Every year, seven of my buddies from college get together and embark on an annual golf adventure.  We’ve visited  Eastern Washington, Idaho, the Washington peninsula and Bend, Oregon.  This year we headed back to Bend.  However, this time we decided to step it up a notch and play two highly acclaimed courses in the area: Pronghorn and Tetherow.  


We actually stayed at Tetherow, which recently built a lodge to house their golf guests. 


The plan is always the same every year: we play 18 holes on Thursday  followed by 36 on Friday and 36 on Saturday.  


Our trip started with 18 at Pronghorn, which is located around 30 minutes outside of downtown Bend.  Pronghorn is truly a golf resort in which you are no doubt staying on the grounds for your whole stay. 


There are two courses located at Pronghorn: the Jack Nicklaus signature course (public) and the Tom Fazio championship course (private).  We obviously played the Nicklaus course. 


We played from the Rust tee box which is 6,533 yard par 71 and has a slope of 143.  The yardage may be a little short for some, but we found that to be the exact right distance based on the difficulty of the course. 


I came in thinking the course would be an open type links course, however, it was definitely not that.  It had elements of that style, as it was firm and fast on some holes and it was a course that was not dominated by trees, of which we are accustomed to in Washington. 


The Jack Nicklaus course had more of a Desert Canyon feel to it but nicer and more difficult.  It was very much a target golf course due to the number of waste areas you needed to clear off the tee. But, I found that the fairways were not all that difficult to reach or challenging.  What we were surprised to find was that the fairways were awfully lush and soft - you were not getting much of a roll on your shots, which was surprising.  With that said  the greens were exceptional and receptive to your approach shots and allowed you to attack the pin without fear of the ball skipping off the green. 


As for as my favorite hole on the course I’d say it was the Par 5 number-8. From the Rust tee box it plays at 589 yards. From the tips it’s 625 yards. It’s no doubt one of the more challenging par-5’s I’ve ever played, you need to be able to clear a fairway bunker at the 235 mark.  Then on the right side of the fairway there is a bunker that’s reachable at 260 yards . You essentially, and I know this is key for every hole, must pipe your drive straight down the middle and clear 235 yards on the fly. I’m not a big hitter so usually my drives land around 230 and I tend to get another 25-30 yards of roll because I hit it a low ball, so for me it was a challenging tee shot. 


Luckily I was able to clear that middle bunker, as I drove it 270.  My second shot was a 3-wood that I hit around 220 and it left me roughly 100 yards for my approach shot. The green is long and skinny and is protected by a large bunker on the back side and a large pond on the right side. On the day we played the pin was in the back right corner of the green so you had to navigate over the water to attack the stick. However, whenever water is involved for me I tend to get a little “too tight” in the shorts and I simply just played it to the middle of the green where I left myself a very long lag putt.  In fact, the lag putt was too long and I ended up three-putting and taking a bogey. But, with that distance and the difficulty of the tee shot,  I was quite pleased with the number. 


 Don’t let the slope fool you, it rates quite difficult however I found the course very playable and very fair. If you hit good shots you were rewarded.  There are plenty courses we’ve all played where you hit a great shot but the layout of the fairway or green doesn’t reward you,  Pronghorn is not that type of course.  


The only negative aspect of Pronghorn was that there snack bar was terribly slow and the cart girl went home at 5pm and we teed off at 2:40pm…that almost meant no beers on the back 9! However, I’ll give the club credit. We gave the clubhouse a call and explained the situation and they immediately drove out and delivered us drinks from the bar! All in all, terrific course and there is no doubt that we will make a return trip to Pronghorn. To wrap up Pronghorn I would say it is extremely challenging and visually stunning.


If you are interested in going to Pronghorn, visit the website http://pronghorn.aubergeresorts.com/golf/  


The majority of our trip took place Tetherow, which is about 10 minutes outside of downtown Bend.  First of all, the location is ideal especially if you are going with a group of guys and you want to hit the bars and restaurants after golf. The resort offers a free shuttle (tip the driver) to downtown Bend, but you need to take a cab back because 10:30pm is the last pick-up from downtown to the resort. 


