beloved courses, each shaped by Aspens and Ponderosa pines. One of those, the John Fought-redesigned Glaze Meadow, was named the best renovation in the U.S. in 2012. From hidden gems like Juniper Golf Course in Redmond, to stunning settings like Aspen Lakes, to upscale destination experiences like Brasada, there is so much to explore.

Central Oregon’s off-course experience is a distinct part of its draw, too. Here, the Deschutes National Forest, alpine lakes, mountain peaks, and wild rivers foster an outdoor playground that attracts adventurists from all over the world.  Ski, snowboard, kayak, or cast a line by morning, tee it up by afternoon. By night, the culture, food, beer, and emerging wine scenes of Bend present another unforgettable experience. Or explore Central Oregon’s smaller communities — the resort experience of Sunriver, the Old West charm of Sisters and Black Butte Ranch, or the emerging culture of Redmond.

Whatever you choose, you come away with another simple truth: Central Oregon is a destination for the golfer who wants everything.