Trip Dispatch: Great golf is always around the bend in Central Oregon

By Brandon TuckerMay 8, 2013, 1:39 am

Click here for part one of Brandon Tucker's golf trip to Oregon in Portland and the Columbia River Gorge. 

BEND, Ore. -- On a clear day, you can see the 11,200-foot-high Mt. Hood from what seems like practically anywhere in Oregon. In order to make the trip from the Columbia River Gorge to the golf-loaded central region, I'd have to drive the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway: a winding, two-lane road that ducks through forest curves around the volcano. It eventually emerges along the Deschutes River, which heads past Redmond into Bend, the heart of this outdoor mecca home to 30-plus golf courses. 

Central Oregon is the perfect antithesis to Bandon Dunes: while Bandon's weather is infamously unpredictable, central Oregon's dry, sunny climate yields a long golf season and optimum conditions, not to mention a cycling, hiking and skiing-mad populous that's about as outdoorsy as anywhere. The area has numerous courses that warrant Top 100 consideration, and each is totally different from one another in landscape and design: Pronghorn's Nicklaus and Fazio courses, Crosswater at Sunriver, Brasada Canyons and Tetherow Golf Club. 

Day 4: 36 holes at the Lodge at Eagle Crest

Eagle Crest

The Ridge Course at Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond. 

As good as the top shelf is, Central Oregon's middle class golf scene has a steady roster of affordable courses that pack a punch for a little less cash. In the smaller, working town of Redmond just north of Bend, you'll find a sleeper pick for a fantastic golf-til-you-drop resort, the Lodge at Eagle Crest. Here, there are two wonderfully walkable, full-length 18 hole courses, the Ridge and the Resort. I played the Ridge, which features gorgeous holes hugging Juniper-dotted foothills that offers long views of the Cascades. It's a beautifully playable yet challenging course that epitomizes 'fun-for-all' resort golf. 

In addition to these two full-length courses, Eagle Crest features the par-63, 4,160-yard Challenge Course that I found to be the perfect three-hour round to help iron out some kinks in my game. There's also an 18-hole grass putting course, not to mention all sorts of other outdoor activities here the whole family can enjoy if you need away from the sticks. Unfortunately, my itinerary didn't have the time for a mountain bike excursion like my last trip here; duty called down in Bend: 36 holes on my final day.

Day 5: Widgi Creek and Brasada Canyons

Brasada Canyons

Brasada Canyons: one of Central Oregon's newest standouts.

Just up the road from Tetherow on the road to Mt. Bachelor is one of Bend's affordable mainstays for over 20 years now, Widgi Creek Golf Club (summer rates: $49-75). Play someone who has a season pass at Widgi Creek and chances are they know how to hit a reliable tee ball. Tall pines line every hole, making the Robert Muir Graves design one of Bend's toughest tests, particularly off the tee. The pines also make for a shady, peaceful round entirely different from what the more high profile Tetherow offers just a mile away, and from the par-3 16th tee you can see the Deschutes River Canyon tumbling well below. Hopefully by the 18th you've honed your driver, because the finisher begs for you to take a rip at the green just over 300 yards away, but trouble lurks everywhere. 

For my last round of the trip, I had to see a course that's received loads of buzz in recent years. Having stay-and-played at Pronghorn twice already, i drove past it and out to Brasada Ranch, an isolated former ranch set on slopes of Powell Butte overlooking the valley below. I stayed in a suite, but guests can rent out full cabins or groups can even take over the entire ranch. 

The course, Brasada Canyons, is an absolute joy. A recurring theme on this Peter Jacobsen design is cart paths that wind uphill between green and tee. The result is lots of elevated tee boxes played to spacious fairways, plus greens with surreal settings with either long views or mountain backdrops. Despite playing most of the round from the 6,500-yard black tees, I couldn't help but let it rip from the signature Jacobsen tees on a few holes whose views were simply too appetizing. 

So is Brasada better than the Top 100-rated Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn? That's hard to say (Pronghorn is my favorite Nicklaus course I've played thus far), but Brasada's terrain and scenery is more varied to the lower-lying juniper forest at Pronghorn. Either resort is a more than fitting climax to a golf trip in Oregon. 

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.