In the 19th century, settlers traveled in wagons along the Oregon Trail to fulfill the nation’s Manifest Destiny. Today, Oregon retains some of the rugged frontier spirit of these forebears. The diversity of its populace is mirrored by the state’s geography, as jagged, surf-pounded coasts yield to lush, rain-soaked mountain forests and hardscrabble southeastern deserts.
In the north, the grand Columbia River Gorge is a windsurfing mecca, and in winter, nearby Mount Hood’s volcanic slopes are blanketed with snow and skiers. On the state’s 363 miles of all-public coastline, dramatic cliffs give way to sandy dunes, lighthouses and charming seaside towns. The Willamette Valley, in the northwest, is the most populated and fertile terrain — oenophiles will have no difficulty filling an itinerary with stops at the increasingly prominent wineries, which produce spectacular vintages of Pinot Noir and other varietals. The city of Portland is bohemian, eco-friendly and cosmopolitan, with serious art and cuisine cultures.
Although Bandon Dunes Resort was shy of being included in our Collection, the golf experience rates a 99. The original Bandon Dunes is complemented by Pacific Dunes (the highest ranked of the five), Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald and, the latest addition, Sheep Ranch, which boasts a mile of ocean frontage. Each 18-hole track has its own clubhouse and restaurant. In addition, there is a short course, the 13-hole Bandon Preserve, which helps fund the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance, a conservation group on the southern coast of Oregon, and a wild putting course called the Punchbowl. A 30-acre practice center is also available. On a recent visit, the magnificent courses were exceptionally laid out and maintained; the staff were friendly and efficient; and the restaurants and pubs were extremely enjoyable. Book tee times well in advance, especially if you want to play the new Sheep Ranch course. The Oregon coast can be cool even in the summer, and is often foggy or rainy throughout the year. The period from September through mid-October usually enjoys the best weather, with stretches of sunny and windless days.
Central Oregon has so many golf courses that the city of Bend has been dubbed “the Palm Springs of the North.” Our favorites are the Crosswater course, with its bentgrass fairways threaded by the Deschutes and Little Deschutes rivers and, not-so-surprising, the highest-ranked track in the area, Jack Nicklaus’ Pronghorn Resort, which features steep canyons, as well as views of the Cascades from fairways lined by lava rocks and juniper trees. And since we thoroughly enjoy a good links course, Tetherow is now at the top of our list. Built in 2008, the course is both intimidating and thrilling — not unusal for a course designed by David McLay Kidd, whose other courses include the Castle Course at St. Andrews, Machrihanish Dunes in Scotland, and the original track at Bandon Dunes. Bend is also a remarkable vacation spot for hiking, biking and river rafting. The charming downtown has exceptional restaurants, shops and breweries. And not too far from Bend is the Willamette Valley, dotted with wineries featuring some of the best Pinot Noir in the country.