Oregon’s Quaint Older Golf Resorts
Most avid golfers, at least in the western United States, are aware of the big resort courses in Bandon and Bend, Oregon. They were well-marketed, made a big splash, even in the tournament business, and draw the well-to-do clientele from the golfing world. But what about the golfer (and golfing family) who doesn’t need to win the British Open, and doesn’t need to slay the most difficult golf course dragons around, but just wants to have a good time? Take a vacation to the Oregon coast, consider the slightly older resorts, and look at some courses best described as, “quaint.” As an aside, learn to deal with nature in an entirely different way.
If you are still somewhat of a connoisseur, you may want to begin at the Salishan Lodge in Siletz Bay, just south of Lincoln City. I have never played this course, but I’ve seen it. Decades ago, my almost scratch brother played it, and told me that he thought it was quite difficult. Visually, it’s attractive on both sides of Highway 101. No Northwest coast golf course is going to give you too many flat holes, so expect some good slopes from the coastal range. Bunkers have an “I dare you” attitude, and fairways aren’t so large that a bad drive will be accommodated. Built in ’65, Salishan Resort is a year-round, 18 hole course of 5,389 yards from the whites. – par 73. Officially, it’s in Gleneden Beach, and green fees are between 90-110. The course rating (number close to par – a “difficulty” rating for a scratch) is 72.3. The slope rating (difficulty for a bogey golfer) is 128 – ouch.
The Chinook Winds at Devil’s Lake, an 18 hole course built in 1926, better serves golf’s less self-aware mind. Until a few years ago, it was a dandelion field with greens, and you could pay to go whack some of the tall grass out. Today, it’s looking pretty spiffy, but the published photos all show flat holes. Maybe there are some, somewhere, but from my childhood memories, it’s a mountain goat course, not to be walked – also a very pretty piece of acreage. From the blues, it’s a par 65 at 4,639 yards. The course rating is 62.4 and the “bogey” rating, 109. It helps if one leg is significantly shorter than the other.
Down in Newport, Agate Beach has always been a crisp, well-put-together nine-hole course. Built in 1931, it plays at 3,002 yards from the whites, par 36. Green fees are $18 for nine, and the café is homey with good food. Even at the modest prices, it still feels like a real course, well-maintained, well-designed on beautiful forest land.
OK, here’s the place to go if golf’s a hoot, and you just want to swing away. This course is way too much fun, and I can’t even tell you why. Neskowin Marsh Golf Course (power word: Marsh) is a nine hole course built in 1932. I grew up playing it in the summers. Flooded most of the year, it has scratchy fairways and odd lies, but you’ll feel as if the game was just invented, and that we hadn’t gone all modern yet. You score the stew out of this course, or it can kill you, depending on your drive. You can drive two par 4s if you do it just right, or score an easy 12. There are so many possibilities that playing the same nine twice, you won’t even recognize them as being the same. The 7th is an utterly cool tee box atop a forested hill (back then, we thought it was Mt. Everest.) Launch a wedge or nine iron as high as you can, and see if you can drop it vertically into the cup (back then, it was a driver or 3 wood). A 9 hole, 2,591 yard par 35, the course has a 33.8 rating and a slope rating of 110. It’s a whacko little place, but I could play it a thousand times without getting tired of it. Come play at Neskowin? My answer is always yes, and I don’t know why that’s true, either.
Have a wonderful vacation in this forty mile stretch between Neskowin and Newport - and don’t wait for the wind to die down or the rain to stop. They’re part of the course.