I’ll just start off saying that the attention to detail and customer service by the staff as we arrived was out of this world.  They essentially had a welcoming party for us and it was the type of service and greeting you would find at a 5-star hotel.  The check-in process took less than five minutes and the staff made you feel like you were the only guests staying at the resort that weekend. 


The course was designed by renowned architect David McLay Kidd.  He’s also the same designer that did Bandon Dunes in Oregon.  Just like Bandon, Tetherow is a links style golf course. Hard, fast fairways, big undulating greens and difficult. 


Tetherow is by far and away the toughest course I’ve ever played.  Before playing Tetherow, I considered White Horse, Chambers Bay and Tacoma Country Club as the toughest courses I’ve played. However, nothing prepared me for the difficulty of Tetherow. I don’t mean to scare anyone from playing the course…it’s just remarkably difficult, but awfully fun.  


On both Friday and Saturday we played 36 holes from the Tan tee boxes, which plays at 6,495 yards.  At first glance, we all though that the yardage was going to be too short, but after playing it once on Friday we realized that was plenty enough distance. The slope on the Tan is 135, but it felt at times that it was like 155! 


Without a doubt the most challenging aspect of Tetherow were the greens.  The second hardest part was your approach to the greens.  They were extremely fast and had so many breaks and undulation,  that they were  difficult to read. 


The only problem I see with having a links course in a place like Bend, which is essentially a desert, is that it never rains and the fairways and especially the greens are as hard as cement.  You can forget about attacking a pin, bump and run is your only hope at Tetherow.  


I’ve played a number of links courses, recently including Chambers Bay , and I never found their greens to be too fast.  But the greens at Tetherow are hard and fast and you simply must breathe on the putt, especially going down hill. 


Perhaps even more difficult than putting on the greens, is simply trying to get your ball on the green.  Like I said you can forget about hitting a high approach shot at the green and hoping to stick your shot.  It’s. Not. Happening. 


I felt the play approaching the greens was to club down or possibly club down two.  Normally when I’m 150-160 yards out I hit a 7-iron.  But, at Tetherow,  I would hit an 8,  or sometimes if it was downhill, I would hit a 9-iron.  The key to the greens was to land 15 yards short or so and let the ball run up.  What was probably even more challenging is when you were 100 yards out.  Normally I’d hit a half swing pitching wedge. But instead of hitting the ball high at Tetherow I would simply bump it with either a pitching wedge or 7-iron and just run the ball up on the green. It took me a couple of rounds to finally feel comfortable with this type of shot, which is so unfamiliar to most of us who have grown up playing Northwest golf. 


I thought the fairways were fair, especially off the tee.  And if you hit in the fairway you were rewarded with some great roll on the course that, at times, could add about 50 yards.  


If I ever get a chance to interview David McLay Kidd, which could happen shortly because he has built a new course in Brewster, Wa called Gamble Sands, I’d like to know if he thinks that style of course can work with no rain.  Perhaps that’s what Kidd wants.  The fairways are open and playable, but your approach to the green and your putting on the green will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. 


Besides the golf, the other amenities of the resort were extraordinary. “The Row”, the courses pub, had an extensive local beer selection and huge TV’s everywhere and you never had to tell them that a game was on. The “Teherow Gill” is their main restaurant and we only had breakfast there.  The food was very good, but they were extremely understaffed and there was no rush to get things done. But, I would chalk that up to them being a new restaurant and they are still working out the kinks.  


The accommodations at Tetherow were beyond exceptional.  Before our visit in early July,  their lodges had just  opened.  The rooms were comfortable and spacious,  that easily fit two king size beds, a couch, wet bar, and a very large flat screen.  What I really liked is that every room has a very large balcony which all overlook the course.  It was definitely one of the nicest rooms I’ve ever stayed in.  


If I had to give a grade on the course and resort I’d give it an A-.  The food and beverage service needs to be improved.  And by improvement I mean just have more people on staff.  The only other small negative is that the property did not have a swimming pool.  However, I was told as we were checking out that a pool was on it’s way.  If and when Tetherow gets a pool and additional staff, it will no doubt be and A+ golf resort.  


Tetherow was the most challenging golf course I’ve ever played, but it was awesome in it’s difficulty.  The staff and property were home runs and you couple that with an excellent course it makes Tetherow a golfing experience that I will be going back to for years to come.  


For more information, Visit www.Tetherow.com