For great desert golf, head to...Bend and central Oregon?
After just a few days in Oregon driving between Portland, Sisters and Bend, I feel like I’ve already visited three different golf destinations - and I haven’t even been to Bandon Dunes on the Pacific coast yet. Courses twenty minutes apart from each other are in their own micro climates. If I’m driving tomorrow and a left turn runs me smack dab into a flock of penguins camped out around an oasis of palm trees, I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. I’ve already seen roadside sheep and llamas.
I was especially surprised to discover Oregon even has a desert climate in Bend, set in the foothills of the Cascade mountains at an elevation of just over 3,000 feet. This part of the state sees just about ten inches of rain a year, shedding that “rainy northwest” assumption those of us who have never been like myself always had.
Members at Pronghorn Golf Club in Bend say they have little need to check the forecast in the summer, as they play for three months straight and have blue skies daily. In the remaining months, clouds may partially block views of the Sisters Mountains in the distance, but there is still little snow or rain. Course officials tell me there were maybe five days this winter where the two courses were closed due to snow. For golfers in Bend, lip balm is a more important accessory than rain gloves.
But that’s hardly typical of Oregon. Driving from rainy Portland in the north south towards Bend, I’ve passed through snow drifts on the Santiam Pass, played through pine forests at Aspen Lakes, only to head another 45 minutes to Bend, where Pronghorn and the dry desert await. I have no idea what to expect when I head to my next courses in Sunriver and Eugene, though I have a hunch they’re different too.
So in the “rainy” northwest, my rain gear hasn’t made it out of my golf bag yet, and as long as I’m in the Bend desert I may as well leave it in the car - until I get to Bandon of course, where the forecast for next week changes every time I look at it. For those planning that dream Bandon Dunes links trip, it makes perfect sense to book a few rounds in the Bend desert to be assured sunny skies, especially if you’re going in the riskier off or shoulder season.
Stay tuned to WorldGolf.com for plenty more on Oregon golf’s many different faces.
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